A recent study found that students' minds are most likely to wander in class on Mondays and Fridays. Getting rid of weekends (which are clearly very distracting) isn't an option, but there are ways to help improve their concentration, even from a very young age. Here's how.
Encourage them to eat a healthy breakfast
There is a growing body of research that shows that people who eat breakfast have better concentration over the course of the morning. Unfortunately, many students regularly skip breakfast, with one study reporting that 60% of teenage boys and 70% of teenage girls do so.
One study split students into three groups; those who ate breakfast, those who didn't and those who had an energy drink instead. They were monitored over four days and tested on attention and memory. The results? The students who ate breakfast did significantly better than their peers who skipped it or just had an energy drink.
Getting students to take notes in class gives keeps them feeling positive and productive – and reduces the likelihood of distractions creeping in. But don't overcomplicate it with technology. A recent study found that students who took longform notes outperformed their peers who had used laptops.
Set lots of deadlines
Left to their own devices, people tend to procrastinate. Some studies have found that 75% of students consider themselves procrastinators, with 50% doing so regularly and to a level that is considered problematic. Research also suggests that most students are poor predictors at estimating how long a task will take to complete, as they get distracted or face unexpected obstacles along the way.
When people set their own deadlines, they tend to procrastinate, according to one study. However, when a teacher sets small regular deadlines, this helps students manage their time better and perform significantly better in their coursework, achieving higher grades overall.
Make the most of the mornings
Our biological clock, known as our circadian rhythm, ensures that we are often at our most alert at about 10am before we suffer a mid-afternoon dip. It makes sense, therefore, to present students with the hardest and most important tasks early. It is worth noting that this approach may not work best for everyone as some people are night owls, and it is worth noting that evidence suggests that these people get lower grades.
Highlight the importance of a good night's sleep
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that GCSE and sixth-form students need up to 10 hours a night. But many teenagers are not getting anywhere near this, with many reporting that they sleep for less than 7 hours a night. Evidence suggests that those who get a good night's sleep have far better focus, concentration and self-regulation the next day.
In one study, researchers found that sleepy participants remembered about 40% less than their more alert peers. What made this really interesting was that they found that the tired participants remembered a lot less positive and neutral things, but almost the same amount of negative things.