Have you ever asked the teachers to tell you what they want a lesson on, and they tell you, and then you regret asking a little because you have no idea how to accomplish what they want? No? Maybe it’s just me…
This year’s most requested academic topic lesson is “Identifying and Ignoring Distractions”. Yowza. That’s a biggie. When I first was tasked with this last year, I did an exhaustive google search. While there are some great ideas for the identification side of things, I struggled to connect with finding a solid way to teach kiddos how to ignore them.
What are distractions and what do I do about them?
After remembering that Second Step tackles this with self-talk, I created a lesson that taught students how to use self-talk to ignore and avoid distractions. I start off the lesson with this Sesame Street short called “Focus”:
I ask the students after: What was the problem the girl has? Did anyone catch any of the ways she used to solve her problem and be more focused?
And then, like the greats that came before me (Ms. Sepp and Jill Kuzma), I used Ned’s Head. Students took turns pulling different kinds of distractions at school out of his head. Students used pre-learned “agree” or “disagree” hand signals to show if it’s a distraction they struggle with sometimes. The grossness factor usually worked in my favor. After we’ve gone through them all, I ask the students to tell my why distractions are a problem and then share out (grades suffer, you get in trouble, etc.).
Then I ask them to brainstorm (either at their table group, whole group, or turn and talk) some ways to handle these distractions so we can stay focused. I project this list and we discuss any of the ones on it that they didn’t mention:
I always take a minute to explain what self-talk is for the half of the class that doesn’t know: “Self-talk is the stuff we tell ourselves in our minds. It’s all the thoughts we have in our minds. Using self-talk is really helpful when we are distracted. It helps us to focus again.”
They should all have experience with the other strategies by now (ignoring, taking a deep breath, moving somewhere else) so the brief reminder that they work both for conflict and for distractions is all I do. My big hope is for the students to grasp self-talk and begin using that as well, so that’s the focus for our applied practice.
I use a few different strategies depending on each class’ individual needs and abilities, but they all involve scripts/scenarios: situations where a student is distracted paired with self-talk the student could use to focus.
Option A: I acted out about 3 of these using the teacher and some of the higher readers in the class.
Alternate B: The students in small groups, I gave them scripts and about 10 minutes to “prepare”, and then they performed each of them for the whole group.
Version C: Each scenario was a different rotation with 4 copies of the script. Groups rotated through and at each one they chorally read the scenario and then each read the self-talk portion of the script aloud individually.
In one room I had the ability to conduct this lesson as a two-parter and had a little extra time. Students wrote examples of the self-talk they can use in situations where they may get distracted. I was very impressed! (Student work re-written per FERPA)