As a Special Education Teacher, one of the biggest student and classroom problems that I encounter almost on a daily basis is a child’s inability to remain on task. Not only does the student not complete his work, but he likely isn’t paying attention and often distracts other classmates as well. How can a teacher, home school teacher, or parent help their child to stay on task so they can complete the assignment or chore at hand? A few suggestions are listed here.
1) Be sure to check on the difficulty of the assignment or task that the child is being asked to do. Often times, the assignment is too difficult, and the child will have a difficult time staying focused. It might be necessary to alter the assignment, making directions clearer, changing how you expect the work to be performed, or breaking it down into smaller portions. When I give work that is in several sections, I will sometimes assign only one section at a time. This way, a child that has problems staying on task will more likely stay focused.
2) Many children, especially special education students, have difficulty staying on task because they are easily distracted. Many of these children have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Be sure the child’s workspace is free of clutter, is in a quiet area, and is free of visual distractions. A time out box even helps. I had one in my classroom one year and explained that it was not being used for punishment, as so many teachers used it. That way, they would ask to be in the time out box, with three walls to help them concentrate and drown out stimuli.
3) Often a child is not really aware that they are off task. Either a teacher or parent can take advantage of this strategy. Have a prearranged hand or verbal signal or cue that will let the student know they are off task. Often a simple cue is all it takes to get the student back on track. I often formulate a signal beforehand with the child, because you don’t want to single them out.
4) Limit time of the task. Many times, all that is needed is providing a timer and letting the student know how long the specific task or assignment will take. This allows the student to self time and complete the task. They also think of it as a game of racing against the clock. I also often put on the board, beside the assignment, the amount of time each assignment will take. This helps all students manage their time better.
5) When a student feels overwhelmed, they often get off task easily. I have found that providing a daily schedule of events helps the child to stay on task. Visually display this schedule in the classroom or in your home and make reference to it from time to time so the student will know where they are on the agenda list. Usually, students have trouble using a daily schedule, so the task has to be taught. The teacher has to explain also what should go on the schedule.
By using a few of these tips and strategies, you should be able to help to keep your student on task. When they are on task they learn better and are less disruptive to those around them. In addition, a child who is on task and makes better grades will end up having more self confidence and being successful.