Eliminating Internal & External Distractors, Staying Alert in Class & Staying Alert While Reading
Eliminating Internal Distractions
Internal distractors are sources of distractions that originate from within the individual. They include disinterest, lack of motivation, and low self-esteem. Strategies described in the Motivation page are relevant to eliminating internal distractions as well.
- Create interest by acquiring information about the subject from a variety of sources - lectures, texts, magazines, television, radio, and other students.
- Tying new information to old bodies of knowledge and applying it to everyday life often makes the new information more relevant and more interesting.
- Actively use new knowledge by asking questions, anticipating next steps, talking, and writing.
- Make new information personal and relate it to matters of personal concern.
- Use new knowledge in other classes.
- Work with classmates to maintain interest in the subject or task.
- Identify specific ambitions or goals that may be fulfilled through success in school or in a class.
- Focus on the positive aspects of a course or an instructor.
- Picture yourself being successful.
- Make the information relevant to yourself personally.
- Use new knowledge in novel ways.
Self-Esteem and Self-Talk
Self-talk refers to the process of bringing our attitudes to a conscious level. It is what we say to ourselves and it reflects our self-esteem. Self-talk can be negative, positive, or neutral. Self-esteem and self-image are also covered in another section of this page.
- The inefficient learner tends to engage in negative self-talk.
- Comments might include "I'll never pass this exam" or "I don't belong in college."
- Such students must become aware of this behavior and its implications.
- Facilitators should assist students in replacing negative self-talk with netural or positive self-talk.
- This is the process of making appropriate suggestions to oneself in order to positively influence how one feels.
- Statements might include "I am very prepared for this exam" or "I can finish the research paper in time."
- Efficient learners tend to engage in positive self-talk.
Eliminating External Distractions
External distractors are sources of distractions that originate outside the student. They include environmental factors such as noise, people, objects, and odors. Other external distractors are related to poor time management, organization, and study skills. Personal problems are another external source of distractions.
- The area in which one studies should be free of distractions such as noise or the movement of people. Adjust the lighting so it does not glare or shine directly into the eyes. It should be neither too dark or too light. Avoid sitting in shadows. The room should be a comfortable temperature. If one cannot control the temperature of the room, dress accordingly. Layered clothing is a safe alternative. Avoid sitting on the bed, couch or overstuffed chair as these make one too comfortable.
- In the classroom, the student should select a seat away from windows, doors, friends, wall maps, and clocks. It is often helpful if one sits toward the front of the room and avoids seats at the ends of aisles. Find the "power center" of the room based on the instructor's actions. Sit where other active students are sitting. Again, one should dress such that one can easily adapt to the temperature of the room.
Time Management, Organization, and Study Skills
- These topics are covered elsewhere in this page as they pertain to attention and listening; refer to Time Management Considerations, Organization and Preparation Considerations, and Study Skills Considerations for more information.
- These topics are covered in the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack as they pertain to academics in general; refer to the Time Management page and the Organization page for more information.
- It is important to recognize personal problems experienced by a student. Some degree of empathy is helpful, as is assisting the student to determine where the problem lies. However, it is equally important to avoid reinforcement or to attempt to intervene in the problem unless you have special training. Refer the student to a professional counselor instead. The Test Anxiety page has some information related to relieving tension.
Staying Alert in Class
The following tips may help one be more alert in class. Refer also to the strategies listed under Eliminating Internal Distractions, Eliminating External Distractions, Organization and Preparation Considerations, and Concentration in this page.
- Be prepared and organized for class (see Organization and Preparation Considerations).
- Get motivated for class and develop an interest in the subject matter (see Eliminating Internal Distractions and Concentration).
- Get adequate rest so you are not tempted to sleep in class.
- Sit where the action is; select an appropriate seat (see Eliminating External Distractions).
- Be an "opportunist," finding areas of common interest between you and the instructor.
- Ask yourself "Why is this information important?" and "How will it help me?"
- Identify the speaker's purpose and adapt to it. Is the aim to inform, persuade, or entertain?
- Listen for central themes rather than for isolated facts.
Make connections between the facts and themes or among different themes even if the instructor doesn't do so explicitly.
- Work on notetaking skills (see Note taking).
- Keep active during class. Take notes constantly. Leave a margin at the side of the page for writing key words and concepts. Ask questions (use a list of questions prepared ahead of time) and answer questions. Anticipate what will be covered next. During lag times in the lecture you can write questions in your notes, underline important terms and concepts, or relate the lecture material to the readings.
- Plan to summarize the content of the lecture within 8 hours; work with a friend if necessary.
- If all else fails, take deep breaths to increase oxygen flow. Or, remove one shoe. This sets up a temperature difference in your body that can help to keep you alert.
Staying Alert While Reading
The following tips may help one stay alert while reading assignments.
- Select an appropriate area in which to read (see Eliminating External Distractions).
- Get motivated and develop an interest in the subject matter (see Eliminating Internal Distractions and Concentration).
- Get adequate rest so you are not tempted to fall asleep.
- Try the SQ3R strategy or the Skim-Read-Review strategy for reading (see the Reading Comprehension page in the General-Purpose Learning Strategies).
- Work for short intervals of time and take breaks between intervals.
- Mix up your subjects or assignments to avoid boredom.
- Reward yourself for completing the reading.