I was talking to someone last week about the importance of attention for any form of learning but especially learning for language development. They hadn't heard about the levels of attention to which speech and language therapists constantly refer, so I thought I'd do a quick summary:
There are 6 stages of attention which were identified in the 1970s by Cooper, Moodley and Reynell. No-one has improved on these but the age for the stages are now questionable so that very few children now go to school with mature attention.
ATTENTION CONTROL - developmental stages (Cooper, Moodley & Reynell)
(All age levels are approx)
Stage 1: DURING FIRST YEAR
Extreme distractibility. Child’s attention held momentarily by whatever is the dominant stimuli
Stage 2: SECOND YEAR
Inflexible and rigid attention- child can concentrate for some time on a task of his/her own choice but cannot tolerate adult intervention. Attention level is better where the activity is one of his/her own choosing
Stage 3: THIRD YEAR
Single-channelled attention, but becoming more flexible. With adults help can focus attention. Child can transfer from his task to adult’s direction and back to the task. Attention is still adult directed making it necessary for the teacher, to ensure she has the child’s attention before giving instructions.
Stage 4: FOURTH YEAR
Still single Channelled to one task but the child can now transfer spontaneously. Moves gradually to the stage where she only needs to look at the speaker if directions area are difficult to understand
Two-channelled attention. Where the child is now able to attend to a verbal instruction in relation to the task without actually looking at the adult. Attention can only be sustained for short periods of time.
Mature school entry level. Where integrated attention is well established and well sustained N.B May see fluctuating levels depending on environment, task complexity or health
Many year 6 teachers will be shouting that their children cant keep level 6 for long. We live in such a visually dominant world that auditory stimuli can be harder to deal with. We need to know what level a child is performing at so we can tailor acitivties accordingly and also help to move them to the next stage.
Many children with speech, language and communication difficulties have problems with attention and listening so we may work on this before anything else.