Concentration, Jigsaw II Group Activity & Attention Training
Direct students to reinforce only good concentration strategies. In other words, don't reinforce learning behaviors that represent poor concentration strategies. Students should also be aware of and analyze barriers to concentration and sources of distractions in their study areas. Refer to the Eliminating External Distractions and Eliminating Internal Distractions sections of this page for specific tips.
Poor Concentration Habits
The following list describes poor concentration habits that students should become aware of and attempt to change in order to improve concentration.
- Changing to a different learning activity because of an inability to concentrate on the task at hand.
- Choosing study areas or seats in the classroom with known distractions.
- Jumping into a task without understanding directions, considering the purpose of the task, or relating the task to the course as a whole.
- Vigorously debating with the instructor in class or avoiding class participation altogether.
- Doing other things, or thinking about doing other things, when one sits down to study.
Conditions Necessary for Concentration
The following list outlines conditions necessary for concentration.
- Eliminate external and internal distractions.
- Make sure you are healthy and rested.
- Address organizational and time management needs.
- Avoid daydreaming about things you want to do by scheduling time to actually do them.
- Avoid anxiety about things you have to do by making a list of them to complete later.
- Fully understand the purpose, instructions and expectations of the task at hand.
Memory and Yoder (1988) present a six-part guide to improving concentration. Each part corresponds to the goals of the strategy, and a specific course of action for addressing each of these goals is given.
- Insure understanding.
- Read or listen to instructions and directions carefully.
- Know the expectations that must be met.
- Seek clarification from the instructor if necessary.
- Do not begin a task until all instructions and expectations are fully understood.
- Maintain interest in the subject matter.
- Develop an interest in the course by talking with other students who enjoyed the class or are majoring in that subject, by reading magazine articles, or by watching television programs related to the subject.
- Develop an interest in the task by previewing the material to find points of interest to you, by focusing on main points rather than details, or by looking for general principles and broad generalizations.
- Avoid daydreaming about things you would rather be doing by setting aside time in your schedule to do these things.
- Arrange for variety in studying by working on one course or task for a short period of time or by varying the activities in each study session.
- Have a purpose.
- Relate the task to specific short-term or long-term goals.
- Consider a target at which to aim, such as a completion date, a level of quality, a level of improvement, or a grade.
- Maintain a pattern of attention.
- Be aware of good and bad concentration habits.
- Transform good procedures into habits.
- Document the use of concentration strategies and the academic outcomes of using them.
- Always work in your designated study area that is free of distractions.
- Study at similar times every day to develop a routine.
- Reward productivity.
- Treat yourself to a reward when you practice good concentration habits.
60-Second Synopses Strategy
Huffman's (1992-1993) 60-second synopses strategy is used in tandem with Memory and Yoder's (1988) guide to improving concentration (see above). It is a group activity to introduce, reinforce, and apply the concentration-improving tips.
The 60-second synopses strategy has several advantages. First, it is an active process that requires the use of a number of skills such as reading, writing, speaking, listening, application of information, analytical processing, and cooperation. Second, it is an interactive process, allowing students to interact with and learn from one another. Third, it is an efficient process, exposing students to a large amount of information in a short time. Finally, the strategy may be modified to meet students' needs. For example, tutors may work one-on-one with a student covering each of Memory and Yoder's (1988) strategies over several weeks. And, once concentation strategies have been presented and discussed, students may practice developing 60-second synopses for other material, both written and oral.
The steps in the 60-second synopses strategy are as follows.
- Divide the group into pairs or groups of three students.
- Assign each group one of the six sections of Memory and Yoder's strategy for improving concentration.
- Each group then reads and annotates its assigned section. What are the main points of the section? How do the suggestions relate to personal experience?
- Each group then organizes its information and develops a plan for presenting it to the rest of the class. There is a 60-second time limit for the presentation.
- Each group makes its 60-second synopsis presentation. The group members may take turns or may select a spokesperson. Encourage presenters to use anecdotes and testimonials.
- After each group presentation, the class evaluates the strategy and adds more examples and personal experiences related to the strategy.
- When all group presentations are done and all strategies have been assessed, the floor is open for students to share additional strategies they have used to improve concentration.
- The class then discusses in what situations certain strategies would be most or least effective.
- Each student writes a journal entry relating the strategies to upcoming course assignments.
- Students are encouraged to evaluate their level of concentration throughout the semester.
Jigsaw II Group Activity
The jigsaw strategy is used to develop the skills and expertise needed to participate effectively in group activities. It focuses on listening, speaking, cooperation, reflection, and problem-solving skills.
- Listening - Students must listen actively in order to learn the required material and be able to teach it to others in their original groups.
- Speaking - Students will be responsible for taking the knowledge gained from one group and repeating it to new listeners in their original groups.
- Cooperation - All members of a group are responsible for the success of others in the group.
- Reflective thinking - To successfully complete the activity in the original group, there must be reflective thinking at several levels about what was learned in the expert group.
- Creative thinking - Groups must devise new ways of approaching, teaching and presenting material.
Directions for the jigsaw strategy are given below. Information about this strategy is from the Muskingum Area Technical College (Zanesville, Ohio) Newsletter, September 14, 1994.
- Define the group project on which the class will be working.
- Randomly break the class into groups of 4-5 students each, depending on the size of the class, and assign a number (1 to 4-5) to students in each group.
- Assign each student/number a topic in which he/she will become an expert.
- The topics could be related facets of a general content theme.
- For example, in a computer class the general theme might be hardware and the topics might be central processing unit (student #1), memory (student #2), input devices (student #3), and output devices (student #4).
- Rearrange the students into expert groups based on their assigned numbers and topics.
- Provide the experts with the materials and resources necessary to learn about their topics.
- The experts should be given the opportunity to obtain knowledge through reading, research and discussion.
- Reassemble the original groups.
- Experts then teach what they have learned to the rest of the group.
- Take turns until all experts have presented their new material.
- Groups present results to the entire class, or they may participate in some assessment activity.
Attention training techniques differ from other attending strategies because they allegedly produce permanent increases in memory capacity (Herrmann, Raybeck and Gutman, 1993). Research with normal adults, however, indicates that the techniques are more effective for specific tasks rather than attention in general. Among brain-damaged patients, results are more encouraging but, again, it is likely that confidence and task-specific skills are affected rather than general attention capacity.
Herrmann, Raybeck and Gutman (1993) describe several attention training techniques.
- One attention training method involves practicing listening for faint sounds or looking for dim lights. This method targets one's ability to sustain attention.
- Another technique entails practicing doing two things at once in order to increase one's ability to divide attention.
- A third method involves picking out details in visual images or sounds in music in order to hone one's ability to detect details.
- Another technique involves practicing concentrating in distractive environments in order to increase one's ability to resist distractions.
- An alternative to the attention training methods is simple practice; select a situation in which you want attention to improve and then place yourself in that situation repeatedly and practice paying attention.