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My student has trouble concentrating!

A few of the Americans university students who are in the t-oigo program to help kids with hearing loss learn English have noticed their child has a hard time concentrating. “What should I do if my student is not paying attention? I want to make it fun so he can learn.” Here is an example and my response. If you have a similiar experience or suggestions, please feel free to comment!

Hi Dale,

Things with D are going pretty well. Some days he is more focused, and others he can’t sit still for more than five minutes… I try to go over concepts with him and make it fun, and I always promise a game at the end of our time together if he does well, but I sometimes have a hard time making it fun. Do you have any ideas? I want him to look forward to our time together, rather than dread “English class.”

Otherwise, both D and his mother are very sweet and she does everything she can to help. I have enjoyed the experience thus far and I hope I have helped D at least a little bit.
Talk to you soon,

Hi B,

I appreciate your sincerity and talking to me about how things are going! It is completely normal to have doubts, so thanks for coming to me!

First of all, the issue you mention about concentration. You probably have realized by now that this is not directly attributed to you or what you are providing as a lesson, but rather is a quite typical behavior of a child with hearing loss. Imagine yourself as a native American, sitting all day in a Spanish class and then coming home and trying to keep listening and concentrating in Spanish. Tiring, right? Most kids with hearing loss tune out when they get tired, they are really fidgety, even hyperactive. So then add a new language on top of that! It takes an enormous effort to listen. Even for me as an adult, after listening at a conference all day, I just want to go home and lie down and not talk to anybody!!! A child has to learn how to actively listen and pay attention, and it takes many years. So don’t feel it is personal or even that you have that responsibility. You can sympathize with his parents and teachers and remember that when you are a speech therapist yourself.

But what can you do to improve the sessions? Several things. First of all, you can visit his speech therapist or if that is not possible, talk to his mother about if/ how he works on concentrating and behavior with his speech therapist or at school with his teachers. I am sure she must be aware of this already. If you are not comfortable talking about it with her and you are not able to visit the speech therapist (some of the other students have already done so), then don’t worry about it.

Secondly, you should have several activities in your pocket for your sessions that you can adjust depending on his energy level. Mix a lot of movement and games with sitting activities. For example, a way to use movement could be if you are teaching vocabulary related to things in his room, have him run really fast and bring you things you call out. Then do a short quiet game and then another game where he has to jump and touch parts of the body. Do you see what I mean? Use an activity that he picks as a prize at the end if he is able to participate in the games that you decide. “First we will do these 3 games and then we will do yours”. He knows what is coming and what to expect and that you are committed to finishing, and that he will have some control at the end.

Thirdly, use multi-sensorial teaching, that is, never rely on just auditory learning, where you talk and he listens. Always use visual aids like pictures, puppets, drawing, interesting expressions on your face, exaggerate, move, sing, vary the tone of your voice, have him touch things, even smell things, etc. This is true of any child: children react better to many different kinds of stimulus, but especially kids with hearing loss, they are not just auditory learners. They have to learn how to listen, and in the case of learning English, listen to new sounds. Remember that receptive language (listening and understanding) will come first before productive language (speaking and writing). You are talking to him in English in a quiet, natural and fun environment and that is a priceless opportunity!!! Even if you don’t see the direct results of your hard work and commitment, he is getting a huge benefit from your being there.

In terms of ideas of what you can do with him, please have a look at the blog archive, (once I made a list for another student of what an 11 year old boy might like to do based on my son) and at the “t-invito a jugar” column in (home page on the list on the left, called Juegos) . There are some fun activities you can do. Have you asked him or his mother what he likes to do? Does he like to draw? Play soccer? Do science experiments? Make a recipe in the kitchen? Make something on a computer like music, send an e-card in English? Think of holiday themes, like Easter, can you make a papier mache egg or do an egg drop or egg hunt? There are a million sites on internet for art projects, science experiments, etc. Do you have a laptop or does he have a computer he can work on? What have you done in the initial sessions that you feel was successful? What did you do that you feel was not that successful?

I hope this helps. Please let me know. I hope to hear back from you!


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