Thursday, February 14, 2013

Movers and Shakers

Breath Twelve:

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams…
Of the world for ever, it seems.
Yet we are the movers and shakers

- Arthur O'Shaughnessy

 Last week I had an impromptu meeting with Lee’s teacher. 

Topic: How to promote focus, independent working skills, and time management for my own mover and shaker.

 I appreciate the collaborative attitude and methods Lee’s teacher utilizes to meet his needs. Working together and involving me in the process has made me feel confident in her passion for teaching and determination to meet Lee’s needs.  I am aware of my son’s wonderful attributes and just as aware of the challenges he faces.  Lately, Lee has been bringing home independent work to complete. (As you know, I hate homework!) While he throws himself with fervent energy into history, science, and the soccer field, he lacks the zeal for math and reading assigned novels. He has been selecting alternative readings rather than the assignment and engages in networking with peers (aka socializing during independent work time.) While Lee has a boundless energy and contagious joy for life, he is resistant to required tasks he deems uninteresting.  He can struggle with focus and task competition, a regrettable inheritance from his mother.  Hey, everybody is working on something!  However, he can also do a complete 180 and exhibit tremendous concentration on another topic.
Okay, let’s bring it back into focus.  I understand that focus, concentration, and completion of tasks are necessary skills to be successful in our schools and in learning; therefore, as soon as Lee’s teacher broached the subject, I immediately jumped into brainstorming mode.  Does that surprise anyone?  Me have an opinion?  Well, she did ask for suggestions.  So, off the top of my head, I suggested a classroom “study area” designated as a quiet zone.  Students could sign up or be assigned times for use.  Students could use head phones that block out sound and a timer that sets goals, all to encourage focus. I committed to mimicking the routine at home and devoted further thought to the issue.

 Here are suggestions to promote focus and concentration for children; some of these can be addressed at home, while others could be implemented in the classroom.

1. Enough sleep- Getting enough sleep is vital to a child’s focus and concentration.
Pre-school-K    need 11-13 hours of sleep

1-5 graders     need  10-11 hours of sleep

6-12 graders   need 9-10 hours of sleep

(Remember how intense I am about sleep and routine for my kids.)

2. Eat healthy - Omega 3 fatty acids in fish, nuts, and olive oil are said to help with sleep and behavior issues.  Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are also said to be beneficial to brain function.  Blueberries in fact are supposed to be beneficial for memory and concentration. Cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage also are said to improve memory. In other words, eat your fruits and veggies kids! I am sure there are other healthy foods to suggest were I to do further research.  But I guess to me it boils down to providing my children with a balanced and healthy food…and make them actually eat it.

3. Drink enough water- Dehydration is a common problem with concentration and memory issues.  It impacts focus.  Send a water bottle to school with your child.

4. Get the television out of the bedroom and set screen time limits- Children with televisions and electronics in their bedrooms sleep less.  Children should have limits of screen time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting the screen time one to two hours a day.  So choose your screen time strategically.  I let my kids watch morning cartoons so I can shower and get ready, and play a few games after school.  We have to make adjustments when we want a movie night. 

5. Mazes – They require thought and time to complete.  Here is a website that creates mazes.

We also have an interesting maze book that my kids like to look at and complete the mazes with their fingers.
Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman

6. Play Focus Games-
  • Use a good old Paddle ball to increase concentration.
  • Two games by Hasbro are recommended to increase focus- Bop It and Cosmic Catch
 Lee received Bop It as a Christmas present.  I will now encourage him to play with this toy more, and sneak it into one of our evening routines.  Additionally, I might have discussions on how focused he is when playing the game, thereby bringing attention to the fact he is practicing the skill of focusing.   
  • Tennis ball games or bouncy ball games
This might be done in a classroom setting.  Students watch and repeat how a ball is thrown or bounced from a friend.  The ball is thrown or bounced to a friend, but no names are called, so everyone must remain focused.  Again, point out to children that to play the game, they need to remain focused.   

7. Sitting ball/exercise ball- Instead of using a regular chair at school or at your child’s desk, provide them with an exercise ball to sit on as they work. 

8. Include classical music in the classroom- Baroque music is recommended.  Try out Handel, Bach, or Telemann.  When listening to music set at 50-80 beats per minute, an atmosphere of focus is created.  During the sleepy part of the day, Mozart would reenergize the classroom.

9.  Use Fidgets- What are fidgets?  They are a self-regulated toy that allows children to focus, remain calm, and use active listening skills and move.  A fidget could be a Koosh ball, a squishy stress ball, beaded toys, looped toys and more.

10. Use a Timer- sand timers, ooze timers, digital timers.  These could be used in the classroom or at home.  Set the time as a challenge to complete work, or to notify the child when they can stop working on an activity.  Be careful not to let it create a sense of rushing. When the time is up, they can move onto another task regardless of how much they completed. 

11. Chew Gum-Surprise, surprise, you know how I feel about gum.

12. Spin- Spinning in the direction of the dominant hand improves memory. After practicing spelling words or word wall words a quick spin and then sit down when they get wobbly. I could see this being done at home for practice and in controlled reading group settings; however, it would be helpful to have a parent around. 

13. Listen to a metronome- The addition of a steady beat, at a low volume is soothing and helps with concentration.  Lee must innately know this, because he often chooses the heart beat sound for his sound machine in his room. 

14. Wiggle seats- These are seats that you put on a chair. There two sides to a wiggle seat and each side has a different texture so a student can choose the most comfortable side.  The wiggle seat is disk shaped and filled with air.  Think air mattress or waterbed feel as you sit and wiggle.  They are made by a company called Isokinetics. 

15. In the classroom, location matters- Suggest your child be moved away from doors and windows, possible distracters. Request that they sit next to a calm classmate. 

I am a mother of a mover and shaker.  So, I will move with him and shake it up when I need to.  

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