Does your child lose concentration, learn very slowly, or become frustrated and bored easily with homework?
Are you trying to help a child do homework who doesn’t seem to be able to concentrate? Or who is often talking about anything but the maths or reading or writing task in front of them?
Perhaps both of you become frustrated and annoyed during homework time as well and time seems to go very slowly and you both can’t wait until it is over. Your child is using avoidance techniques with you that they probably use in class as well. Perhaps they started being off-task because they became lost and frustrated in class, or even bored, and now it is an almost unconscious habit on their part to flick out of focus and think , look at,or talk about something else…anything else besides the reading, writing, or maths task at hand. However, you and I know that if your child stays alert, they will learn reading, writing, and maths skills faster and easier, and I think that if you help them change their off-task, ‘not concentrating’ behaviours, they will also eventually use them less in class and concentrate better.
I have never found it useful to remind a child that is looking around a lot to concentrate. Try it one day. When reminded they concentrate briefly on the reading, writing, or maths work they are doing, then they stop concentrating again.
Instead, I use reverse psychology to help them concentrate and learn.
In this version of reverse psychology I do the opposite of what helpful adults usually do. I play hard to win!
When I notice a student is not concentrating on the maths, reading, or writing skills they are learning, we play the ‘First up to 5 points’ game. It is a simple, fast, and infinitely adaptable game, and I have never tired of it, and use it for many situations besides helping a child develop concentration skills when learning reading, writing, and maths skills.They only win if they pay close attention to changing their behaviour.
I randomly check whether they are concentrating on their reading, writing, and maths work or checking out the scenery in the room. Depending on their level of skill, I can make it quite a sneaky check or an obvious one. If they are working I give them a point, which I do with great reluctance or disappointment. However if they are not concentrating, I take a point gleefully!
I have played this game with chronic off-task students from five year olds to teens. They enjoy the pleasure of a close win, and the disappointment mingled with a strong wish for revenge when they just lose. Sometimes I have a prize for the winner. If it is a sweetie and I’ve won, I always suck it with enormous pleasure in front of them. I am still surprised how quickly children who seemed unable to concentrate when learning reading, writing, or maths skills, monitor themselves and stay more focused, and that unhelpful behaviours everyone thought were unchangeable, do change.
Warning: If your child is easily discouraged, don’t ever just let them win. Instead shape the game carefully so that they just win or just lose. Soon enough they will realise that when they concentrate they will win. Other suggestions to help them concentrate and learn are here.
A great side-effect of this version of the ‘first up to five points’ game is you both feeling pleasure and excitement while playing a close game where you might just win or lose. Using fun and suspense, and a hard-played game both you and your child. The Weird Word Game is another version of the first up to five points game.
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