Reducing Effects of
Split Attention


By Pam Farley, Texas H&V

This article ran as a companion sidebar to Split Decisions in the Classroom.

The following are suggested instructional strategies for the classroom to reduce split attention and its effects, combined from the work of Mather & Clark and the IEP/504 Checklist (Johnson, Hands & Voices) and my own experience.

  • Gain attention of student prior to speaking or instructing.
  • When calling a student’s name or getting a student’s attention, use eye contact, gaze, waving hand, tapping shoulder, or asking another student to prompt their peer.
  • Request hand-raising or some other action before speaking.
  • Discourage overlapping conversations (one person speaking at a time).
  • Use facial expressions to show vocal inflections (e.g., raised brows for ‘yes/no’ questions and lowered brows for ‘wh’ questions, as in ASL).
  • Keep visuals (e.g., interpreter, slides/movies, text on board, etc.) in the line-of-sight of deaf or hard of hearing students.
  • Consider priority seating arrangements.
  • Allow time and provide assistance for student to locate speaker (e.g., through eye gaze or turn taking strategy).
  • Limit visual distractions (e.g., excessive movement in classroom, excessive visuals on walls).
  • Periodically check for understanding (observing actions is one method) .
  • Offer down-time or a break from listening and watching.
  • Make use of step-by-step directions to accompany visuals.
  • Consider the use of note takers (or give all students time to write notes).
  • Supplement visuals with handouts student can take home to look over after class.
  • Provide a printed copy of visuals to student prior to class so student can come better prepared.
  • Consider a circular seating arrangement for class discussions if space allows.
  • When using PowerPoint slides or other visuals, place text with images together rather than on separate slides when possible.
  • When referring to something on a board, instructor should stand in close proximity to board.
  • When referring to a handout, a copy of the handout should be displayed on the board/screen and the instructor should stand in close proximity and point to help student follow along.


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