1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

Helping a child to stay on task

Discussion in 'Primary' started by purplepearlopal, Nov 8, 2017.

  1. purplepearlopal

    purplepearlopal New commenter


    I have two children, aged 6, that find it almost impossible to stay focussed or on task. I have tried verbal reminders, having a buddy who gently touches them on the arm to help refocus, using a timer. However, I have had the parents of one of the children express their concerns for their child using a timer as it ‘causes them anxiety’. This child in particular has cried during a maths lesson because they found maths hard and therefore found work completion a huge challenge. I have been asked by the parents to stop using the timer so I am looking for any other strategies to help the child complete more work independently. I rarely have a TA with me during a maths lesson and I am reluctant to use them in a manner that detracts from other children’s learning. I set this particular child off after 1-1 input and when I revisit them 5-10 minutes later they have completed no work at all so, naturally, I am concerned for her progress.

    Any ideas gratefully received
  2. GladRagsAtMidnight2017

    GladRagsAtMidnight2017 Occasional commenter

    Can these children attempt the work? Some kids won't start work if they think they can't do it - better to not try, than try and fail and feel stupid when self-esteem is low. When you have done your 1-1 input, have you checked they know what to do (have them repeat it back to you)?
    If you have and feel confident they can do the work, are they then being disruptive with others on their table? If yes, is there room for a "quiet space" table where you can put this one particular pupil to help them focus?
  3. purplepearlopal

    purplepearlopal New commenter

    Hi, thanks for this. Yes to all of the above. I always make sure that she can explain how she would do the first and perhaps second question. She can often give me the answers which is when I ask her to record those answers and then try the next. However, when I return she has done no work at all and also forgotten how to even tackle the first question. She has extremely poor working memory so this doesn’t help the issue. I have tried breaking the task down into bite size chunks, hence the timer, but the parents are not supportive of using this.
    squashball likes this.
  4. GladRagsAtMidnight2017

    GladRagsAtMidnight2017 Occasional commenter

    Can you discuss with the SENCO if she has poor working memory? They may have some ideas like a recording device that the child can use to record the input part from you and can then listen to as many times as required to help them bed the info in.
    galerider123 and purplepearlopal like this.
  5. squashball

    squashball Occasional commenter

    I feel your pain - it's as if they are waiting for you to return to do the work for them and it's so exhausting - and frustrating if you think they can actually do the work but are choosing not to. I do think purplepearlopal may be on to something and this may be a confidence issue. You are in Year 1 or 2, right? I often have worksheets completed in pairs - they answer a question each and check their work together - do you have the sort of children with whom this could work (not the ones who will do all the work and ignore their partner). Could answers be shown using practical resources? Worksheets are now quite rare in Y1 as we do everything using maths resources really and just photograph their work and caption their thoughts. Sometimes using whiteboards is better than paper and pencils because errors can be swept away so easily. I am sure you are already telling them that mistakes are brilliant because mistakes help us learn. I personally wouldn't have a parent telling me what resources I could or could not use in my classroom. Do you have volunteers or parent helpers who might have the energy to sit with these two and maybe scribe for them? Sometimes it's just the proximity of a supportive adult which can make all the difference. It's hard teaching maths these days without a TA - good luck.
    fly and alexanderosman like this.
  6. purplepearlopal

    purplepearlopal New commenter

    Thanks for your thoughtful responses. It is very much appreciated and some great ideas, too, that I’m sure to be using.
  7. theluckycat

    theluckycat Occasional commenter

    I would put the egg-timer aside, as for instance some autistic children find it really increases anxiety and stress. Perhaps you could ‘start them off,’ so model the first couple of number sentences or whatever maths you’re doing in written form so that they can carry on what you’ve started quite easily. This may break their barrier to learning by making it more inviting and ‘friendly.’
    purplepearlopal likes this.
  8. onmyknees

    onmyknees Established commenter

    If you want to focus on getting the child to remain on task, I would reduce the difficulty of the task initially. That way they are only needing to concentrate on finishing what they are doing and you are removing one barrier that is preventing success i.e. The task seeming too difficult and onerous for the child.
  9. galerider123

    galerider123 Lead commenter

    I have had (SEND) children in year 6 who will not try anything new because they are absolutely sure that they will get it wrong (again). It is a hard habit to break, so better to keep the challenge low until they have some sense of achievement and confidence.
    You may need to try apprentice learning until they gain some skills and confidence.
  10. modgepodge

    modgepodge Occasional commenter

    Agree with this. Maybe for a few days, what they are learning is how to work independently, rather than the lesson objective. Perhaps literally give them some copying to do the first day (assuming they can copy). When they do it, lots and lots of praise and ‘I just knew you could do this by yourself!’ Next day, perhaps copying followed by adding their own number sentence or sentence or drawing a picture (with a written/visual prompt so they know what to do). Again, lots of praise. Gradually move up to perhaps filling in answers on a worksheet so they are actually doing maths but aren’t having to remember ‘choose number card, choose another number card, copy them in to my book with a + between them, work out the answer, write it down, repeat’ or even just ‘copy the question, working it out, write the answer, repeat’. For children like this worksheets have a place I feel!

    Good luck. I’ve got one in y6 who’s a bit like this - I come over and find she’s done very little. I sssume she can’t do the work. Check and discover she can, she just doesn’t focus and works very slowly even with an adult on the table!
  11. galerider123

    galerider123 Lead commenter

    In year 6 there are lots of reasons. Underlying skills may be poor. Self confidence may be poor. Attitudes to learning may be poor. But also, some children learn in different ways. I remember a reading group where one of the children would read so slowly that the quick ones would have read it twice and he would still finish last. But on asking comprehension questions, he always knew the answers to the questions much better than the fast readers. I think that he was really imagining it in his head as he read through, whereas the others were just skipping over the words. Children do sometimes process things in different ways. It is different in the OPs case, as the child is clearly experiencing difficulties with the work.
  12. modgepodge

    modgepodge Occasional commenter

    Ah I had a year 6 like that last year - sooooo painfully slow but excellent reading skills and what he wrote was amazing. Even with extra time and rest breaks he didn't get expected in SATS as he didn't answer enough questions :( so sad.

    The y6 I refer to actually is average ability. She's just a slow worker and needs a bit of extra time to get anything done. Some children, you sit an adult on the table and kids speed up hugely as they are more motivated, more focused, it builds their confident or whatever. This girl, it makes little difference with me or the TA on that table as I don't think she's capable of going any faster!
    galerider123 likes this.

Share This Page