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Staying on Task

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My daughter's kindergarten teacher has expressed concern about her inability to stay "on task." What does this mean and how can I work on this at home?

A: Most teachers refer to problems with staying on-task when a child's attention wanders and she has trouble completing an assigned task without becoming distracted. There are several things that could be going on with kindergartners who are experiencing this: They may have late birthdays and so are not developmentally ready to attend for the same length of time as some of their classmates; they could have attention problems and are not able to filter out distractions as well as others are; they could be sitting in a very busy part of the classroom with children around them who are very active or talkative.

Talk with your daughter's teacher about what is specifically going on with her. If the problem is that she is seated around other distracted children, it is a simple matter to change her seat to a quieter area. She will outgrow developmental problems, and her attention can improve if the teacher uses stickers or other rewards for work completion.

Develop a plan for you and the teacher to work together to help improve things at school for your daughter. You may want to follow up at home with rewards (an extra bedtime story or a walk around the block just with you) for a good day at school.

You may also want to talk with the school counselor about giving your daughter some individual time or including her in a small group. The counselor can also observe your daughter in the classroom and give you an objective opinion of what is going on there.

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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.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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