Difficult Getting Students to Focus? Try the Flashlight Technique

“How do I teach the flashlight technique” for re-directing attention in a “super easy way”.

As always, we begin with collaboration.

Talk with the child 1:1 in a kind and collaborative manner and tell him that you have been noticing he has difficulty keeping his attention focused on the work in class, ask him if he has noticed as well. Then have the “cognitive conversation” bringing to light an idea that might help.

Tell him that you once had a student named Max who taught you about imaginary flashlights. Max said that when his mind was drifting in class and he would catch himself, he would switch on an imaginary flashlight and point it where he needed to be focusing.

Ask the child if he thinks this might be helpful and talk with him about how you can help with questions and cueing prompts in class. Agree to the prompts, so that he feels helped and supported not humiliated in class. That’s it, super simple. A kind conversation, a social narrative story, and a plan, the two of you develop together, to help him learn how to alert, focus and sustain his attention.

Have The Cognitive Conversation

Teaching a child to use his flashlight is done in three steps:

1. Teaching the child to notice he is off-task.

Q: Where is your flashlight pointing?

2. Helping him alert his brain to salient information.

Q: Where does your flashlight need to point?

3. Pushing the re-engage button.

Prompt: You can use your flashlight to select what you need to focus on right now.


70-play-hi-res-150x197Written for teachers, educators, and clinicians whose work involves playing, talking or teaching children who would benefit from better executive function and social-emotional learning skills, 70 Play Activities incorporates over 100 research studies into printable worksheets, handouts, and guided scripts with step-by-step directions, to empower children to learn and behave better. “With 70 Play Activities we aim to improve the trajectory of children’s learning by integrating the newest neuroscience with activities children love!” With over 70 activities designed to improve thinking, self-regulation, learning and behavior, your tool-kit will be full and your creative brain will be inspired to craft your own meaningful exercises. 70 Play Activities is available at amazon.com

About the Author

Dr. Lynne Kenney is the nation’s leading pediatric psychologist in the development of classroom cognitive-physical activity programs for students grades K-8. Dr. Kenney develops curriculum, programming, and activities to improve children’s cognition through coordinative cognitive-motor movement, executive function skill-building strategies, and social-emotional learning. Dr. Kenney’s works include the Social-Emotional Literacy program Bloom Your Room™; Musical Thinking; Bloom: 50 things to say, think and do with anxious, angry and over-the-top-kids and 70 Play Activities For Better Thinking, Self-Regulation, Learning and Behavior. Learn more at www.lynnekenney.com. Lynne is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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