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Just One More Page!

Strategies to Increase Attention During Whole-Group


Written by: Melissa Johnson, M.Ed.



Think about your daily schedule. How often do you meet as a whole class or at least try to? Whole-group instruction is a part of the day in most early-learning classrooms. It is a time that is teacher-led and all the children are present. This period of the day might come in the morning or maybe during some afternoon activities. Within this time there are many possibilities of what could go right and what could go wrong. One thing that often happens if children’s attention span often leads to whole group time ending early. We say things like “Just a few more minutes!”, “We are almost done!”, or “One more page!” but oftentimes the result is the same. So what can we do to change this? While whole-group should only be a small portion of the children’s day and the rest filled with opportunities to engage with their classroom environment what can be done to potentially increase child’s attention during whole-group? Let’s see!


Some of the recommended practices are:


(1)Use materials!

Not only can you as the teacher model how to use materials within the classrooms you can also give the children materials to manipulate during whole-group time.


(2)Children need space!

Be sure that children have adequate space during whole-group to sit together comfortably. Carpet squares or a rug that has squares can help with this.


(3)Be sure to supervise!

One teacher can focus on leading the activity while the other focuses on supervising the children.


(4)Be mindful of the strategies you use while leading the whole-group activity!

Be sure to acknowledge what children are communicating, relate the whole-group time to other activities the children have done or will do, and cover many objectives within the whole-group activity.


Research conducted by DiCarlo et al., suggests that teachers’ awareness and use of the practices mentioned above for whole-group increased child attention. One major change that many teachers made was also to decrease the time spent in whole-group, teachers saw children’s attention space increase during the time that they were meeting for whole-group within their day.


Now take some time to consider what might be working and what might not be working during your whole-group time. How long is your whole group? What is happening when children start to lose interest? Have you tried any of these recommended practices before? You might also want to consider having someone take notes during your next whole-group activity so that you can reflect on what you would like to change. If you try something and it does not work do not stress! Reflect and then try again! You can do this!



Derived from: Recommended Practice in Whole-Group Instruction: Increasing Child Attention by Cynthia F. DiCarlo, Jennifer J. Baumgartner, Carrie Ota, Aaron R. Deris & Mauree H. Brooksher


Source: DiCarlo, C.F., Baumgartner, J.J., Ota, C., Deris, A.R. & Brooksher, M.H. (2021) Recommended Practice in Whole-Group Instruction: Increasing Child Attention, Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 43:1, 13-26, DOI: 10.1080/00168890.2020.1848407


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