De-clutter to Create Attention Skills

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

For those who begin a new year when the calendar turns to January, as it soon will, it’s a good time to clean up and clean out, not just at home but also at school! 

The expression, “starting with a clean slate,” comes from the English tradition of sweeping the soot off the hearth at the beginning the month of Janus, waving goodbye to the face of the old year and welcoming a new one.

Even if you and your students face the same old classroom space in early January, you can enjoy a fresh start by scheduling time to de-clutter the place and offer a lesson in attention-ology at the same time.

Make the connection with your K – 5 kids, in age appropriate ways, between de-cluttering and creating a new sense of organization and focus.  You and your class can make a January resolution to pay the best attention ever to every task at hand in school.

You might offer students in grades 4 and 5 an analogy between de-cluttering a desk, for example, and de-cluttering one’s mind. Ask your kids if mind clutter contributes to short attention spans. Set aside class time and ask students to actually clean out their desks. You may want to assign students to “Clean Teams” and have them straighten out your classroom library books, empty old papers into recycling bins, etc. When the physical cleaning up and clearing out is done, ask students if participating in that task has helped clear their minds for a new year of learning. You may also want to discuss other ways to create a new focus at the start of a new  year.

For younger children, you may help them grasp the concept of de-cluttering their minds with simple dramatic gestures. Hold your arms up with elbows to each side so that your hands cover your forehead. Invite the children to follow your lead. Make a whooshing sound and pull your hands away from your face, explaining to the kids that you are clearing your mind. Ask them to do the same. “We’ll start January with clear minds, ready to pay close attention in class and get good work done in 2011,” you can say. Encourage the children to repeat the dramatization and say the words you’ve said aloud together. Your dramatization will help kids remember their class resolution.

Turning a New Year Classroom Clean Up into a full class activity gives students ownership in de-cluttering their minds and shared space. It also teaches kids that making a commitment to paying attention in class is an action, not just some words.

De-cluttering to create a new focus on learning is a great way to start a new year in school. Happy 2011, everyone!

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings.

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

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