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Techniques for the Classroom. Lesson 1: Paying Attention


Teacher at the head of the class

It’s happened to us all before. You are in an important meeting. Someone is giving a presentation. A power point presentation starts, then, the next thing you know, everyone is getting up and leaving. You haven’t heard a word that’s been said. You were staring out the window, not paying attention. You were distracted.

Kids deal with this sort of thing everyday in the classroom.

But why did your mind start wandering? And why did you not even notice that you were thinking about, oh I don’t know, organizing your sock drawer when you should have been taking notes on the quarterly profit losses?

Metacognitive Awareness is the solution to this problem. It sounds really technical, something that you might hear in a doctor’s office, but it’s really just fancy talk for paying attention to what the mind is doing. With a little training and some practice everyone can master metacognitive awareness—even kids. Here’s how it works:

  1. Recognize when you are off-topic.
    • As soon as you notice that you are off-track stop yourself.
    • Now think back to when you started to get off track. What happened? Did you hear some noise in the background?
  2. Identify the distraction.
    • The ringing cell phone distracted me. Now that you know the source, you are more likely to recognize it when it happens again, and more likely to stay on track.
    • It may go something like this: A cell phone rings somewhere behind you. You stop focusing on the speaker and…WAIT. That’s a cell phone, it rang, and it distracted me. I should re-focus on the presentation. Or ask that co-worker to shut off his phone.
  3. Thinking about thinking.
    • This is really what metacognitive awareness is all about—paying attention to what the mind is doing.
    • If your mind is active in the classroom and not turned onto autopilot, it is easier to pay attention to what is going on around you. As you learn new things, be aware of your thought process—is this new thing like other things? Can I relate it to something else? Does this make sense?
  4. An active brain is an on-topic brain.
    • As you learn new things, be aware of your thought process—is this new thing like other things?
    • Can I relate it to something else? Does this make sense? Do I need to ask any questions? If you flip your mind’s switch to “on” the likelihood of not paying attention diminishes.
  5. Practice Makes Perfect.
    • Metacognitive Awareness, like so much else takes time to perfect. The more that you are aware of what your mind is doing; the easier it is to pay attention. And the less likely it will be that you’ll spend entire meetings staring out the window.






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