Long lessons, lots of distracted kids
Students’ attention was most likely to drift during whole-class instruction and when an activity went longer than 10 minutes, writes Barshay.
A quarter of instructional activities lasted longer than 17 minutes — longer than the average adult attention span of 15 minutes — said co-author Karrie Goodwin, a Kent State professor. She suggested “divvying up instructional activities into smaller chunks.”
Classroom posters and objects drew students’ attention away from lessons, the study found. In a 2014 study, Godwin found that heavily decorated classrooms hinder learning for kindergarteners, writes Barshay.
Distractions reduce learning time and achievement, but may have an upside, writes Barshay.
. . . some psychologists have theorized that children can productively give themselves a sort of “time out” to calm themselves, and then re-engage in the lesson with renewed concentration. Experts call it emotional self-regulation. Others theorize that seemingly irrelevant conversations between peers are helping to build social bonds that allow group projects to flourish. And some theories link off-task behavior to creativity.
I didn’t pay much attention in elementary school, because I didn’t need to. Between reading under my desk and daydreaming, I was zoned out most of the time.