Dear Jacqui, Please could you advise on how to help a student in Key Stage 3 with poor attention and listening skills, and weak vocabulary?

If you have concerns about a student with attention and listening skills, and vocabulary, then there are probably underlying language difficulties and auditory processing difficulties that require assessment.

Some general advice is as follows:

Attention and concentration

  1. Use an Attention control framework for self-assessment e.g. am I understanding the task, am I motivated, to help the student take responsibility to focus and manage distractions.

Listening skills

2. To improve functional listening and following directions, minimise background noise. Get the student’s eye contact, and tell him the instruction clearly in short, simplified sentences; repeat if necessary. Back up information visually i.e. gestures, pictures, diagrams. Get the student to write down key information he needs to remember, and teachers should give him lesson plan and homework summaries. He should be seated in the centre, or to the side, in the front of his classes, away from any noise i.e. a humming computer.

Vocabulary skills

3. Work on vocabulary and concepts, word retrieval (word finding) and word definitions by using a word mapping technique i.e. what sound does the word start with; how many syllables does it have; give synonyms and antonyms; what does the word mean in context. The student should have a notebook to write down words that he doesn’t understand that can be addressed with a trained teaching assistant, or as part of therapy.