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Behavior: don’t tax attention spans

Date: December 27th, 2016
By: Polly Bath

Polly Bath: Receptive language, being able to learn in this type of situation. Again, the adult attention span for a lecture is 18 minutes. You know how much overtime you’re on right now?


You’re on a ton. Imagine if you’re seven. Think about it, think about where you are right now. Brilliant, educated, motivated people who have been through school, have learned a lot, and experienced a lot in life.

What if you’ve only been walking on this earth for seven years and you’ve got three years of school under your belt? You don’t have the capacity to listen to this workshop. You might have to jump around a little bit. You might have to put some music on.

When I have kids who are unraveling and they’re just not able to keep it together, I stop my entire class.

I am done. I am done playing Whack a Mole. I’m done. I’m not doing it anymore. Just not doing that anymore.

When I see it start to unravel, I see one kid start to go – and you can see it, can’t you? You can see it. I love the kid in the chair that at first is sitting up straight, but after awhile they start sliding down in their chair. That’s a warning sign.

Then you’ve got the other kid who’s underneath the table.


I love our classrooms. You get the kid who’s bouncing around. The kid who’s poking and talking to the kid next to him or her. The kid who’s doodling like crazy.

When I see all those warnings (I call those flares) that means the receptive language is tapped because kids start to doodle. They start to play with stuff. They start to slouch in the chair. They start to talk.

It’s time to stop. Stop the presses. I always have either music, or a video, or something at my fingertips. I’ll go, “Stop, stop, stop.”

I got a kid in the back going, “Miss, Miss.”


“Can I sharpen my pencil?”


Everyone will stop and just stare. I’ll put something outrageous on. My high school classroom, because I’m a little older and the kids liked certain music, I would always put something on like The Mamas and the Papas or something outrageous.

I’d flip the thing and turn it on, the kids will go, “Ugh! I hate that! I hate it when you put on that old music!”

But it stopped the behavior. It regrouped us.

I’d say, “All right. I know you hate this song. Hey, how about another one?”

“No, no forget it, Miss, we’re good,” and we’d get back on track.

Sometimes, you’ve got to break the monotony. You got to put in a little edge in there.