With an organization plan set in place, and time management under control, Jake and I embark on my third and final element to success – focus time.
By now I have learned that reading is most fatiguing for Jake. And because it is slow and arduous, his attention drifts easily. While his parents are complaining of the number of hours spent on homework, I can see the number of hours lost fruitlessly staring at pages while his thoughts are somewhere else. What we need is a new plan, something I never run short of.
Today when Jake I met I suggested we begin by reviewing the night’s reading assignment, quickly scanning the first 20 pages of Gary Paulsen’s novel Hatchet. Then while setting my stop watch, I asked Jake to read only until he felt his attention drift. After ten minutes, I saw his eyes lift from the book and follow a squirrel running through the yard.
“Stop,” I told him and slipped the book from his hands. When I saw he had read only seven pages, I knew there was room for improvement, but I was pleased, when checking, to find his comprehension was good.
“Okay, this is great,” I told him, but his raised eye brows spoke doubt of my encouragement. “No really, it’s really good. You can finish this assignment in only 20 more minutes if we break it up into two more reading segments. In between, you can have a snack, shoot some baskets, or play an active game, just no video games or texting.”
He welcomed the plan, but added, “My parents will never buy this.” They like many parents, want him sit until all his work is done.
I understood this concept. I was raised on it and have heard the same complaint from too many of my students. But if I could show the Pullmans that Jake would be done with his work at a reasonable hour following this plan, I was hopeful they’d buy into it as so many other parents have.
There’s something magical about working with a timer. It helps keep students focused and even when they drift, it’s only to check the timer, which with it’s diminishing count down, always reinforces the return to the task. With Jake it was no different. He was able to complete the reading with relative ease and maybe even some enjoyment.
As we continue to work together in the next few weeks, we’ll begin to adjust the timer upward until Jake reaches an age appropriate attention level. Because I like to encourage student decision making, in the future I ‘ll always ask Jake to decide the number of reading segments and number of minutes to set on the timer. I’ve found the the beauty of this method is students like to challenge themselves increasing their focus time without much if any encouragement from me. Here’s hoping Jake follows the pattern.
Note: All characters are fictitious and resemblance to anyone is purely coincidental.