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THE IMPORTANCE OF FOCUS AND ATTENTION INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

(Part 1) Based on the book FOCUS- The Hidden Driver for Excellence by Goleman, Daniel




When I first read the book in 2016, the first picture that came to my mind was a lesson I had observed not long before. It was a group of 12 B2+ young adult students and, according to the lesson plan I received from the teacher, the skill that was going to be taught in that part of the class was Reading. The sub-skill was Reading for Specific Information and yes, pronunciation. In sum, after projecting some pictures on the IWB to elicit information from students about what the text was about, while they hadn’t opened their books yet, the teacher showed a list of comprehension questions about the text copied from the coursebook on a PowerPoint slide and asked a volunteer to read the text out loud. The student then had several things to try and perform at the very same time:


1- Deal with being exposed to an audience;

2- Pay attention to the volume of his voice so that everyone could hear him;

3- Try and pronounce the words correctly, some of them unknown;

4- Correct his pronunciation when interrupted by the teacher (and that happened very often);

5- After the interruption, continue from where he had been intervened, reading the word or expression correctly;

6- Observe the type of intonation the sentence required (was it a question? An exclamation? A change in character? A shift in emotion? A move in action?);

7- Try and understand the text to answer the questions on the slide.

Can you think of anything else this superhero had to do?

After the hard battle, what did he really learn from that? Or was he just puzzled and pissed (pizzled!)?


In 2007 Time magazine coined the word “pizzled”, puzzled and pissed: the feeling one has when talking to someone and they grab their blackberry and start chatting and forget about you. The word naturally vanished with the blackberries themselves. Nowadays, it mainly refers to exhaustion.

But you may think-“‘multitask’ is what is expected today, right?”

In recent years, science has discovered that attention determines the success or failure of how well or badly we accomplish a task. Although according to Goleman, the connection between attention and excellence remains mostly veiled, it resonates in almost everything we try to perform.


Some examples of this waltz between attention and excellence are:


· Comprehension;

· Memory;

· Learning;

· Perception of what we feel and why;

· Reading people’s emotions.


Having all that in mind, one may say that improving this mental ability- FOCUS- will be advantageous and yield benefits, not only inside and outside our classrooms, for both teachers and students. But how to develop that?

Part 2 of this article will go through how we can develop, not only our attention and focus but also our students’! And we will look into the definition of ‘State of Flow’ ( Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, 1975 ). Stay tuned!




Julio Menochelli, RSA, LCCI has been involved in ELT for over 25 years. He was an academic consultant, teacher trainer, field editor and marketing advisor at several publishing companies such as Macmillan, Pearson and Richmond. He was Senior Sales & Marketing Manager at Helbling English and Chief of Operations for Express Publishing in Brazil. He is one of the authors of Makers- English on the Move, a coursebook series aimed at teenagers published by Richmond. He has recently written the Teacher’s Guides for Oxford University Press Bilingual Project. He also works as an English language assessor at recruitment processes and gives companies cultural awareness courses and workshops. He’s a conference speaker (in Brazil and internationally) and a teacher trainer. He teaches both language and methodology to native and non-native speakers of English. He loves spending time with his dog, Frida, an adorable salt and pepper Schnauzer.



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