Attention Skills

What it is

An area of student need, involving difficulty with maintaining concentration, especially on non-preferred activities, while ignoring distractions.

Teaching Strategies

• Provide frequent physical breaks; avoid long periods of sitting or being physically inactive. One strategy could be to ask the student to collect/distribute materials.
• Set up a cueing system, when you will be calling upon or asking something of the student. For example, say, “I will stand beside you, and when I do this, this will let you know that the next question is for you.” Or: “You will always be the next person I ask a question of, after I ask Student A.” (focuses student’s listening).
• Give specific instructions with a check list for the student to check off when each item is finished.
• Alternate between sitting/less engaging and active classroom tasks.
• Provide a “leadership” role for the student in class, so that he or she is responsible for repeating instructions or writing them on the board.


• Post simple and action-focused rules and consequences.
• Use preferential seating to reduce distractions for the student.
• Provide a choice of work areas for the student to move between in the classroom.
• Provide for the student to take a physical break (delivering material to another class or to the office).
• Consider the use of music and headphones if it helps the student to concentrate.
• Provide items that a student can physically manipulate (stress ball, chewing gum).


• Provide choice in assessment activities, including use of various media forms.
• Use oral tests.
• Chunk tests/assignments.
• Allow breaks during tests (consider giving the student only one page of a multiple page test, with a walk break or other suitable break prior to receiving the next page).
• Use a variety of methods on written tests (short answer, matching, fill in the blank, long answer).
• Provide printed assignment requirements and rubrics.
• Provide an alternate testing location that is more free of distractions.
• Prompt the student to return to task if he/she seems to be off task.
• Allow additional time.