* Rubric for paying attention in class

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if school were so engaging that all kids would be riveted by their activities?  Allowed to move as needed?  Where teachers and classmates assumed the best? Do teachers believe that students come to school deciding that they will be distracted all day?  The truth is that no one can maintain attention for hour after hour.  It’s not how the brain functions.  For kids who struggle with attention, it may be a constant battle to stay focused.  This student video on Understood provides powerful insights into the conflict that students experience as their bodies and minds pull against their best intentions.  After months or years of this struggle, many students give up and become serious classroom disruptors.

Here’s a rubric I’ve used with kids struggling to pay attention.  Many of these kids were medicated and just as many had parents who were adamantly opposed to meds.  Regardless, we can help kids feel better about themselves by rehearsing strategies for paying attention.  Students’ sticky notes can replace impulsive comments and record positive efforts to focus.  Other elements of rehearsal include practice finding the best places to sit in a group, such as on the sides, near the teacher, and/or next to a supportive partner.  Students should also practice making positive self-statements to combat that inevitable sense of failure.  Getting the classroom teacher to support their plan is huge.  These students should be allowed time to leave the group in a socially acceptable way, should be encouraged to advocate for privacy but not continuously excluded, and their efforts should be praised.  They may respond well to a fidget item; a wristband can work if they have rehearsed keeping it in place (and not using it as a slingshot!).  May parents can provide an after school outlet for energy, such as martial arts or sports.  Some students benefit from an external reward system, especially one administered by parents.  One student’s dad took him to the gym after a predetermined number of earned stars.  Finally, these students should NEVER be denied an active recess.  rubric for paying attention


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Are video games actually good for you?  Based on the number of members that Lumosity has accrued (over 50 million!), the answer seems to be yes.  On the other hand, research indicates that we had better not get our hopes up.   It’s been reported that players get better at specific games without other lasting brain benefits.  (But it feels so good to beat my lower scores!)

What about the much-discussed problem of kids and video games?  There are studies linking violent video games and TV shows with increases in violent behavior.  There are also concerns that such games can be addictive and reduce an individual’s social interactions.

But wait!  Just recently I came across two articles suggesting that some video games for kids have a positive payoff.

Understood, a marvelous website on learning challenges, identified five video games which can boost reasoning and problem-solving skills.  No surprise that these five do not include a single zombie.  SimCIty and Minecraft are two examples of games which require complex reasoning, ability to sustain a trial and error approach, and even cooperation with other players.

A recent article in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences argues that action video games improve visual perception, the ability to make quick responses, and improved ability to ignore distractions, among other benefits.  You might find zombies in this genre.

My opinion is that parents need to decide what’s best for their kids based upon their child’s interests, personalities, and learning differences.  Some kids do become fixated on video games, often the ones who already have weak social skills or a narrow range of interests.  It can seem a lot easier to let them play for hours instead of arguing about time limits, but these kiddoes need some help with boundaries.  You can also turn this “obsession” into social credit by setting up playdates with other kids who enjoy the same games.  I’ve seen that work successfully, as long as an adult helps them share playing time and provides support for positive comments.  Without that support, you could end up with two very miserable kids.

Millions of kids now watch “animated” adults play Minecraft online.  Why not let your teenager share his or her success at gaming (of course, with no identifying features)?  This process could involve problem-solving, awareness of audience, and improved self-confidence.  A new gaming site, PixelPuf, allows users to upload media and even written content.  I’ve known some kids with amazing cartooning skills who could find an enthusiastic audience out there.  Check it out!PixelPuf 2