Enhancing concentration

Last Updated 18 September 2013, 13:57 IST

Classroom set-ups should encourage learning and concentration to happen in a systematic way to enhance intellectual make-up, writes Mary Chelladurai

Parents repeatedly complain that their children do not concentrate on their studies! Often, we hear mothers screaming, “Put off that TV! Stop playing with that I-pod!  And just concentrate on your studies!” Everyone agrees that children need to concentrate on studies, maintain regular study schedules, adopt healthy lifestyles, and imbibe proper life skills so that they can be successful.

On the other hand, children say that their parents keep monitoring their every movement and force them to only study. Frustration drives them to voice their high decibel opinion, “How much and how long should we study? We do not want to end up being zombies or nerds just because we listened to you.” This is the chorus they sing after returning from school every day.

If children are motivated to concentrate and study, then this struggle to learn and acquire knowledge becomes interesting and every child will try to excel in learning. 

Stimulating learning 

Concentration precedes learning. When the mind is free from distractive elements, concentration sets-in and facilitates learning.  Positive concentration is not forced attention.  It is the ability to direct one’s willful attention. It is the ability to focus the mind on one subject, object or thought and at the same time exclude every unrelated thought, idea, feeling and sensation from the mind. But, can real learning and reasoning happen without concentration? The answer is, “No.”   If so, can we nudge and stroke the mental and cognitive ability of every child in order to make learning a happy experience? The answer is in the affirmative, a big “Yes.”  

Learning is the foundation from which knowledge is imbibed. So, we should be promoting the right learning skills in children. If not, we would adopt the rote method used to train parrots, making robots of our living and thinking children.

Rote memorising leaves no scope for children to enjoy classroom interactive sessions where they can express opinions and discuss lessons before digesting knowledge. Interaction stimulates the learning of life skills.

This will stir up children’s intellectual abilities as well. Classroom set-ups should encourage learning and concentration to happen in a systematic way to enhance the developmental growth and intellectual make-up.

Every subject must be tastefully presented in order to arouse curiosity and awareness. In turn, this will stimulate concentration and learning.  The great educationist and child psychologist Piaget defined learning as a process that should involve construction and comprehension.  This will trigger attention and concentration, as both require a motivated process. The stimulus in the environment has a direct link to learning and concentration.
Creating right stimuli 

How can we create right stimuli for enhancing concentration and learning both in school and at home?

* Conducive environment: Prepare a place in a conducive environment for learning to take place. This location should be away from any kind of noise or distraction – a place where the child will always study and be able to concentrate.

* Motivating dialogue: Create a healthy and motivating dialogue where the child feels positively challenged to study. For instance, the child can be mentally stretched to exploit his or her abilities and skills through positive conversation.

*  Subject-presentation: Present the subject in an interesting and intrinsically motivating way in order to grab the attention of children and hold it long enough to complete the process of learning.

* Sequential learning: Start from what the child knows and proceed to explain new information. This helps learning in a sequential manner. It helps in organising knowledge and enhancing concentration. 

* Interactive sessions: The learning process should also emotionally engage children. Interactive sessions followed by fun and exchange of ideas increases concentration levels.
n Affirmative feedback: Pay attention to the learner, with an on-going positive feedback and support. This fuels concentration.

* Study routine: Help the child prepare a realistic study routine. Make it more task oriented rather than time oriented.

* Biological needs: Understand the child’s bio-rhythms and give attention to the early riser and a late sleeper.  This is important because some children prefer to study in the morning and others in the night. 

* Physical fitness: Physical fitness governed by a regular exercise stimulates the mind. Yoga and meditation helps trigger positive effects on mind and brain resulting in healthy concentration and good memory. 

* Sound sleep and nutrition: A set routine like regular hours of sleep is a primary prerequisite for concentration.  A good 8-9 hour sleep schedule for young children is imperative.  Home cooked nutritious food, especially a good breakfast is known to do wonders on memory, focus and concentration. 

Dr Elkind said, “Children are not passive absorbers of information; rather they constantly transform information to fit their existing modes of thought.”

(Published 18 September 2013, 13:55 IST)

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