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Paying Attention in Class

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My son is eight years old. Recently, his third-grade teacher mentioned to me that he is absent minded in class and misses some of her directions. My son is very upset that the teacher is calling him absent minded. What can I do to help him stay focused in class?

A: The teacher is in a better position to help your son stay focused. Talk with her and ask that your son's seat be moved closer to her desk. Also ask that when the teacher sees your son's mind wandering she touch his shoulder or his desk to capture his attention. The teacher could also randomly give out stickers to your son (or to the entire class) for paying attention to directions. Remind the teacher that your son (according to his birthdate) is probably one of the youngest children in the class and so will most likely appear younger than the others with regard to attention.

You can help your son learn to do frequent checks to see if he is daydreaming and refocus his attention. You might also make an index card-sized note or picture (a smiley face, perhaps) to tape to his desk. When your son sees the card, it will remind him to pay attention.

Talk also with the school counselor. He may be able to observe your son in the classroom and give you an objective opinion of what is going on with him there. The counselor may also have some behavior checklists that you and the teacher could complete to give everyone a better idea of his attention problems.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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