Today I woke up with one goal in mind. To finish up a project I've been working on for weeks - scratch that - two months. To not get distracted by household chores, I decided to visit my local bookstore to get some work done. Well...it seems that the distractions that I left at home were soon replaced with newer ones. Ones that I carry in my pocket, literally.
So how do we deal with distractions...or to put this in context, how do we help our students cope with distractions that we ourselves sometimes deal with? I've thought about this for all of about 5 minutes but I think that if I can brainstorm for a few minutes and write...that I will soon be able to concentrate on what I need to...if only for an hour. So here's my suggestion to how to talk to students about distractions and how to help them cope.
1) Teach children to identify their distractions. This should be an easy thing to do. Set aside some time on a Friday afternoon to ask students what they are thinking about. Ask them if they know what distraction and procrastination means. Have them jot notes about what dissuades them from making plans, doing work, chores, studying. Is it music? The Internet? Email? Texts? Video games? Other computer devices? Boys? Girls? Sports? Ask.
2) Next ask children to explain why they believe they are distracted when they need to do something. This can be written in a personal journal or in a blog. The goal is to have students think about why they feel they are distracted. Is something going on at home? Are they bored, not challenged? Over-challenged? Writing in a personal blog is fine but give them the option. Some may feel better sharing their thoughts with others and some might be timid. Let them choose the vehicle of delivery but get them to think and put those thoughts on paper. Remember this is not an assignment that should be graded. It is simply a process to help them think about the things they do and why they do them.
3) Ask students to select one priority item to work on over the weekend. Ask them to write down all the steps that need to be taken for the project to be completed. A term paper may need a final rewrite. A bibliography for a paper might be due. A bedroom needs to be cleaned up. It can be anything, personal or education related. Children as young as 5 years old can state putting toys away as a goal.
4) Ask students to write down what they will need to accomplish their task. Is it a reminder from a parent or a friend? Do post it notes help? Alarm messages on phones?
5) Have students write down a reward for when they accomplish their task. For the most part, celebrations are a good enough reason to get something done. Celebrate with a movie, or an hour RockBand session. Whatever the incentive, ask students to think about what excites them and have them set up a reward.
6) Have students put their notes away and tell them they are done. Don't give them a task to do...let them know you are just trying to get them to think about goals and things they know they need to do but haven't done. Having them wonder about why you don't give them the assignment is the surprise element. Let them think about it.
On Monday spend a few minutes and ask them how their weekend was. Find out whether they thought about accomplishing their tasks at all. Have them talk about additional distractions they noticed over the weekend. Ask students to write them down and add them to their journal or blog or paper.
And then get back to the daily routine as usual. After all, distractions disguised as lessons are still distractions, aren't they?
Below are some goal setting and planning resources:
Federal Reserve Education has plenty of resources dealing with money and planning.
LD Online (Goal Setting for Children with Disabilities)
Goal Setting (K-12)
Cedar Rapids Community School (Goal setting project)
Google Calendar - to document daily activity and improve time management skills
- Blanca E. Duarte, Chief Enablement Officer, LogicWing