Time: How to get and keep someone’s attention

I’ve just been looking for some support for a statistic I heard at NTPRS14: that student attention lasts as long in minutes as age, up to 21, when that’s all there is. Time Magazine has had a couple of articles on this topic, and one deals with not the length of time so much as how we can keep attention. They’re all easy, if you tell stories in class.

1. “Stimulate curiosity by first asking questions,” rather than giving information.

2. “Introduce change and surprise.” Sound familiar? That was the most important line Carol Gaab kept saying all last week at NTPRS 14. I lost my notes, but “The brain craves novelty” is what I heard from her over and over.

3. “Stress concreteness…adding sensory details…” Ask more of those questions. Think in terms of Ben Slavic’s one-word stories.

4. “Tell stories…our minds treat them differently than other kinds of information. We understand them better, remember them more accurately, and find them more engaging to listen to in the first place.” If there weren’t already research out that says stories are how humans learn, these words would still resonate and make all storytelling teachers happy.

Please…if you find the “minutes the brain can attend” info, please send it to me. This piece on why lecture is ineffective is another Times article that has some of that embedded, but I want the original source.

I’m still planning on sharing some of my NTPRS14 notes, if I could only unpack and get my next two presentations ready before I have to set up my classroom. In the meantime, I wish you happy and energetic thoughts as you go into the next school year! Have fun!!



2 responses to “Time: How to get and keep someone’s attention

  1. If this topic is of interest to you, I would highly recommend the book “Made to Stick.” It deals with why some ideas catch on and some don’t. Part of that, of course, is based on attention.


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