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Strategies To Aid Chn's Concentration


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Hi everyone


As some of you will know, we received an inadequate result in our nursery education a few months ago and are busy in the process of getting things back on track xD


One issue that we have found is that we seem to be having a problem with the length of time that the children are able to concentrate for.

Due to the children being able to roam freely around the workshops, not receiving a great deal of adult interaction or direction, they were literally just flitting from one thing to another, never seeing an activity through to the end.


On a temporary basis we have started to split our sessions into 20 minute intervals where the children decide at the beginning of the session which workshops they will be visiting for that day. This is all recorded on a chart (the children do this themselves using laminated picture cards).

We had hoped that this would make the children more focused whilst in an area rather than just running around the room. This has worked to a certain extent and they are very happy to stay in a particular area for the allocated time, although we are not convinced that they are achieving as much as is possible.


We still really struggle with circle time, whole group activities and garden time ( we are not free flow yet :o )


We currently have 16 children in the preschool, 10 of these will be leaving for school in August, but our numbers will rise to 24 in July, the younger children seem to copy the older children and we are very worried about having 24 children running round like headless chickens all day!


We are also aware that we should not be limiting where the children would like to go and hope that eventually the children will be able to go back to complete free flow around the room.


If anyone has any ideas on how we can encourage the children to become more focused and to expand their concentration time, i would be very grateful.

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We find that as with most things it has to be something they really like or want to do to keep them focused, as well as the adult interaction. (Snails with us at momment, hours just watching them in a tank)


Also find that if there is too much to choose from they do not always settle for long. we did have a period of less choice or limited choice where we found they settled longer , especially with the younger ones as they felt they HAD to do EVERYTHING so flitted continually so they could have a go at all out in one day and not msii out on anything. Even when they came regularly it took a long time for some to realise that there was no rush and it would be there next time too.


Group time is always difficult with numbers, we occasionally use carpet squares when we have problems so they all have their own space and we can set them out as we wish....but we dont seem to have too much problem in this area with our 20 at the moment so currently dont use them. we have also split them at this time to smaller groups depending on concentration rather than age as some younger ones love the stories and sit better than those ready for school...


Always the look after the teddy bear, and take turns to look after him during story, or props and puppets, some children we have found will happily sit longer with something to hold or fiddle with, I am sure other will have more.



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May I suggest you really observe your chidren in a concentrated way. What exactly is distracting them? Is your furniture arranged so that it affords distraction from other areas. Are your workshops arranged so that a child can focus in. What about group dynamics? Are there certain children who are causing this? You do have to work at your older ones so that younger ones will have good role models. Do you make sure there is a balance between new activities and continuous provision. Which are the activities they do not concentrate at? How are adults interacting with the children during free play. Careful comments, questioning, suggestions, adding resiources can have a very big impact on sustaining children's interests. This is part of teaching concentration. Chidren learn that sustaining things can bring pleasure. Just things that jump into my mind that may help you focus in on the causes.

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First of all have you got your room zoned off? We have the bikes out all of the time but there is one area that they are aloud the bikes and that is it. At carpet time I try to go over the rules of the group no running - why don't we run? no kicking the balls inside - why? if they are all running round then I will call them all over to the carpet and sit them down and go over it. I then send them off to play one at a time to find a toy or activity and sit down.


You also need to make sure the toys activities that you are doing are the right ones to keep the group entertained and concentrating. We have a lot of boys in our group so we make sure there is always a large floor game out like train sets, duplo, cars etc we also stand back and look at the room once it has been laid out - are there loads of bits? does the room look right? After you have had a good morning make a note of the toys activities you have been doing.


If they start running around put something away if it is not working then don't use it, even if you have planned for it - we did this while we were being inspected last month the inspector asked why and we explained that we felt they were not the correct toys for the group and she was pleased that we were assessing monitoring the group for the session Don't be afraid to change plans - that is all they are if it doesn't work then swap it.


All of this happened to us in Jan 2006 we were inadequate and it is a terrible time and you think it is never going to end but the way we work now is so so different from the way we were working and in the end it was kind of a blessing in some ways that it happened. Our PSLA lady took us out to pre-schools that had received a good outcome and although we didn't like how some pre-schools did things others we really did and we could borrow their ideas. it would be worth visiting other pre-schools in the area most would be pleased to show you how they do things I know I would be.


Good luck



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You say that the children are not getting a lot of adult interaction or direction. Perhaps this is part of the problem. What are your staff doing-are they observing, doing other activities? I do feel that the very young children need an adult close by who can assist them in what they are doing. Perhaps, for instance, they find the jigsaws too difficult and so leave before finishing one. But with an adult to support them they may complete the jigsaw and come back for more. This may be the same for other activities you are offering, they may not really know what they are supposed to be doing. If you could look at how your staff are deployed or spend a week with your staff just supporting the children in their play you may find their behaviour alters.


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What toys do you provide on a weekly/daily basis?

I have worked in nurseries which NEVER change the toys or equipment. The stuff in the boxes on the shelves was exactly the same as the year before. Some children were on their 2nd year in the pre-school room and they were bored, the toys didnt challenge or stretch them in any way at all. So they ran round, flitted from thing to thing and only ever sat to 'do' something when they were asked by an adult. Adult directed tasks were so dry they were forever asking if they could go and play.

The setting on the whole was lovely, friendly staff who really enjoyed the children, but they were obviously in a rut themselves.


I'm certainly not saying your setting is like that but we can sometimes get used to the way things are and have always been. Make sure you rotate your equipment so it's fresh, add things, take things away, ask different things from the same piece of equipment. Move the furniture around, if it doesnt work, put it back. Dont be afraid to ask new things of the staff either, they might be as bored as the children.


Whatever the problem is I hope you get it sorted so you can all get on and work happily. :o


When my friend became manager she asked me to look at it with an objective mind, forgetting we were friends. I was able to ask her questions that helped in a couple of areas. She was brill, so didnt need much feedback, but it helped her to be certain in her own mind that what she had done was good. Can you call on someone similar to give a guiding hand or a bit of input?

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Don't forget some children may be"fitting not flitting" (Athey) and following a schema in different areas of the room, maybe observation would reveal a schematic interest to inform your immediate and future planning, homing in on their individual interest?

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Lots of excellent comments as usual.

Having received an inadequate myself a few years ago I understand the knee jerk reaction that can come from this horrid experience, and the loss of confidence I know I certainly felt.

You are already reflecting and identifying your own concerns re: concentration, and identifying how the childre are reacting to their current environment. You are reflecting and identifying the adult areas to develop. You are aslo reflecting on how you don't actually feel that recent changes have improved te situation. Reflective practise is the key to quality provision so as you are doing this the future can only get better. xD


Take one step at a time, ask yourself when you plan changes is this a knee jerk reaction and have we really thought this through.


I personally find that tracking observations are very good for a 'visual' record of how the children and adults are 'using' the layout, they also show how cildren respond to adult movement. One particluar tracking observation, I did over 2 years ago, really sticks out in my memory. It started when al children and adults were at an activity, the tracking lines showed little movement, then an adult got up, moved to the kitchen, then moved again across the room, then was joined by another adult, the consequence was that the children all suddenly started moving around, the tracking lines on the sheet looked liked spaghetti junction time 10 :o . This really showed the staff how much their actions affected the childrens.


I wasn't tracking individual children or staff it was a whole group tracking obs ( quite difficult to do but can be done with practice) I used a black pen for children and a red pen for the staff, noting the time at each line when a movement occured. Its difficult to explain in text, like explaining how a drawing is drawn, but I hope you can visualise what I mean.


Also remeber that when you were inspected the inspectors only experienced the group dynamics on that day, group dynamics change on a daily or if full daycare, even on a sessional basis ( am & pm). I would try a tracking obs and find time to talk together with staff about how they all support each other as a team in terms of deployment around the room and how they interact with the children during their free play.

I personally don't feel that full group times enable children to develop their concentration skills, these times enable children to conform to adult expectations of having to sit still and listen. Concentration spans are very individual and individually change at different times depending on many factors such as interest, distractions, emotions, health ( tiredness) etc.

Remember 1 minute per year of childs life, ie: 4 yr old concentrates for 4 minutes. Sitting still, or staying at one place does not necessarily equate to 'concentrating'. Adults in say a university lecture ( of a chosen interest subject) can only concentrate for a maximum period of 20 mins.


Good luck, hopefully soon you will all gain increased confidence and may I suggest through this difficult time that you all identify at least one, if not more things that went well each day, as well as looking at the areas you are trying to improve.



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