Firstly, let me say that disengaged students are not necessarily unmotivated to achieve in all subjects.  I think this is important to note.  But if you are worried about your son’s underperformance in the classroom, let’s look at some ways that you can help him focus and achieve.

Students who are motivated to learn attend school routinely, perform better academically and display good classroom behaviour.  Unfortunately,  a recent study showed that up to 20% of students in any year level are described as ‘disengaged’.  Sadly, many do not catch up academically in the later years.

Two examples

Let’s look at two examples in a typical Year 6 classroom during an English lesson.  Josh is meant to be completing a worksheet but instead, he is talking to his friend about what they’ll play at lunchtime.  Josh is an example of a student who is ‘actively’ disengaged because he is chatting and off-task.  Aiden is on the other side of the room.  He is watching the clock and counting down the minutes until the end of the lesson. He’s also avoiding the worksheet before him.  Aiden can be described as ‘passively’ disengaged.  Both are a concern, however, the ‘Aidens’ tend to go unnoticed by teachers.  If you feel either of these could be an example of your son, let’s look at what parents can do to help increase concentration in class:

1)   Getting organised

This is a challenge for boys of all ages.  Disorganisation is a big concentration-killer for students.  Help your son to organize his notes so they are easy to find—colour-coded tabs or folders for each subject are a great option.  Throw away any unneeded equipment (like that pencil that measures 2cm long!) or old worksheets. Is their desk in order?  Is their pencil case stocked with everything they need (especially gluesticks, pencils, pens)?

Try to make sure that your child’s class notes are neat as well. Incomplete notes also contribute to disengagement.   Click here for ideas on how to take effective study notes so that your child can spend their time reviewing the content, rather than looking for missing information.

2) Focus on one thing at a time

Multitasking doesn’t come easy to many children.  Leaping between tasks loses momentum.  Discuss with your child how they need to tackle one thing at a time and to focus their mind on the lesson.  A useful strategy that I use with all of my tutoring students is to find out the topic ahead of time.  If you know that your child struggles with maths, ask the teacher for the term outline and revise topics before the lesson.  The same goes for English – is the focus on creative writing?  Then look at some features of a good story.  This way, your child is more ‘switched on’ and ready to learn to new content.

3)   Hydration, good food and rest

It is important to encourage breakfast, because a goodnight’s sleep followed by food in the morning helps your child to concentrate at school.  Snacks are essential for growing bodies so offer nutritious as well as high energy snacks.  Drinking lots of water helps as well.

4)   Learning Issues

Some students who are disengaged or lacking motivation may hide learning difficulties or giftedness to fit in with peers.  Speak with your child and their teacher to see if this is a cause.

5)   Sit further away from distractions

Ask your child about the common distractions that he/she struggles with while in class.  Is it the chatty friend? Is sitting beside a window causing them to lose focus?  You can find out about these distractions by talking to their teacher and your child.  If you can pinpoint any distractions, then you can form a plan to overcome them.

6) Goals and direction

Perhaps it’s not that your child isn’t focussed – it’s that he doesn’t know what to focus on.  Check that your child understands the task.  Break down what they need to learn by creating a list of goals, for e.g. Do you need to revise chapter 1 first?  Should you read a bit about the topic?  Do you need to take down some notes?  Remember that the overall goal is to empower our kids to have greater ownership of their learning.


With these tips, your child can start building his or her focus skills and get on track to learning success. And if he or she needs a bit of extra help, our online learning program can definitely help!

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