Unfocused and inattentive students are a frequent concern of teachers in all grade levels, especially lower elementary. Following are Tier 1 supports and Tier 2 interventions to help these students become successful:
Tier 1 supports work for the whole class:
1. Most importantly, notice and support them when they are paying attention. Call them by name and say “I like how you are listening… participating… cooperating… writing…focused… attending… helping others…”
2. Take breaks or give the student extra movement breaks in the form of errands. They might walk a note to the office, sharpen the dull pencil bucket, or collect library books around the classroom. This gives them an opportunity to refocus and get back to work on the assigned task.
3. Call on them to respond to questions or share their work. This gives you an opportunity to see where they are in the process and call their attention back to the assigned task.
4. Make sure you have their attention before giving directions. If they do not respond when you say “all eyes on me,” you should say or do something additional to get their attention. This might be something like asking all the boys to stand or everyone in a red shirt to touch their nose. After a direction or two, this child will want to join the fun, then you can start your lesson or give your directions.
5. Chunk or break down assignments into smaller pieces. This could mean folding or cutting the worksheet or rubric to only show the first section where the student should begin. This may help students who struggle with too much information and get lost in the details that are meant to be used later in the project.
6. Ask students to repeat directions back. Call on multiple students to repeat the directions you have given, including the student who often seems to not be listening.
7. Post procedures and Expectations where they can be referred back to if they get lost or forget a step in the process. Children often forget the first step or two and start on step three if they are not written down.
Tier 2 interventions are for the few who need extra input to be successful:
1. Talk to parents, let them know about the struggles you see in their child. They may see the same thing at home but have not sought outside supports because they were not aware it was affecting their school work.
2. Use a timer to help students who need reminders to initiate or complete an assigned task.
3. Decrease distractions by turning their desk away from areas of excess movement or activity in the classroom.
4. Teach them to use reflective statements to repeat back to you the directions that you have given. “what I heard you say is…” or ” now you want us to…”
5. Students who are unfocused or inattentive may need help organizing information, materials, and ideas.
6. Use a highlighter to identify key points on which the student should focus when completing a task.
7. Check-in with the student frequently to be sure they are on task and not lost in thought.
There are many ways a teacher can support an inattentive/unfocused student. It may take some time to determine the function of the distraction and how to move past it. The more you spend time working with the student on staying alert and comprehending the expectations, the better he should be at keeping on task.