Set in stone

25th January 2008 at 00:00
Good food and enough sleep will do wonders for your pupils' powers of concentration. The rest is up to you, says Sue Cowley.

It's a common complaint: modern children can't concentrate. We blame the usual suspects: television, computer games, poor parenting. But concentration can be taught - so let's teach it.

Use meditation and focus exercises to extend your pupils' concentration. End lessons with a minute frozen as statues, then two minutes, then three. You'll soon have them frozen for the entire hour.

Build concentration gradually, praising those who focus for the allotted time. Make lessons engaging, pitch them at the right level, set tasks of a sensible length. Consider those inset sessions where you mess around - you lose concentration if you're not interested, and so will your pupils.

How long can children concentrate? A good rule of thumb is their age plus two. So, with a reception class you have seven minutes before they begin to fidget.

Consider physical factors: if your pupils are hungry, tired, or feasting on junk, their concentration will be poor. Start a breakfast club, encourage healthy eating, tell parents why sleep is vital.

Hypnosis techniques can encourage focus: direct eye contact ("look into my eyes"), a slow, soothing voice. Not too much, or you risk the pupils falling asleep. Come to think of it, that's not such a bad idea.

Sue Cowley is an author, trainer and presenter. Her latest book is Getting the Buggers into Drama (Continuum). For more information visit

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