Self evaluation is another good skill for children to have, and it’s a piece of teaching self control. This is being able to go back and review their own efforts or their own products. The goal is to have children slow down and consider their work. We do this in our Look, Listen and Learn class over a sequence of days by having children draw three of the same shapes, later three of the same objects (like a house), then write their name three times. After each effort, they are guided to review their work and decide which is the best and the worst, then to describe why they choose each and what could they do to improve on the worst to make it more like the best. We then ask others to (nicely) state why they agree or disagree with the child’s own review. This is a task designed to have them thinking about their own process as they approach tasks and to encourage them to give their best effort. It is also foundation for teaching them to review their academic work later. By second grade, children should be encouraged to review their homework before it goes in the back pack each night. This can be as simple as having them tell their parent one sentence about each assignment. As they get older, it is more detailed including re-working 2 math problems or reading a writing assignment aloud.
Reducing physical and mental clutter and other distractions can greatly benefit attention span and lessen distractibility. At home, this is getting toys and bedrooms organized. Make a plan with your child about how, when and where to store toys and other belongings. In our house, the toys all have a place they belong as do the backpacks, homework, art supplies and shoes. It is up to parents to provide initial set-up and expectations, and in the long run it’s a child’s job to follow through. Teaching the behvaior and then passing the responsibility may take a great amount of shared effort. At school this includes the teachers coaching the child to regularly clean out their desk, backpack and locker.
This also means getting scheduled. Most children with attention issues do far better when given a schedule. Plan with your child for a morning, afternoon and evening routine. The afternoons may vary based on extra-curricular activities, but have a plan that works before each day. It may help to build in 10 minutes of free time at the end of each routine. 10 minutes to play at the end of each morning or to read at the end of each evening. This provides a bit of a buffer and gives children something to work towards rather than against as discipline. It can also be helpful to make a visual of the schedule. This might be making a poster with pictures of the included activities or drawings of the clock for time spent at each. Have your child draw or copy the pictures or take pictures of your child moving through the activities. At school, this includes the child learning to use a calendar or homework notebook to manage assignments and studying.
Planning and reviewing skills are a piece of building attention span and impulse control. In some of our classes, each week the children have to plan their 15 minute play time. This includes choosing where they will play (only 1 center each day) and planning three activities to occupy their time. Teachers check on their progress throughout and help children to meet each goal. This is something you can easily incorporate at home.
At clean up time, sit for a minute and ask your child to plan the effort. This includes details such as the order of the tasks and if they will work together. Draw or write a check list and help them to stay on task. At the end a pat on the back for completing the list. A more fun example – ask your child to plan their next playdate. Invite a friend over for an hour and have child (or children) come up with three or four activities they’d like to do during that time. Help them manage the time and move through the activities.
It is also helpful to take a plan-do-review approach to outings or other activities. If you are headed to the pumpkin patch this weekend, take some time to look at pictures from last year or visit their website, print the map and plan your trip together with your child. Talk about all the things they are seeing and doing while their. After, call a grandparent and encourage your child to tell them details about the trip. Review again with your child when you print the pictures.