Teach English in Jingping Zhen - Shuozhou Shi

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The argument can be made that attention span is always limited, and consequently all students can stand to benefit from improving theirs. Bearing this in mind, I decided on researching the teacher’s role in enhancing student attention span for my summative task. Attention is typified as either sustained, selective, alternating or divided, with visual and auditory attention sometimes added. Due to the nature of each type, sustained attention is the most appropriate form to make use of when studying (Gerschler, 2012: 3). Middendorf (1995; quoted in Gerschler, 2012: 3) indicates that the average attention span, i.e. sustained attention, of an adolescent or adult is 20 minutes. Considering that a full academic period is usually 45 minutes, the need to organise lesson activities becomes evident. The three factors affecting the students’ given ability to sustain attention are distractions, interest and understanding, and learning preferences (Gerschler, 2012: 4). Distractions can either be manageable by the teacher, e.g. switching off cell phones, or unmanageable, e.g. emotional issues relating to depression etc. (Gerschler, 2012: 5). Interest and understanding are to a greater extend manageable by the teacher, as the teacher can choose the content and present it attractively, as well as ensure that the students have the necessary experience before commencing the lesson. Learning preferences are classified by Walter Burke Barbe and colleagues as either visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learning styles (or in short referred to as VAK) (Koifman (2017: 317)). In theory a student might be equally adept at all of these learning styles, but in practice students tend to prefer one above the other; and accordingly, activities should be adjusted to the student’s preferences. The aforementioned preferences deal with the individual needs of a student. Should the teacher not be teaching individual classes, rather than perceiving this arrangement as a problem, the teacher could incorporate group activities with the individual preferences of the students. An example of this would be to divide the class into teams where each individual member is responsible for a specific task, or briefly pairing students for roleplay activities. The layout of a typical straight arrow Engage Study Activate (ESA) lesson plan works well when viewed from the perspective of prolonging students’ attention span. The engage phase serves to focus the student and involve them in the lesson. After the engage phase, the teacher follows with the study phase where the core language points are introduced. As the intensity of concentration is usually highest in the beginning of the lesson, it makes sense to introduce the new material at this point. This can be followed by a second study phase, making use of movement to help refocus the students’ attention (which would have started to wane after the more demanding introduction of the language point). Game activities would serve this purpose well. Finally, the teacher can proceed with an activate phase which will enact and consolidate the knowledge that the students gained during the study phases. In special instances shorter attention span may be the result of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Although these students will likely be taking medication, the teacher should be ready to accommodate their learning preferences when organising the lesson plan and deciding which activities to include. The masters dissertation by Natalia Turketi Teaching children with ADHD thoroughly covers this topic. No hard and fast rules can be set down to guarantee a long attention span, but a clear, flexible, and varied lesson plan taught with enthusiasm will go a long way in focusing students’ attention. References Gerschler, J. 2012. Classroom Strategies for Maintaining Student Focus. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326066230_Classroom_Strategies_for_Maintaining_Student_Focus Accessed online 5 July 2019. [Conference paper] Koifman, J. [sic] “Teaching Students with Specific Education Needs.” International Journal of Innovation and Research in Educational Sciences. Vol. 4. Issue 3. pp. 317–319 Middendorf, J. and Kalish, A. 1996. “The 'Change-up' in Lectures.” National Teaching & Learning Forum. Vol. 5. No. 2. pp. 1–5.