By Yuhan Yuan, CEI Intern
How important is it to stay focused for school-aged kids? It is widely known that children who are more focused during their school time, particularly their classes, achieve better academically. When students are able to concentrate, class time is more effective, and they are able to focus on most of the information teachers present during the class. By contrast, students who have difficulty stayed tuned in to lessons during class time often find it challenging to complete their homework. For these students, the core concepts may not be retained, which is often discouraging and also negatively impacts academic performance. Studies have also shown that a lack of attention can not only affect children’s school performance but also make their social life more difficult (CHADD, n.d.). It is suggested that children with attention deficit are more likely to appear as negatively withdrawing or aggressive in social activities (Roizen, 2018). For example, students with attention problems may also find it tough to keep track of their group work, which may even lead to a “friendship crisis” with their peers as they fail to follow through by doing their share with group projects.
Why is it so difficult to stay focused? Students may be distracted by a wide array of things that could grab their attention and pique their curiosity. Today, with the prevalence of electronic devices and social media, both kids and their parents, as well as teachers, are facing an increasing challenge to stay focused rather than switching their attention to the latest incoming message. Moreover, emotions can affect kids in many aspects as they are less capable to handle emotional swings, and concentration is one of which would be affected.
How could physical activities help with kids’ school performance? Physical activities appear to positively influence academic achievement (Donnelly & Lambourne, 2011). Everyday physical activities are also showing a positive influence on emotion-regulating (Stathopoulou, Powers, Berry, Smits & Otto, 2006). These activities help kids stay emotional stable, which could also contribute to better academic performance.
What is CBPA and why is it better than other physical activities? Bilateral coordination refers to the ability to coordinate both sides of the body at the same time in a controlled and organised manner. Harris, Cortina, Templin, Colabianchi, and Chen (2018) examined the effects of 4-week, daily 6-minute coordinated-bilateral physical activity (CBPA) breaks in the classroom on attention and concentration in a study of 116, 5th grade students in two elementary schools. In their study, Harris et al. compared CBPA delivered through an instructor with a 6-minute video to two control groups—one without an intervention and one where children followed physical activities (PA) from Fitbit devices and workout videos. With assessment of processing speed, focused attention, concentration performance and attention span after the programme, the results indicated that daily brief coordinated-bilateral physical activities (CBPA) was superior to the fitbit and the other control condition.
How could CBPA be applied to school teaching on a daily basis? Coordinated-bilateral physical activities do not require as much effort and energy as outdoor activities. A daily 6-minute CBPA could be planned during the break between classes. Teachers can assign kids to smaller groups, or pairs. Other events can also be added in during the CBPA. For example, kids can sing a song together during the CBPA. Moreover, rewards can be given to the group or pair who achieves the longest time of CBPA.
Some activity suggestions (Child’s Play Therapy Center, 2018):
• Hokey Pokey or “Simon Says:” activities: have the child imitate body positions as well, “Simon Says do this……” and include symmetric and asymmetric body poses
• Climbing activities can be held on the playground
• Obstacle courses including controlling of both sides of the body, e.g. have obstacles that only allow kids to pass with one feet stand.
• Playing on dynamic (moving) equipment and try to keep balance, e.g. balance board, swings
• Wheelbarrow walking, animal walking (bear walk, crab walk, snake crawling)
Also, all activities are suggested to begin with easy level (slow movement) and progressively get harder (quick movement and more balancing abilities needed).
CHADD (n.d.) Relationships and social skills. CHADD Website.
Harris, H., B., Cortina, K., S., Templin, T., Colabianchi, N. & Chen, W. (2018), Impact of Coordinated-Bilateral Physical Activities on attention and concentration in school-aged children,” BioMed Research International, 2018, 1-7.
Roizen, M. (2018). How does ADHD affect a child’s social development? Sharecare.
Stathopoulou, G., Powers, M., B., Berry, A., C., Smits, J., A. & Otto, M., W. (2006), Exercise interventions for mental Health: A quantitative and qualitative review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 13: 179-193.
What is bilateral coordination and why is it important? (2014.08.06) Child’s Play Therapy Center.