Parent & Teacher Resource: “The Right Way to Train Attention”, Laura Flores Shaw

Probably one of the best “Montessori” responses to the ever so growing, controversial ADHD diagnosis. This article explains the differences between conventional schools vs. Montessori schools, and what they both have to offer children diagnosed with ADHD. As parents, we struggle with what to do to help our children; we all want the best treatment. The answer just might lie in the type of education they are receiving, which can set a foundation for the way they learn for the rest of their lives. Children with diagnoses such as these need the opportunity to “train their attention” using works that capitalize on their spontaneous sensitive periods of concentration. Painting the world map can draw forth an immense amount of concentration, for example. Probably more so than any attention-training video game.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-flores-shaw/after-ritalin-whats-next_b_1271750.html

“Montessori environments are specifically designed to train attention by providing children opportunities to practice deep concentration for long periods without disruption. According to Dr. Montessori, concentration development is “the most important single result of our whole work.” This is why our preschool and elementary programs have 3-hour work cycles rather than a schedule that changes subject area every 30 to 40 minutes.

The periods of deep concentration Montessori students experience are what Dr. Mihály Csikszentmikály, refers to as flow…he defines flow as ‘the mental state in which a person engaged in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity…It’s a state that Dr. Csikszentmikály generally attributes to adults, but when he and his colleague Dr. Kevin Rathunde conducted a multi-year study comparing traditional school environments to Montessori environments, they found that students achieved flow experiences more frequently in Montessori settings.

Flow in a Montessori classroom fosters a love of learning, something computerized attention training games can’t do. A flow state is so pleasing, it literally makes you feel joyful, thus, the learning experience becomes associated with joy, not some video game. As Dr. Csikszentmikály writes, “Every teacher, whether they teach German or music or mathematics, is aware of how important it is for the kid to experience flow while learning because that would make them want to learn more.”

The reason flow is so pleasing to the brain is that it doesn’t require effort and self-control as it’s a state of effortless concentration that emerges from innate curiosity or interest. Yet, a byproduct of attention trained via flow is that a person becomes more self-regulated and, thus, can put more effort into things in which they’re not innately interested.”

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