I’d like to tell you my kids always listen to our lessons with rapt attention. I’d love to tell you they retain every word I utter, never needing to repeat topics. I’d be lying though. They don’t and I do (repeat). Does this mean I’m failing at my job? Nah… it just means they’re kids!
Let’s face it. No matter how good a teacher you are, no student is going to retain 100% of what you teach. It doesn’t matter how well you prepared your lesson, the fact is we all have those days when our mind just won’t engage or the lesson just doesn’t peak our interest. This doesn’t mean, however, we give up trying or that we simply allow them to sit around staring into the void.
When my kids start veering into their own imaginations, instead of our current learning topic, it’s time to make some changes:
Ask Questions: Just because my kids aren’t making eye contact, doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t listening. I’m often surprised by how often they are listening, but choosing to look elsewhere. By asking them a few simple questions, I can determine just how much they are hearing. If their mind is wandering, this might be a great time to ask them what they were thinking about. Perhaps I said something which caused their mind to ‘rabbit trailing’ (start a thought process and follow it out till the end). If so, it helps to ask them what their thoughts were and engage their minds. Maybe their thoughts could help the lesson or maybe it is something we can mark down to look into just a little later. Either way, asking questions is a good idea.
Get Them Involved: Instead of me doing all the talking and reading, I try to let my kids do the work. When my kids read, they tend to pay more attention; not only to themselves, but to each other. For some reason, them reading the lesson is more fun and they love correcting each others pronunciation. If we planned a hands-on activity, I try to let them do the bulk of the work. It defeats the point if mommy does 80% of the hands-on and they do only 20%.
Less Talk: Especially for little kids, I need to limit how long I ‘lecture’ on a given topic (science/history). Little kids can only take so much conversation before they’ve reached their limit. If they start spacing out, it’s probably because I talked too long. (Hey, it happens!) I try to pay attention to this and not overtax my little one’s patience.
More Action: As much as possible, get the kids involved. Instead of lecturing, I try to plan a game, craft, or some other project which will cover the same material but in a more fun format. At worst, I pull out a coloring page and let them color something related to the topic while I share a little info about what we’re learning.
Allow Interruptions: If we are constantly talking and never allowing the kids to share their thoughts, they are going to lose interest immediately. I need to be open to their comments, thoughts, interjections, and experiences. Sometimes they have the most incredible insight to contribute!
No plan is foolproof. We have hard days where nothing seems to work and my kids just can’t get into a particular lesson. Thankfully those days are few and far between. However, it does help if we start with a plan and have a heart to meet our kids where they are at.
Time to Chime In: I’m sure my kids aren’t the only ones who get caught staring at the ceiling during their learning day. What helps your kids refocus and become attentive to the lesson at hand?