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September 03

Gail Brown

Focussing attention - especially during reading!

  • Mon 7th Jan 2013
  • Gail

Today’s post extends on my last post about Maryanne Wolf’s book, and concerns memory and distraction from whatever we are doing…

One of the main themes of Maryanne’s book (Reader Come Home) concerns the impact of overwhelming information that today’s technology brings to all of us. Many people are so “entranced” with their phones and emails that this takes significant amounts of time during their day – Maryanne quotes that young people check an online device around 140 times each day! Think about how this might affect the way we work – if your attention is frequently focusing on “what’s happening online NOW”??

This brings me to a link to reading – and how attention to text during reading might be affected by things that we do. In 2015, one study looks at the differences between online and hardcopy texts, and how these impact on young readers, from preschool to Grade 2. So, the study focus is on early readers who are learning to decode texts.

Most of us think that pointing to words while reading will help this process of learning to decode. This study shows exactly that, and more!

For all of the young children, pointing to the printed text increased the amount of time children fixated on text, and also the number of fixations – because the adult is directing the children’s attention to the text – rather than the images. This makes sense, because if we want students to decode, then they need to attend to the printed words. This effect was even more pronounced with difficult text compared to easy text. This also makes sense. Highlighting text, in an online reading mode, did lead to more matching fixations, rather than general fixations on text. Matching fixations are when the child’s eyes look at that word exactly when it is orally read.

What’s important here is that whatever we want our children or our students to learn – THAT is what we need them to focus on – and teachers and parents can effectively scaffold this focus by simply pointing to the print when they are reading.

Hope this confirms what some teachers (and parents) already know and do! You can read the abstract of this paper (see reference here) on the link in this post.

Ray-Charland, A., Perron, M., Boulard, J., Chamberland, J. & Hoffman, N. (2015). “If I point, do they look?”: The impact of attention orienting strategies on text exploration during shared book reading. Reading and Writing, 28. 9. 1285-1305.

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