Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Day 7, September 12, 2007

During morning meeting today, I surveyed the audience at one point, and I must admit to being surprised that a large percentage of the students were looking directly at the speaker. I'm afraid I've often assumed a negative mindset about student attentiveness, taking it for granted that most of the kids are not particularly attentive during large meetings. So I was a bit startled this morning to see nearly the entire middle school with faces alertly forward. I need to remember this when I get into one of my pessimistic attitudes about kids' ability to attend. They actually do it amazingly well, probably better than many adults.

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I'm starting to identify the 8th graders and new students who find it extra-difficult to stay focused. A few of them, for instance, obviously find it almost impossible to look at a textbook when I'm reading aloud from it. I've noticed them nearly always looking around the room or out the window -- anywhere but at the textbook. This is rare among our students, so it tends to stand out. In a class of 12 where most of the kids are able to be alert most of the time, the few whose minds are drifting are conspicuous. The challenge for me is to help these kids, by April, become really good at staying attentive. (Hand-signals and quick reminders before class should help.)

In this connection, my use of a timer will help, I think. This year, I've been saying to the class, "I'm going to set the timer for a certain time [eg., 17 minutes] and I want your total attention for that time. When the bell rings, we'll take a 1-minute relaxing break. So give it your best!" It seems to be working. (By the way, I got the timer idea from my son, who teachers 8th grade English in Plainfield, CT.)

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