How can you help students concentrate?

Updated: Apr 15, 2018



Concentration is like a muscle which requires regular exercise to strengthen it. Some kids are born “stronger” in this area than others, but all of them can make use of strategies and engage in practices that will help improve their ability to focus and lengthen their attention span.

There are many reasons as to why some children find it harder to concentrate than other children and here are some of the reasons why:


1. Diet high in sugar

2. A poor academic foundation

3. Facing a difficult question or concept

4. The lack of motivation to study

5. The lack of a good routine

6. Having the wrong energy level

7. Environment

8. The lack of aspiration and goals


Throughout this blog, we will explore each of this reason for poor concentration in children and share with you what Wharton has been using for these children.

Wharton student care centre

1. Diet high in sugar



Eating healthy is crucial for children and has an impact on their ability to concentrate. Look into the child’s diet and cut down on her/his junk food intake if it is in excess as a diet which has high sugar content will result in them getting a sugar rush! This is why in Warton Student care & Tuition centre, we use fresh and healthy ingredients for their lunch meals. All of their lunch meal includes vegetables, meat and fruits carefully selected and prepared by us to meet their dietary needs. Purchasing of junk food is also not allowed other than those brought from home.


2. A poor academic foundation

You may be surprised but having a poor academic foundation can affect a child’s ability to concentrate. With a poor foundation, the child will face a lot of difficulties in the work that he/she do and naturally the child’s confidence for that subject will fall. This reduces his/her interest in that subject, contributing to his/her poor level of focus. We realise that children without a good academic foundation tend to be slower when doing work and they are the ones that are usually distracted.


Recently, there was a student who joined our centre. Her productivity was very low throughout the week. This is evident when other students completed their homework, spelling and tuition (a compulsory daily routine in Wharton), but this student has barely even finish her homework. After observation, we realise that the root cause of her low productivity is that she faces a lot of difficulties trying to concentrate especially for the subjects that she is weak in. She has a weak foundation for those subjects due to her lack of practice and is very unfamiliar with her knowledge. Worst of all, she did not have the habit of asking for help when faced with a difficulty. She developed a bad habit of dragging time, frequents the toilet and is often found staring into blank space.


As to these type of students, Wharton Student Care & Tuition Centre uses the following methods to improve their concentration level:


1). Help the child to strengthen his/her fundamentals in weak subjects through regular assignments and guidance.


A lot of guidance and encouragement is given to this kind of students. We guide them through assignment books and drill them on the concepts that they are weak in to strengthen their foundation. This develops their confidence for the subject and slowly passion and interest will kick in, naturally making them more focused when doing their work.



However, it takes 2 hands to clap. On our side, we always put in our best effort but we really recommend that parents remain highly involved as these children really need more time to catch up with their work. For this particular student, she needs extra practice on the lower primary content. We allied with her parents to come up with a plan that consist of what she needs to do, the type of motivation that she needs and how to give her the encouragement and care that she needs. We really need parents to pay more attention to their child’s learning as we all know that time will never reverse its flow, whatever is not done correctly now will affect the child later on in life. Once the student builds up his/her confidence, the student will be able to concentrate better and become a more active learner who is not distracted so easily.


2). Help the child to improve his/her competency level to do better in competitive mini tests & exams

With the consistent poor academic result, the student may gradually give up preparing for any mini tests or exams especially for their weaker subjects.

This is why we are proactive in getting information about the students’ upcoming spelling tests or exams. We then assign them their practices. Our end goal is to help students to build their confidence and have that mentality of “I’ll probably do well since I practiced it so much at Wharton and at school” This ensures that the student’s weak foundation for a subject does not continue affecting his/her confidence in the future.


3). Discover their strength and increase their sense of belonging

Students with weak academic foundation and the most austere academic result tend to look down on themselves and see themselves as a mismatch to the rest. In Wharton student care & tuition centre, we observe students and find out about their strengths. We make each student’s strength public by using it as examples, explanations and let the student practice it by assigning them tasks related to it. We believe that honouring their strengths can increase their sense of belonging.


3. Facing a difficult question or concept

Students, especially lower primary students often struggle to pay attention when they are given a task which they view as challenging or hard. There is a high chance that they would give up even before trying and often becomes unwilling to practice it. Some students have the ability to just sit there for an hour without doing anything all because they got stuck on a question and this means that a lot of precious time is wasted.


Let’s take one of our P2 student as an example. This student was fearful of ‘problem solving’ questions in math. When doing such question, the student was always unable to concentrate. We told the student: “You need to read and understand the question, overcome your fear and you will be able to solve the question!” We started off by explaining and guiding her to solve the question. After that, we erased the answer that we taught and asked her to redo the question sometimes even up to 5 times. We kept revising and testing her the question until she finally smiled saying that she is not afraid of ‘problem solving’ and even ask to do more of such questions.


We always encourage the students to redo the question up to 3 times when they feel which is difficult or they made mistakes. We may come up with several questions which test that same concept. The mind-set that we want them to achieve at the end of the day is: “After doing questions, I realise that I have yet to grab hold of this knowledge. But with some extra practice I know that I will be able to master this type of question!”


4. The lack of motivation to study

Even with the ability to study, if a student lacks the willingness to do so, the student is unable to focus properly. Hence, ensuring that students stay motivated can help improve their concentration by a lot.


At Wharton, we have a P2 student who can’t even concentrate for 5 minutes to do his homework but is able to concentrate when reading or playing chess. Even with that, he still maintains a pretty decent academic result. The reason for this is because he had already completed a lot of lower primary assessment books at a very young age and he is given a lot of extra work to do on top of his school homework every day. This student transferred from another student care centre to Wharton. To ensure that he finishes his homework and extra work, he rarely gets the chance to play as he couldn’t complete all of his assignment in his previous student care.


We know that the root cause of not having much play time is mostly due to the student’s lack of concentration when doing work rather than having too much work to do. We tried a lot of method to improve his concentration level, however, we realise that this student has lost his motivation to learn. The homework and the assignment given by his mother only takes him around thirty minutes to finished, but he often rushes through his work only at the end of the day coming up with very sloppy and careless work.


From this, we can deduce that this student wasted a lot time at his previous student care especially homework time, doing things like fidgeting and running around which cause him not to have any play time.


For these kind of students, our focus is on solving his emotional problem towards studying rather than to get him to complete all his assignments.


To strategize a suitable solution, we need to establish a close connection with the student and his parents to understand how he/she feels in order to tackle his/her lack of passion for studying. Removing a student’s playing time to ensure the student completes his/her work is something any student care teacher can do especially to a P2 student. However, by doing so it is emotionally unhealthy for the student and affects his character building. At Wharton, we prefer to spend more time interacting with the child and the parents to understand and develop him/her, as we value each and every student.


5. The lack of a good routine

Before a child develops a strong learning ability, creating a routine is crucial in helping the child concentrate.

In Wharton Student Care & Tuition Centre, every day after finishing homework and spelling, the students will have to do tuition. For those that completed all 3 items (homework, spelling and tuition) we encourage them to do E-learning or extra reading and not waste time. E-learning have been a very good source of motivation especially for the primary 1 and 2 students and they really try their best to finish their work so that they can get to do some e-learning.


Every day at Wharton, we record what students complete on the whiteboard in front of the class. This not just a method for the teachers to keep track of the students’ work, but also a source of motivation for the students. For every task completed (homework, spelling and tuition) a tick is drawn on the board. This lets students compare their progress with their friends and make them want to catch up to the faster students. Students are motivated to complete their work quickly and their concentration improves.


What is completed on the board is used to calculate our centre’s performance table. According to how the child performs for the day, taking into account their behaviour, work completed and other criterial (e.g. food, reading, nap etc.), it determines the number of stars they can get for the day. For students getting less than 4 stars for the day, the teachers will explain to them the reason for that and tell them what they can improve on to achieve 5 stars the next day. At the end of each month, we tabulate the number of stars each student has and the 3 students are awarded a prize. 2 with the highest number of stars and 1 student who made the biggest improvement.

In Wharton Student Care & Tuition Centre, the teachers give feedbacks to students when they see that the student has a lot of room for improvement. After that, the teacher follows up and make sure that the student puts in effort to change.







6. Having the wrong energy level

Having the wrong energy level can affect a child’s ability to concentrate, whether it is having too much energy or having no energy.


First let’s talk about having too much energy.


Students rarely get the chance to exercise apart from PE lessons. This means that there is no other way for the student to release his/her energy. This can be a problem especially for lower primary students. Having too much energy cause the student to fidget a lot and find it very hard to sit still.



These kinds of students do better if they are given short breaks for active playing time. Taking a break to bounce on the trampling, playing an exercise ball, having outdoor play time, doing a quick stretch or some jumping jacks after completing some homework helps these students stay focused. Beginning with some active play time before taking on a challenging task can also help a child remain more engaged in the work that he/she is doing.


In Wharton Student Care Centre, during breaks, these are some of the games that we play:


Occasionally the students study for a longer duration in exchange for a longer break so that games like a 40mins basketball competition can be played.


As you can see from the above video, the MOE outdoor adventure park is located just behind us. It is very accessible for us and unlike other schools and a 1-minute walk is all it takes for us to reach the park.

The Mannequin Challenge done at the park:



For this Soccer Competition the total time taken was 1h20mins, 20 minutes is for preparing and travelling back and forth, as this place is a 9-minute walk from our backyard. We usually bring them there on Fridays or during holidays.


Here is a video of them enjoying, singing and laughing in this jungle, which just right behind our back yard:


Now let’s talk about having no energy.


After a tiring day in school, children actually need some rest time. Without sufficient rest, they do not have the ability to concentrate properly. They are more careless and do not have the stamina to do their work as well. At Wharton student care, to prevent this from affecting their studies, we encourage all our student to take a nap after lunch.

A power nap for twenty minutes after school is good enough to help most of the students concentrate better. We ensure strong discipline during lunch time so that the nap time can commence on time, giving them more time to settle down and fall asleep.

Our teachers are like the guards standing in the dark classroom which full with the sleeping music to taking care of these little angels.


7. Environment

A conducive environment is necessary for a child to be able to concentrate. Removal of distractive objects is one way to create this environment.

Naturally children are curious and inquisitive so we cannot expect them have self-discipline when electronic gadgets can be acquired easily. This is why in Wharton Student Care & Tuition centre, there are no computer games, television and other tempting gadgets and the computes are only for E-Learning. And all jiggers should not be brought out during the learning time.


We also ensure that their study materials are in reach. In Wharton Student Care & Tuition Centre, our desks are big and our students are able to put everything that is needed at hand and they do not need to get up to take anything. All homework, assessment books, school bags and even water bottle can be place on the table or somewhere nearby. Not moving around during learning time reduces the chance of getting distracted and improves the concentration of our students.


8. The lack of aspirations and goals

compliance versus engagement


We realise that some upper primary students do not make full use of their time at the beginning of they enter our centre. They have yet to develop the habit of taking initiative when doing work.

Having dreams as goals is actually a good method to get students to have more responsibility for their learning. We would talk to students about their aspirations and their future. As for the older students, we ask them about PSLE and tell them the impact of entering different secondary schools. We explain to them why different schools are able to produce different results, sometimes mention a little bit about ‘A’ level and university majors. We highly encourage parents to let their child to interact with people from different careers as it gives them the chance to gain a better understanding of the world and have dreams from a young age.














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