Specific Attentional Aids

What is a specific attentional aid?

A specific attentional aid is like an orienting strategy, but the student's attention is maintained by connecting a physical object or verbal cue to the task.

An example of a specific attentional aid is my "ring strategy." I am not usually very aware of the rings I wear, but if one is on the "wrong" finger, I become very aware of it. When I want to remember something for a short period of time (ex. to pass along a message, or to buy a specific item at the grocery store), I move the ring from my ring finger to my index finger while thinking about what I want to remember. Sometimes I use verbal rehearsal also. Putting a ring on a finger that usually does not have one draws my attention to it, and cues me to remember why I moved the ring in the first place.

How can specific attentional aids help your students?

Specific attentional aids can help students remember essential information by connecting that information to something highly accessible: an object, language, or part of the body. Because the aid is accessible, the student can use specific attentional aids often and easily.

How can you implement specific attentional aids to effectively meet the diverse learning needs of students?

Teachers can implement the use of specific attentional aids for the entire classroom, small groups, or individuals. You may begin by teaching specific attentional aids in areas other than academics; after students learn the basics, you can apply them to academic areas.

For example, you may use a cueing word or phrase to remind students to get into cooperative teams. An example would be, Go Gators! (or Jayhawks, etc.)

What are the different types of specific attentional aids?

There are various types of specific attentional aids. Three categories can be used to describe them:

Objects - small or large, anything to which you can attach meaning

Language - words, phrases, or sentences, spoken or written

Body parts - Fingers and toes work best.

How do you decide on what type of specific attentional aid to use?

Consider your students' needs for attending. Determination of the best specific attentional aid may be a trial and error process, especially when deciding between language and an object. Allow the students to have input as they connect meaning with the specific attentional aid.

How do you construct your own specific attentional aid?

  • Analyze the information to be attended to and determine how your students will best attend. Are there some objects or language that will provide better cues than others?
  • Present information to be attended to and learned.
  • Guide students through the selection of the specific attentional aid. Allow students to select their own specific attentional aid when possible.
  • Reinforce (a) the students' learning of the material as well as (b) their ability to attend based on the specific attentional aids.
  • If students select their own specific attentional aid, monitor and reinforce this process and their learning.