“Dear, please pay attention. It is no good looking miserable. We just have to work our way through this problem area. I know this is called chunking – but we just have to do our best.”
A person who is a Latin dancer would be able to pay close attention to a couple dancing the Merengue. In the Merengue the two dances try to mirror each other through a series of sequences. On the first beat the man shifts his weight to the right, the woman to the left. The woman’s right leg and the man’s left leg then bend at the knee as the weight is released. On the second beat the weight is shifted across to the other foot. There is often a pronounced movement of the hips. Would a non dancer note the movement of the hips? Of course – if the movement was accentuated.
A deaf person may be able to play attention to loud noises – but may not be able to hear or react to softer noises. A deaf child may hear some sounds – but however hard the child tries to pay attention he or she may be hearing little sound or even distorted sounds.
Rudyard Kipling described Kim’s Game in the Jungle Books. Articles are placed on a tray and are covered over. The cover is then removed for a few seconds while an attempt is made to remember as many objects as possible on the tray. This exercise is good fun – and it also attempts point out the need to pay close attention.
William Stanley Jevons (1835–82), threw beans into a box and then estimated the number. When he was paying attention he found he could easily count three or four beans. He sometimes made mistakes on five beans. When he threw ten beans he was right about half the time. He was almost always wrong with fifteen. (You could try this at home!) The American psychologist George Miller cited Jevons’s work when he was working on chunking. The idea behind chunking is that numbers can be recognised more easily if they are grouped. In KS2 mathematics we can use chunking to do division. This form of chunking is achieved by repeated multiplication. Is it likely that enlightened teachers teach chunking to help their children focus and pay attention?
Attention can be selective. An eleven plus child can choose to be attentive. Parent can, however, help their child with developing an attention span. Try a little dance. Try a range of sounds. Try Kim’s Game. Throw beans around. Keep working at chunking until your child has grasped the concept.