Understanding Deep Attention

sols_6Today was science test review day along with Slice of Life writing and reading.   As my class of 5th graders gathered to look at what the questions might look like we found ourselves in the discussion of attention.

What does it mean to focus as well as knowing how to think critically when reading or taking a test.  As a group we looked at the science questions and I modeling test taking skills, noting how much of the test was based on vocabulary that you just needed to know, what thinking strategies did we need to use, and what kind of focus and time it might take to do a really good job on this test.

They worked hard and I think began to understand what I meant by needed to take your time and focus your attention on each questions and each part in the question.

As I had dinner with my husband this evening and shared our classroom discussion he said you should see the twitter post I put up today from the 99U blog.  I waited until after dinner then looked up his tweet and followed it to the article.  ( I wanted to be polite and not just drop everything and check it out on my phone at that moment using they hyper attention I so often use.)   The article was perfect.

Deep Attention vs Hyper attention – just want I needed to extent our conversation tomorrow.   I loved the distinction between the two.   Deep attention is the concentration we give to a single subjet for a long period.  The focus we give to reading novels like the Giver or Lois Lowry’s new book Son.   The Hyper attention is about switching focus rapidly among different tasks, and multiple information streams.  Both are important and both need to be taught.    I love having the words to explain both and to help my students understand that their own hyper attention is not WRONG.  It is just another way of thinking and working.

The key is knowing when we need to use each of these tools of attention.   We need to help our students know when they need to slow down and use that deep focus and when we need to use that rapid attention to complete tasks quickly.

Tomorrow we will do just that – talk about when we are using deep attention and hyper attention.   How can each of these ways of working help us be better students?

How do you help your students think about focus or attention in your classroom?

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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3 Responses to Understanding Deep Attention

  1. Wilcox Carol says:

    Have spent the last three days doing an oral presentation of state reading and writing tests to three seventh grade readers. Your post, then, is especially timely. I would love a link for the deep attention and hyper attention article. Don’t know that I have ever thought of it this way, but it makes perfect sense.

  2. The right tool for the job is always helpful! I love that you shared fighting the tendency to want to look something up at dinner. I have to remind myself that dinner is for being present, the wonderful things I want to extend from those conversations need to wait until AFTER dinner.

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