Simple & Quick Technique for Improving Student Focus and Attention

This post contains affiliate links.  That means if you click on an Amazon link and make a purchase, I get a kickback.

It has been a whirlwind since school started this year.  I am so glad to have a bit of a break to get caught up.  Before I get into the absolutely AMAZING research-based technique I have been using with my students who exhibit ADD/ADHD tendencies, I wanted to update everyone on my Ultimate Math Facts Bundle.

Math Facts Ultimate Bundle Preview 1

I just this week added ANOTHER activity.  Seriously.  Now it also includes Math Fact Sorts for all four operations.  That’s 33 individual products.  For those of you who have already purchased my Ultimate Math Facts Bundle, go back and re-download it to get the most up-to-date version.  For anybody struggling with basic facts, you really should check this out.  I worked all summer on this.  There are more than 7 different resources for each operation.  And each resource is separated by number fact, so there is a BINGO game that practices just the “plus 8s”, a Checkers game for “times 4s”, a Four-in-a-Row game for “minus 6s”, and a BOOM! card game for “dividing by 7s”.  My students LOVE to play these games.  They actually ask to play them during indoor recess.  You can buy the individual activities separately, but you save over $120 by buying the Bundle.  I cannot believe how much it has helped my kids learn their facts.  🙂


Okay.  Now back to dealing with kids who have attention issues.  I have a handful of students who have significant attention and focus issues (who doesn’t?!).  Most are medicated for it, but it still gets in the way of their learning and completing work.  I’m talking about the fifth grader who will take an HOUR to write THREE SENTENCES.  Or the fourth grader who flits from one spot to another, and takes several class periods to finish one short activity.

I have a lot of techniques I’ve used in the past.  Incorporating large motor activities into the day, using multisensory teaching methods, having them wear noise cancelling headphones, letting them sit on stability balls or stand when they work (or lay on the floor) are all things I’ve tried — mostly unsuccessfully.  I will say that the more movement that is incorporated into their day, the better the results.  But none of these things made a huge difference.

Then one day, after having tried ALL of the above with the same student and being so frustrated I could’ve screamed, I started looking online for more suggestions.  That’s when the magic began.  I’ve now been doing this for several weeks and it is still working!  Are you ready?  Are you sure?


Have you heard of binaural beats?  I’m going to explain it the best I can.  Basically, you play an audio and the student wears headphones to listen to it.  The audio sends one frequency in one ear and a different frequency in the other ear (hence, why they need to use headphones).  By sending two different frequencies, it changes brainwaves.  Seriously.  I’ve spent a good amount of time researching this.  You can buy binaural beats CDs, but I’ve been using an app that let’s you choose what you want to work on (concentration, anxiety, and anger are just a few choices).  It just sounds like white noise, but the Ambi Science app (it was $2.99 when I bought it) let’s you choose other background noise to layer over it (like campfires, storms, etc.).  I’m pretty sure there is a free version, also.

It has made such a huge difference that the students will come and ask for it.  The kids are so proud of themselves for getting their work completed.  They listen to it during centers, silent reading, tests, and independent work.  It has been so exciting to see them physically calm down, almost immediately.  Not only that, but there seems to be some residual effect after they have listened to it for a half hour or more.  They are staying calm and focused even after they leave my room and aren’t listening to the binaural beats.  Incredible!

I’d absolutely LOVE to hear if you’ve tried this and what your results were.  And if you haven’t tried it…well, what are you waiting for?

Joy of Teaching



Reading Fluency and Comprehension Progress

I am so crazy proud of my students!  They have made an enormous amount of progress this year.  After having a bad day yesterday, I needed to see these results.  In Ohio, teachers have to write SLOs (Student Learning Objectives).  We have to administer a pretest at the beginning of the year and a posttest at the very end of the year (or by the middle of April, apparently).  For each one, we have to analyze the data and set target goals for each student.  Last year I did horribly.  It was the first year for SLOs and I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote my target goals.  This year I was a bit more prepared, but still worried that my kids wouldn’t meet their goals.  It is so difficult to write target goals for students with special needs when they will be tested with grade level assessments.

My first SLO was for reading comprehension.  Basically, the highest reading level where the student scored 80% or higher is what I was looking for.  Check out the progress they made (I removed student names)!  Only two kids didn’t make their target!

Slide2As impressive as the comprehension data is, it’s nothing compared to the reading fluency SLO.  For this assessment, the students have to read a grade level passage and are timed for one minute.  I didn’t set very high target goals for this because they are grade level passages with grade level words.  They did an unbelievable job!  My teacher’s heart is just bursting with happiness for them!


You can read more about how I structured my reading program this year by clicking here.  What is your favorite thing about your reading program this year?

Joy of Teaching

Math Strategy: Large Problems with Small Numbers

Who has students struggling with the algorithms required in basic math operations?  That get confused with what direction to go and what step is next?  I have a math strategy that just might help!

When I am working with kids who struggle in math, I like to give them very large problems for a couple of reasons.  First, it makes them feel like they are doing hard work (and gives them confidence when they’re successful).  But not only does it boost their confidence, it gives them the opportunity to see the pattern by the repetition required in a really big problem.  (I also like to use grid paper…A LOT!)

Big Addition Math Problems on Grid

For example, I have students who are working on 2-digit x 1-digit multiplication.  Instead of giving them 2-digit x 1-digit multiplication problems, like 37 x 2, I start them off with a problem like 31,120 x 3.  This lets them see that there is a pattern, but without any regrouping required.  Let’s face it, regrouping is usually where the struggling students get tripped up.  If I can give them enough practice with large problems that do not require regrouping, they will easily be able to do the smaller problems.  Then we can transition to the larger problems that do require regrouping.

Large Problems with Small Numbers Save As

If you’re interested in trying this out, click the picture above to download a free ebook with addition and subtraction samples.  I have multiplication and long division ebooks available on  I’d love to know your thoughts and tips for teaching math!

Joy of Teaching