Creative ways to improve attention spans

I have found a unique challenge that I must overcome when working with the public: their hearing. In the past, I have noticed that many of my students, which range from ages 6 to 16, have trouble hearing. It is usually little things like a word out of a sentence that they misunderstood. However, those misunderstandings can make huge differences in the way they perceive the lesson as well as what is going on in the news.

For a while I was at a loss as to what I was working with. Then, I noticed a correlation between my boss and fiancé: they both have hearing issues that stem from the way they think. Both have a tendency to get lost in their own worlds and not hear what another person says once they get comfy in their own minds. Could this be what is going on with my kids, and not just hearing loss?

In the last month I’ve taken note of what is going on with my students. I have ADHD myself, so I recognize many of the signs reflected back at me. Eyes wandering around the room, changes in fidgeting behaviour, staring at a particular object without actually seeing it, and interruptions are common. It is really to be expected, but when they are actively working on something with their hands they pay really close attention to what they are doing.

Hands on science comes in many forms from engineering to art.
Hands on science comes in many forms from engineering to art.

To improve attention spans, I’m going to try to restructure my classes with a method I learnt in the museums. This method is a hands on teaching and experimentation method that is designed to bring more interaction to the students. As I teach many different topics related to science and technology, I can try several avenues. For example, in the archaeology class I might have them dig up a mock site; in the engineering classes I can have them build and test geometry shapes to decide which shape is strongest for that bridge. There are really many options to try.

In the museums the 6 to 10 year-olds seem to pay attention better and get more out of what is going on when I do this sort of thing on a minor scale. I have yet to try it out on the high school students that disdain most things in their adolescent world. Will it work with the older students? Perhaps. It is always worth a try.

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