Attention is not a no-brainer

We’ve found a way to bring the neurology of learning into the classroom in a way that is making incredible differences for children with learning challenges.

If anyone is unable to pay attention and focus on what they are doing, they cannot learn, full stop. If you are not putting your attention on your task then you are doing it automatically, much like when you arrive home and can’t really remember driving there.

Here are a few of the “brain rules” we incorporate into our classrooms.

Rule 1: We pay attention to things that are novel or to something we are interested in.

Our classrooms have many ways to learn a single concept and we bring in new activities all the time. This novelty helps to attract attention. Using the whole body, the children get to experience and explore their learning in different ways. (Brain science)

We create interest in tasks through the language we use, helping children to see what the task really is about and get curious about how it works. (Feuerstein’s Mediated Learning)

We follow the child. When we notice a child’s interest and use Maria Montessori’s approach to observation, we get to really start where the child is. If we can start right where they are, we gain their attention by co-attentioning. This combined state honours the child’s interest and attention and they are often prepared to come along with us as we are prepared to go along with them.

The curriculum gets tossed out of the window for the sake of the child’s own attentioning. Their focused work is far more important than any content a textbook can achieve.

Rule 2: Repetition embeds learning, making it automatic.

Repetition grooves in what is already known, so we need to be very careful what we ask a child to repeat. If we aant a child to really know a subject or skills, then varied repetition is the key. Anat Baniel dedicated one of her 9 Essentials to Variation. Varied practice helps the brain to get repetition without the task becoming automatic before it has been learned properly. Variation wakes up the learning brain, keeping it in a learning state.

Incorrect practice embeds incorrect learning. It is important to not give a task to a child they are not ready for. When we do this, we encourage splinter skills and compensations.

Rule 3: cognitive ease

This is a concept introduced by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. The brain learns better when the learning is presented clearly, it feels familiar, it feels true, we’re in a good mood, it feels effortless, there is repeated exposure and it has been primed.

We position learning in this way by the design of our classrooms, our learning materials and how we time the experiences.

Follow us for more of our thinking and more ‘rules’ we follow.

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