Concentration issues or creativity plus?

Lately I have noticed that many of my very creative children might look as if they have concentration issues.

They don’t.

But I have had to explore strategies to get them to focus and yet not flatten their creativity.

We have developed a FOCUS formula for our students:

Creative kids often look at a set task and then start brainstorming different ways to approach this. They start to innovate and consider possibilities before even starting the task.

I am like an unbroken record – focus-focus-focus.

Focus first- get it done-then we all will have some fun!

It is almost as if they need blinkers for some tasks that may well be slightly boring but MUST be mastered.

Most kids can be taught to focus and finish and are delighted to get results.

However, once done- make sure they get their fun!

These kids have entrepreneural minds and are always looking for challenges, options, adventures – they must be allowed to grow their creativity! I try to have some apps, art, movement activities and games to reward children and often to reinforce what they have just learned.



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The ABC of CHILD WHISPERING V is for Virtues Project

The Virtues Project was founded in 1991 by 3 Canadians, Linda Kavelin-Popov, Dr. Dan Popovand John Kavelin and many organisations and schools are now following this project.

This is a global initiative to increase our practice of virtue in daily life and hopefully will help all of us to develop value systems that reflect these virtues.

It has now become a world-wide movement.

Here is a link and explanation of list of the 52 virtues that make up this program.

There are so many ways that schools and families can utilise these virtues –

  • Choose stories to read that reflect these virtues. There are many!  Fairy tales and folktales very often demonstrate these virtues. (or lack of them) Modern day fairy tales such as “Frozen” often do the same and parents can take opportunities as they occur to point these out.
  • Choose a target virtue per week or month and brainstorm ways a class or family can develop this.
  • When studying famous people in history lessons, point out the virtues many of these people exemplified.
  • Each time a child acts in a way that reflects a virtue, point this out to encourage them to repeat the behaviour.
  • Consider starting a VIRTUES JAR and placing a token inside whenever any member of the family or class displays a particular virtue. When the jar is full the whole class or family have a treat such as an excursion, free-time and so on.
  • Keep a prominent list of your target VIRTUES in a central place for everyone to see. Children can be asked to illustrate these virtues in art time and this helps them translate them into practical actions.

The important thing is not to become too “preachy” with all this. These virtues are REAL! They improve our lives and reflect our human yearning to do good, reach for ideals and achieve them. No matter what religion you practice (or don’t) a study of the virtues will add a positive moral dimension to children’s learning and help to develop their characters.



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The ABC of Child Whispering: V is for victory

We cannot all be victors and children need to understand this.

Children have to learn about losing as well as winning. Losing feels bad but failure is part of life and all kids need to get up, dust off and try again.

This applies to most things that kids do BUT when it comes to learning and continuous failure this does not stand up so well.

The sweet smell of success is important- especially to children who struggle so as parents, carers and teachers we need to be wise and help children to achieve this.

Success and victory over problems is a huge motivator to carry on and develop persistence and resilience.

We talk a great deal about resilience at the moment but we must remember that it does run out. Without any encouragement and ability to perceive progress- signs of victory- we do eventually crumble and lose the will to fight and to persist. Children reach that point quite quickly if they are not helped to perceive how far they have come.

In my work with children I have learned to document the steps of progress so children can see them. This might be as simple as graphing their levels of reading progress, showing them writing samples over 6 months etc. Children NEED to know they are improving and that albeit in small ways, are victors over what often seem to be insurmountable problems.

We know so much about Howard Gardner’s 8 intelligences now and by helping children chart these in their own lives, we show how much each intelligence is important. See this article for a clear description of each intelligence.

Kids with high visual-spatial intelligence need to know it IS an intelligence and ways they can develop this to enhance their life and possibly build other intelligences. Similarly, kids with high physical, naturalist or music intelligences need to feel their particular cocktail of intelligences is honoured!

We so often in schools show how much we value the linguistic and maths-logic intelligence and yet fail to help kids see the value of the other 6- creating a very lopsided approach to teaching and learning.

By helping children to perceive their “smarts,” and by providing rich learning environments that cater well for all learning preferences, we can turn this around and help them realise we can ALL be successful learners.



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Are Year 7s really ready for High School?

I am not sure they are.

I often work with year 6 students who h

ave learning difficulties, but they are ALL excited about the move to high school. They feel it will be a fresh start with new possibilities. Some do really well with the change in environment, but many don’t.

Common problems include  –

  • Timetabling issues, being late, missing lessons and sports practice sessions.
  • Difficulty finding correct rooms for lessons and getting lost on campus.
  • Balancing homework tasks- many now have 3 – 4 hours of homework each evening! This is not because they have been given that much. It is because they cannot pace themselves and time manage.

Year 7s in High Schools is now a fact in all states except SA and that will change in 2021.

I am aware of the wonderful transition programs most schools run but the kids I see often so desperately want to show they can achieve in their new school and won’t ask questions.

One of my students has been so stressed this year that we have had to spend a huge amount of time on mindfulness and stress management strategies. He is  not sleeping well as he is so worried.

Another one of my students is falling apart this week with homework tasks and myriad tests. I just read his writing and he is not coping and sent out an SOS to us in his writing.

Why on earth should a child of this age be subject to that stress level? What sort of long-term effect might this have?

Teachers and parents can help their children hugely by sticking to a few sensible guidelines:

Don’t threaten children with, “You’ll be at high school next year and they won’t stand for this work” just does not work on a stressed – out Year 6.

They already know they are failing! They are hoping high school will give them a new start. We need to stop blaming children for having difficulties.

Observe Year 7 students closely:

  • Do they need extra help?
  • Are they stressed?
  • Are there ways you can quietly help?
  • Check students know exactly how much homework they are really meant to do.
  • If necessary, enrol students in tuition or a study skills course.
  • Do students understand how to use lockers? Many of my students carry ALL their books with them “just in case!” I cannot even lift their backpacks!

I have no doubt Year 7s will continue to be classed as High School students, BUT can we try to get into their shoes, imagine their stress load and consider how we can give them practical help?

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