Teaching Grammar with Attention Spans


 Attention Span: The length of time during which a person can concentrate on a subject or idea.

There is little surprise that attention spans are shortening. Distracting distractions have become the rule rather than the exception, which means the competition for students’ attention is getting fierce. The trick now is to maintain that attention.

Perhaps at no other time in history have teachers faced these sorts of challenges. Classroom dynamics have always presented their own complications: peers, inattention, lack of motivation, lack of interest, insecurity, that bird flying past the window… Now add in cell phones, iPads, email, iTunes and those of every desk on all sides of you… Distraction is much too mild a word for the phenomena, which brings us back to attention spans—or lack thereof. And all of this onerous falls on teachers.

Short, snappy lessons seem to be the answer. Keep it short, hold their attention, albeit briefly, then on to the next concept. Not the worst idea, conceptually it seems to apply to the problem–unless we’re merely perpetuating it. Teachers are trying to teach an entire generation (ad infinitum) of students who are quickly becoming acclimated to 140-character tweets, 200-word blog posts, or 300-word newspaper articles. What we may not be doing is helping them to strengthen their attention muscles.

Grammar Punk is designed to make grammar fun, approachable and memorable. We also had those short attention spans in mind. Grammar Punk demands that they think on the fly, use their imaginations, stretch their vocabularies, explore humor, drama and flair. In short, we wanted them to have fun writing. Then we wanted them to keep writing. Better still, to want to keep writing.

Attention spans are a bit like muscles; they need to be exercised regularly to tone and train them. Challenging students to move from quick, fun, fast-paced games to longer assignments: words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into stories. Grammar Punk’s intent is to build the muscles of those attention spans by getting students writing every day.