Multi-Tasking in Elementary School
I’ve made myself clear on my website that I do not believe in letting students draw while they are watching a teacher read-aloud. I got an interesting response through my website contact form that read like this:
“I read your stance on students drawing while listening to a read-aloud. There is research that shows that kinetic learners such as myself need to draw while listening. I am a teacher and have my Masters degree and I still need to doodle during a lecture or meeting; it’s the way some of us are wired.”
While I appreciate this teacher’s perspective, I must continue to disagree. Elementary children have not fully developed their listening skills and cannot successfully doodle and listen while maintaining great comprehension.
Adult vs. Child Doodling
Most kids don’t doodle like adults would in a meeting. An adult doodle is usually nothing more than simple figures or scribbles but a child doesn’t know how to do this.
When you give a child pens and a piece of paper, they draw things, they don’t just doodle, and they become completely immersed in their drawing.
“Brain research has consistently shown that nobody truly multi-tasks; we are simply biologically incapable of processing attention rich inputs simultaneously.”
This statement comes from my favorite book on brain research, Brain Rules by John Levine. As he states, the brain is a sequential processor unable to pay attention to two things at the same time.
So when an adult doodles they may scribble a thing or two and then pay attention to the lecture once again; when a child starts drawing they are done listening.
What about the argument that they need to keep their hands active in order to fully pay attention?
This may sound harsh, but if a child is not paying attention then the teacher needs to step up the engagement level of the read-aloud. Believe me, if a child is engrossed in the words coming out of a teacher’s mouth and the pictures that are being shown from the book, they will have no desire whatsoever to draw and will not need to do so in order to pay attention.
I often make the statement that children are just small adults in many of their basic motivations and behaviors, but in this instance I would have to draw a distinction.
When it comes to cognitive ability and paying attention, children are definitely not adults and need to be directed to the appropriate task and not allowed to stray by engaging in extraneous behaviors such as drawing.
What’s your experience in this area? Let me know in the comments; I always love to hear from my readers.
Betsy Weigle provides insights and how-to’s with a K-6 focus on her Classroom Teacher Resources website…over 350 pages of classroom-tested advice. Stop by to say “hi!”