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From Fidget to Focus

Roberta Valentine has taught 5th grade for 20 years. Every year she, like all elementary school teachers, has a few students who can’t concentrate or hold still more than a few moments. An article in The New York Times lists some approaches tried and failed over the years:

… setting a timer for 10 minutes to help children break up their work time into manageable chunks; giving a child a stuffed animal to hold during group discussions (a common strategy for cutting down on fidgeting); and even enlisting other students to help daydreamers stay focused. Still, every year, she felt these efforts were not good enough.

In reading a book by developmental pediatrician Mel Levine, Ms. Valentine encountered the term, “mind trip,” describing children’s flights of fancy.

Ms. Valentine asked six children to describe what they thought about when their minds were wandering, and wrote down everything they said. Then, each child illustrated their sentences. Finally, Ms. Valentine recorded the children saying the sentences.

Together she and the children put the written and spoken sentences onto PowerPoint, along with the illustrations. Each child’s work became a multimedia slide show about his or her daydreaming.

By describing their daydreams, she said, children are “able to figure out not only what went wrong, but what kinds of thoughts and tricks could help them concentrate.”

I imagine this approach would be equally successful (perhaps more so) without PowerPoint, but it is interesting.

1 response so far

  • 1 Sarah Wright  Oct 10, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    This post caught my attention because I’ve co-authored a book by the same title (you can check it out at For many kids and adults with ADHD the strategies do work, strategies like listening to music while you work, walking while talking, or chewing gum when you need to concentrate. In our book we explain why this works. It’s important that people understand the mechanism and don’t, with the best of intentions, remove all “distractions” in an effort to help themselves or another to concentrate better.

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