Attention is a function of consciousness. Wherever consciousness is,

attention must perforce be present. One cannot exist without the other.

According to most psychologists, the term attention is used to describe

the form consciousness takes, to refer to the fact that consciousness is

selective. t simply means that consciousness is always focal and

marginal--that some ideas, facts, or feelings stand out in greater

nence than do others, and that the presence of this "perspective"

in consciousness is a matter of mechanical adjustment. James describes

consciousness by likening it to a series of waves, each having a crest

and sides which correspond to the focus and margin of attention. The

form of the wave changes from a high sharp crest with almost straight

sides in pointed, concentrated attention, to a series of mere

undulations, when crests are difficult to distinguish, in so-called

states of dispersed attention. The latter states are rare in normal

individuals, although they may be rather frequent in certain types of

low-grade mental defectives. This of course means that states of

"inattention" do not exist in normal people. So long as consciousness is

present one must be attending to something. The "day dream" is often

accompanied by concentrated attention. Only when we are truly thinking

of nothing, and that can only be as unconsciousness approaches, is

attention absent. What is true of attention is also true of interest,

for interest is coming more and more to be considered the "feeling side"

of attention, or the affective accompaniment of attention. The kind of

interest may vary, but some kind is always present. The place the

interest occupies may also vary: sometimes the affective state itself is

so strong that it forces itself into the focal point and becomes the

object of attention. The chief fact of importance, however, is that

attention and interest are inseparable and both are coexistent with


This selective action of consciousness is mechanical, due to the inborn

tendencies toward attention possessed by human beings. The situations

which by their very nature occupy the focal point in consciousness are

color and brightness, novelty, sudden changes and sharp contrasts,

rhythm and cadence, movement, and all other situations to which there

are other instinctive responses, such as hunting, collecting, curiosity,

manipulation, etc. n other words, children are born with tendencies to

attend to an enormous number of situations because of the number of

instinctive responses they possess. So great is this number that

psychologists used to talk about the omnivorousness of children's

attention, believing that they attended to everything. Such a general

attention seems not to be true. However, it is because so many

situations have the power to force consciousness to a crest that human

beings have developed the intellectual power that puts them so far above

other animals. That these situations do attract attention is shown by

the fact that individuals respond by movements which enable them to be

more deeply impressed or impressed for a longer time by the situations

in question. For example, a baby will focus his eyes upon a bright

object and then move eyes and head to follow it if it moves from his

field of vision. Just what the situations are, then, which will arouse

responses of attention in any given individual will depend in the first

place upon his age, sex, and maturity, and in the second place upon his

experience. The process of learning very quickly modifies the inborn

tendencies to attention by adding new situations which demand it. t is

the things we learn to attend to that make us human rather than merely


The fact of attention or selection must of necessity involve also

inhibition or neglect. The very fact of the selection of certain objects

and qualities means the neglect of others. This fact of neglect is at

first just as mechanical as that of attention, but experiences teach us

to neglect some situations which by original nature attracted attention.

From the standpoint of education what we neglect is quite as important

as what is selected for attention.

The breadth of a person's attention, _i.e.,_ the number of lines along

which attention is possible, must vary with age and experience. The

younger or the more immature an individual is, the greater the number of

different lines to which attention is given. t is the little child

whose attention seems omnivorous, and it is the old person for whom

situations worthy of attention have narrowed down to a few lines. This

must of necessity be so, due to the interrelation of attention and

neglect. The very fact of continuing to give attention along one line

means less and less ability and desire to attend along other lines.

The question as to how many things, whether objects or ideas, can be

attended to at the same time, has aroused considerable discussion. Most

people think that they are attending to several things, if not to many,

at the same second of consciousness. Experiments show that if four or

five unrelated objects, words, or letters be shown to adults for less

than one quarter of a second, they can be apprehended, but the

probability is that they are photographed, so to speak, on the eye and

counted afterwards. t is the general belief of psychologists at present

that the mind attends to only one thing at a time, that only one idea or

object can occupy the focal point in consciousness.

The apparent contradiction between ordinary experience and psychological

experience along this line is due to three facts which are often

overlooked. n the first place, the complexity of the idea or thing that

can be attended to as a unit varies tremendously. Differences in people

account for part of this variation, but training and experience account

for still more. Our ideas become more and more complex as experience and

familiarity build them up. Qualities which to a little child demand

separate acts of attention are with the adult merged into his perception

of the object. Just as simple words, although composed of separate

letters, are perceived as units, so with training, more complex units

may be found which can be attended to as wholes. So (to the ignorant or

the uninstructed) what is apparently attending to more than one thing at

a time may be explained by the complexity of the unit which is receiving

the attention.

n the second place _doing_ more than one thing at a time does not imply

attending to more than one thing at a time. An activity which is

habitual or mechanical does not need attention, but can be carried on by

the control exercised by the fringe of consciousness. Attention may be

needed to start the activity or if a difficulty of any kind should

arise, but that is all. For the rest of the time it can be devoted to

anything else. The great speed with which attention can flash from one

thing to another and back again must be taken into consideration in all

this discussion. So far as attention goes, one can _do_ as many things

at a time as he can make mechanical plus one unfamiliar one. Thus a

woman can rock the baby's cradle, croon a lullaby, knit, and at the same

time be thinking of illustrations for her paper at the Woman's Club,

because only one of these activities needs attention. When no one of the

activities is automatic and the individual must depend on the rapid

change of attention from one to the other to keep them going, the

results obtained are likely to be poor and the fatigue is great. The

attempt to take notes while listening to a lecture is of this order, and

hence the unsatisfactoriness of the results.

The third fact which helps to explain the apparent contradiction under

discussion is closely related to this one. t is possible when engaged

with one object to have several questions or topics close by in the

fringe of consciousness so that one or the other may flash to the focal

point as the development of the train of thought demands. The individual

is apparently considering many questions at the same time, when in

reality it is the readiness of these associations plus the oscillations

of attention that account for the activity. The ability to do this sort

of thing depends partly on the individual,--some people will always be

"people of one idea,"--but training and experience increase the power.

The child who in the primary can be given only one thing to look for

when he goes on his excursion may grow into the youth who can carry half

a dozen different questions in his mind to which he is looking for


By concentration of attention is meant the depth of the attention, and

this is measured by the ease with which a person's attention can be

called off the topic with which he is concerned. The concentration may

be so great that the individual is oblivious to all that goes on about

him. He may forget engagements and meals because of his absorption.

Sometimes even physical pain is not strong enough to distract attention.

On the other hand, the concentration may be so slight that every passing

sense impression, every irrelevant association called up by the topic,

takes the attention away from the subject. The depth of concentration

depends upon four factors. Certain mental and physical conditions have a

great deal to do with the concentration of attention, and these will be

discussed later. ndividual differences also account for the presence or

absence of power of concentration--some people concentrate naturally,

others never get very deeply into any topic. Maturity is another factor

that is influential. A little child cannot have great concentration,

simply because he has not had experience enough to give him many

associations with which to work. His attention is easily distracted.

Although apparently absorbed in play, he hears what goes on about him

and notices many things which adults suppose he does not see. This same

lack of power shows itself in any one's attention when a new subject is

taken up if he has few associations with it. Of course this means that

other things being equal the older one is, up to maturity at least, the

greater one's power of concentration. Little children have very little

power, adolescents a great deal, but it is the adult who excels in

concentration. Although this is true, the fourth factor, that of

training in concentration, does much toward increasing the power before

full maturity is reached. One can learn to concentrate just as he can

learn to do anything else. Habits of concentration, of ignoring

distinctions and interruptions, of putting all one's power into the work

in hand, are just as possible as habits of neatness. The laws of habit

formation apply in the field of attention just as truly as in every

other field of mental life. Laboratory experiments prove the large

influence which training has on concentration and the great improvement

that can be made. t is true that few people do show much concentration

of attention when they wish. This is true of adults as well as of

children. They have formed habits of working at half speed, with little

concentration and no real absorption in the topic. This method of work

is both wasteful of time and energy and injurious to the mental

stability and development of the individual. Half-speed work due to lack

of concentration often means that a student will stay with a topic and

fuss over it for hours instead of working hard and then dropping it.

Teachers often do this sort of thing with their school work. Not only

are the results less satisfactory, because the individual never gets

deeply enough into the topic to really get what is there, but the effect

on him is bad. t is like "constant dripping wears away the stone."

Children must be taught to "work when they work and play when they

play," if they are to have habits of concentration as adults.

The length of time which it is possible to attend to the same object or

idea may be reckoned in seconds. t is impossible to hold the attention

on an object for any appreciable length of time. n order to hold the

attention the object must change. The simple experiment of trying to pay

attention to a blot of ink or the idea of bravery proves that change is

necessary if the attention is not to wander. What happens is that either

the attention goes to something else, or that you begin thinking about

the thing in question. Of course, the minute you begin thinking, new

associations, images, memories, come flocking in, and the attention

occupies itself with each in turn. All may concern the idea with which

you started out, but the very fact that these have been added to the

mental content of the instant makes the percept of ink blot or the

concept of bravery different from the bare thing with which the

attention began. f this change and fluctuation of the mental state does

not take place, the attention flits to something else. The length of

time that the attention may be engaged with a topic will depend, then,

upon the number of associations connected with it. The more one knows

about a topic, the longer he can attend to it. f it is a new topic, the

more suggestive it is in calling up past experience or in offering

incentive for experiment or application, the longer can attention stay

with it. Such a topic is usually called "interesting," but upon analysis

it seems that this means that for one of the above reasons it develops

or changes and therefore holds the attention. This duration of attention

will vary in length from a few seconds to hours. The child who is given

a problem which means almost nothing, which presents a blank wall when

he tries to attend to it, which offers no suggestions for solution, is

an illustration of the first. Attention to such a problem is impossible;

his attention must wander. The genius who, working with his favorite

subject, finds a multitude of trains of thought called up by each idea,

and who therefore spends hours on one topic with no vacillation of

attention, is an illustration of the second.

Attention has been classified according to the kind of feeling which

accompanies the activity. Sometimes attention comes spontaneously,

freely, and the emotional tone is that accompanying successful activity.

On the other hand, sometimes it has to be forced and is accompanied by

feelings of strain and annoyance. The first type is called Free[2]

attention; the second is Forced attention.

Free attention is given when the object of attention satisfies a need;

when the situation attended to provides the necessary material for some

self-activity. The activity of the individual at that second needs

something that the situation in question gives, and hence free,

spontaneous attention results. Forced attention is given when there is a

lack of just such feeling of need in connection with the object of

attention. t does not satisfy the individual--it is distinct from his

desires at the time. He attends only because of fear of the results if

he does not, and hence the condition is one of strain. All play takes

free attention. Work which holds the worker because it is satisfying

also takes free attention. Work which has in it the element of drudgery

needs forced attention. The girl making clothes for her doll, the boy

building his shack in the woods, the inventor working over his machine,

the student absorbed in his history lesson,--all these are freely

attending to the thing in hand. The girl running her seam and hating it,

the, boy building the chicken coop while wishing to be at the ball game,

the inventor working over his machine when his thoughts and desires are

with his sick wife, the student trying to study his history when the

debate in the civics club is filling his mind,--these are cases when

forced attention would probably be necessary.

t is very evident that there is no one situation which will necessarily

take either free or forced attention because the determining factor is

not in the situation _per se_, but in the relation it bears to the mind

engaged with it. Sometimes the same object will call forth forced

attention from one person and free from another. Further, the same

object may at one time demand free attention and at another time forced

attention from the same person, depending on the operation of other

factors. t is also true that attention which was at first forced may

change into free as the activity is persevered in.

Although these two types of attention are discussed as if they were

entirely separated from each other, as if one occurred in this situation

and the other in that, still as a matter of fact the actual conditions

involve an interplay between the two. t is seldom true that free

attention is given for any great length of time without flashes of

forced attention being scattered through it. Often the forced attention

may be needed for certain parts of the work, although as a whole it may

take free attention. The same thing is true of occasions when forced

attention is used. There are periods in the activity when free attention

will carry the worker on. Every activity, then, is likely to be complex

so far as the kind of attention used, but it is also characterized by

the predominance of one or the other type.

The question as to the conditions which call out each type of attention

is an important one. As has already been said, free attention is given

when the situation attended to satisfies a need. Physiologically stated,

free attention is given when a neurone series which is ready to act is

called into activity. The situations which do this, other things being

equal, will be those which appeal to some instinctive tendency or

capacity, or to the self-activity or the personal experience of the

individual and which therefore are in accord with his stage of

development and his experience. Forced attention is necessary when the

neurone tracts used by the attention are for some reason unready to act.

Situations to which attention is given through fear of punishment, or

when the activity involves a choice of ideal ends as opposed to personal

desires, or when some instinctive tendency must be inhibited or its free

activity is blocked or interfered with, or when the laws of growth and

experience are violated, take forced attention. Of course fatigue,

disease, and monotony are frequent breeders of forced attention.

From the above discussion it must be evident that one of the chief

characteristics of free attention is its unity. The mental activity of

the person is all directed along one line, that which leads to the

satisfying of the need. t is unified by the appeal the situation makes.

As a result of such a state the attention is likely to be concentrated,

and can be sustained over a long period. Of course this means that the

work accomplished under such conditions will be greater in amount, more

thorough, and more accurate than could be true were there less unity in

the process. The opposite in all respects is true of forced attention.

t is present when there is divided interest. The topic does not appeal

to the need of the individual. He attends to it because he must. Part of

his full power of attention is given to keeping himself to the work,

leaving only a part to be given to the work itself. f there is any

other object in the field of attention which is particularly attractive,

as there usually is, that claims its share, and the attention is still

further divided. Divided attention cannot be concentrated; it cannot

last long. The very strain and effort involved makes it extremely

fatiguing. The results of work done under such conditions must be poor.

There can be but little thoroughness, for the worker will do just as

much as he must to pass muster, and no more. naccuracy and

superficiality will characterize such work. Just as training in giving

concentrated attention results in power along that line, so frequent

necessity for forced attention develops habits of divided attention

which in time will hinder the development of any concentration.

From a psychological viewpoint there can be no question but what free

attention is the end to be sought by workers of all kinds. t is an

absolutely false notion that things are easy when free attention is

present. t is only when free attention is present that results worth

mentioning are accomplished. t is only under such conditions that the

worker is willing to try and try again, and put up with disappointment

and failure, to use his ingenuity and skill to the utmost, to go out of

his way for material or suggestions; in other words, to put himself into

his work in such a way that it is truly educational. On the other hand,

forced attention has its own value and could not be dispensed with in

the development of a human being. ts value is that of means to end--not

that of an end in itself. t is only as it leads into free attention

that forced attention is truly valuable. n that place the part it plays

is tremendous because things are as they are. There will always be

materials which will not appeal to a need in some individual because of

lack of capacity or experience; there will always be parts of various

activities and processes which seem unnecessary and a waste of time to

some worker; there will always be choices to be made between instinctive

desires and ideal needs, and in each case forced attention is the only

means, perhaps, by which the necessary conditions can be acquired that

make possible free attention. t is evident, therefore, that forced

attention should be called into play only when needed. When needed, it

should be demanded rigorously, but the sooner the individual in question

can pass from it to the other type, the better. This is true in all

fields whether intellectual or moral.

A second classification of attention has been suggested according to the

answer to the question as to why attention is given. Sometimes attention

is given simply because the material itself demands it; sometimes for

some ulterior reason. The former type is called immediate or intrinsic

attention; the latter is called derived, mediate, or extrinsic

attention. The former is given to the situation for its own sake; the

latter because of something attached to it. Forced attention is always

derived; free attention may be either immediate or derived. t is

immediate and derived free attention that needs further discussion.

t should be borne in mind that there is no sharp line of division

between immediate and derived attention. Sometimes it is perfectly

evident that the attention is given for the sake of the material--at

other times there can be no doubt but that it is the something beyond

the material that holds the attention. But in big, complex situations it

is not so evident. For instance, the musician composing just for the

love of it is an example of immediate attention, while the small boy

working his arithmetic examples with great care in order to beat his

seatmate is surely giving derived attention. But under some conditions

the motives are mixed and the attention may fluctuate from the value of

the material itself to the values to be derived from it. However this

may be, at the two extremes there is a clear-cut difference between

these two types of attention. The value of rewards and incentives

depends on the psychology of derived free attention, while that of

punishment and deterrents is wrapped up with derived forced attention.

mmediate free attention is the more valuable of the two types because

it is the most highly unified and most strongly dynamic of all the

attention types. The big accomplishments of human lives have been

brought to pass through this kind of attention. t is the kind the

little child gives to his play--the activity itself is worth while. So

with the artist, the inventor, the poet, the teacher, the physician, the

architect, the banker--to be engaged in that particular activity

satisfies. But this is not true of all artists, bankers, etc., nor with

the others all the time. Even for the child at play, sometimes

conditions arise when the particular part of the activity does not seem

worth while in itself; then if it is to be continued, another kind of

attention must be brought in--derived attention. This illustration shows

the place of derived attention as a means to an end--the same part

played by forced attention in its relation to free. Derived attention

must needs be characteristic of much of the activity of human beings.

People have few well-developed capacities, and there are many kinds of

things they are required to do. f these are to be done with free

attention, heartily, it will only be because of some value that is worth

while that is attached to the necessary activity. As activities grow

complex and as the results of activities grow remote, the need for

something to carry over the attention to the parts of the activity that

are seen to be worth while in the first place, or to the results in the

second, grows imperative. This need is filled by derived attention, and

here it shows its value as means to an end, but it is only when the need

for this carrier disappears, and the activity as a whole for itself

seems worth while, that the best results are obtained.

There is a very great difference between the kinds of motives or values

chosen for derived attention, and their value varies in accordance with

the following principles. ncentives should be closely connected

naturally with the subject to which they are attached. They should be

suited to the development of the child and be natural rather than

artificial. Their appeal should be permanent, _i.e._, should persist in

the same situation outside of school. They should really stimulate those

to whom they are offered. They should not be too attractive in

themselves. Applying these principles it would seem that derived

interests that have their source in instincts, in special capacities, or

in correlation of subjects are of the best type, while such extremely

artificial incentives as prizes, half holidays, etc., are among the


The value of derived attention is that it gets the work done or the

habit formed. Of course the hope is always there that it will pass over

into the immediate type, but if it does not, at least results are

obtained. t has already been shown that results may also be obtained by

the use of forced attention, which is also derived. Both derived free

attention and forced attention are means to an end. The question as to

the comparative value of the two must be answered in favor of the

derived free attention. The chief reasons for this conclusion are as

follows. First, derived free attention is likely to be more unified than

forced attention. Second, it arouses greater self-activity on the part

of the worker. Third, the emotional tone is that of being satisfied

instead of strain. Fourth, it is more likely to lead to the immediate

attention which is its end. Despite these advantages of derived free

attention over forced attention, it still has some of the same

disadvantages that forced attention has. The chief of these is that it

also may result in division of energy. f the means for gaining the

attention is nothing but sugar coating, if it results in the mere

entertainment of the worker, there is every likelihood that the

attention will be divided between the two. The other disadvantage is

that because of the attractiveness of the means used to gain attention

it may be given just so long as the incentive remains, and no longer.

These difficulties may be largely overcome, however, by the application

of the principles governing good incentives. This must mean that the

choice of types of attention and therefore the provision of situations

calling them out should be in this order: immediate free attention,

derived free attention, forced attention. All three are necessary in the

education of any child, but each should be used in its proper place.

The conditions which insure the best attention of whatever type have to

do with both physical and mental adjustments. On the physical side there

is need for the adaptation of the sense organ and the body to the

situation. For this adaptation to be effective the environmental

conditions must be controlled by the laws of hygiene. A certain amount

of bodily freedom yields better results than rigidity because the latter

draws energy from the task in hand for purposes of inhibition. On the

mental side there is need for preparation in terms of readiness of the

nerve tracts to be used. James calls this "ideational" preparation. This

simply means that one can attend better if he knows something of what he

is to attend to. Experimental evidence proves without doubt that if the

subject knows that he is to see a color, instead of a word, his

perception of it is much more rapid and accurate than if he does not

have this preparation. This same result is obtained in much more complex

sensory situations, and it also holds when the situation is

intellectual. Contrary to expectation, great quietness is not the best

condition for the maximum of attention; a certain amount of distraction

is beneficial.

The problem of interest and of attention, from the point of view of

teaching, is not simply to secure attention, but rather to have the

attention fixed upon those activities which are most desirable from the

standpoint of realizing the aim or purpose of education. As has already

been suggested, children are constantly attending to something. They

instinctively respond to the very great variety of stimuli with which

they come in contact. Our schools seek to provide experiences which are

valuable. n school work when we are successful children attend to those

stimuli which promise most for the formation of habits, or the growth in

understanding and appreciation which will fit them for participation in

our social life. We seek constantly in our work as teachers to secure

either free or forced attention to the particular part of our courses of

study or to the particular experiences which are allotted to the grade

or class which we teach. One of the very greatest difficulties in

securing attention upon the part of a class is found in the variety of

experiences which they have already enjoyed, and the differences in the

strength of the appeal which the particular situation may make upon the

several members of the group. n class teaching we have constantly to

vary our appeal and to differentiate our work to suit the individual

differences represented in the class, if we would succeed in holding the

attention of even the majority of the children.

Boys and girls do their best work only when they concentrate their

attention upon the work to be done. One of the greatest fallacies that

has ever crept into our educational thought is that which suggests that

there is great value in having people work in fields in which they are

not interested, and in which they do not freely give their attention.

Any one who is familiar with children, or with grown-ups, must know that

it is only when interest is at a maximum that the effort put forth

approaches the limit of capacity set by the individual's ability. Boys

concentrate their attention upon baseball or upon fishing to a degree

which demands of them a maximum of effort. A boy may spend hours at a

time seeking to perfect himself in pitching, batting, or fielding. He

may be uncomfortable a large part of the time, he may suffer

considerable pain, and yet continue in his practice by virtue of his

great enthusiasm for perfecting himself in the game. nterest of a not

dissimilar sort leads a man who desires position, or power, or wealth,

to concentrate his attention upon the particular field of his endeavor

to the exclusion of almost everything else. ndeed, men almost literally

kill themselves in the effort which they make to achieve these social

distinctions or rewards. We may not hope always to secure so high a

degree of concentration of attention or of effort, but it is only as we

approach a situation in which children are interested, and in which they

freely give their attention to the subject in hand, that we can claim to

be most successful in our teaching.

The teacher who is able in beginning reading to discover to children the

tool which will enable them to get the familiar story or rhyme from the

book may hope to get a quality of attention which could never be brought

about by forcing them to attend to formal phonetic drill. The teacher of

biology who has been able to awaken enthusiasm for the investigation of

plant and animal life, and who has allowed children to conduct their own

investigations and to carry out their own experiments, may hope for a

type of attention which is never present in the carrying out of the

directions of the laboratory manual or in naming or classifying plants

or animals merely as a matter of memory. Children who are at work

producing a school play will accomplish more in the study of the history

in which they seek to discover a dramatic situation, by virtue of the

concentration of attention given, than they would in reciting many

lessons in which they seek to remember the paragraphs or pages which

they have read. The boy who gives his attention to the production of a

story for his school paper will work harder than one who is asked to

write a composition covering two pages. Children who are allowed to

prepare for the entertainment of the members of their class a story with

which they alone are familiar will give a quality of attention to the

work in hand which is never secured when all of the members of the class

are asked to reproduce a story which the teacher has read.

t is necessary at times to have children give forced attention. There

are some things to be accomplished that must be done, regardless of our

success in securing free attention. t is entirely conceivable that some

boy or girl may not want to learn his multiplication tables, or his

words in spelling, or his conjugation or declension in French, and that

all that the teacher has done may fail to arouse any great amount of

interest or enthusiasm for the work in question. n these cases, and in

many others which might be cited, the necessity for the particular habit

may be so great as to demand that every pupil do the work or form the

habit in question. n these cases we may not infrequently hope that

after having given forced attention to the work of the school, children

may in time come to understand the importance of the experiences which

they are having, or even become interested in the work for its own sake.

t is not infrequently true that after a period of forced attention

there follows a time during which, on account of the value which

children are able to understand as attached to or belonging to the

particular exercise, they give free derived attention. Many boys and

girls have worked through their courses in science or in modern

languages because they believed that these subjects would prove valuable

not only in preparing them for college, but in giving them a wider

outlook on life. Their attention was of the free derived type. Later on

some of these same pupils have become tremendously enthusiastic in their

work in the fields in question, and have found such great satisfaction

in the work itself, that their attention might properly be characterized

as free immediate attention.

The importance of making children conscious of their power of

concentrating their attention needs to be kept constantly in mind.

Exercises in which children are asked to do as much as they can in a

period of five or ten minutes may be used to teach children what

concentration of attention is and of the economy involved in work done

under these conditions. The trouble with a great many adults, as well as

with children, is that they have never learned what it is to work up to

the maximum of their capacity. All too frequently in our attempts to

teach children in classes we neglect to provide even a sufficient amount

of work to demand of the more able members of the group any considerable

amount of continued, concentrated attention.

We seek in our work as teachers not only to secure a maximum of

attention to the fields of work in which children are engaged, but also

to arouse interests and enthusiasms which will last after school days

are over. We think of interest often, and properly too, as the means

employed to secure a maximum of attention, and, in consequence, a

maximum of accomplishment. t is worth while to think often in our work

in terms of interest as the end to be secured. Children should become

sufficiently interested in some of the subjects that we teach to care to

be students in these fields, or to find enjoyment in further work or

activity along these lines, either as a matter of recreation or, not

infrequently, as a means of discovering their true vocation in life.

That teacher who has aroused sufficient interest in music to enable the

student of musical ability to venture all of the hard work which may be

necessary in order to become a skillful musician, has made possibly his

greatest contribution by arousing interest or creating enthusiasm. The

teacher whose enthusiasm in science has led a boy to desire to continue

in this field, even to the extent of influencing him to undertake work

in an engineering school, may be satisfied, not so much in the

accomplishment of his pupil in the field of science, as in the

enthusiasm which has carried him forward to more significant work. Even

for children who go no farther than the elementary school, interest in

history, or geography, in nature study, or in literature, may mean

throughout the life of the individuals taught a better use of leisure

time and an enjoyment of the nobler pleasures.

Successful teaching in any part of our school system demands an

adjustment in the amount of work to be done, to the abilities, and even

to the interest of individual children. Much may be accomplished by the

organization of special classes or groups in large school systems, but

even under the most favorable conditions children cannot be expected to

work up to the maximum of their capacity except as teachers recognize

these differences in interest and in ability, and make assignments and

conduct exercises which take account of these differences.


1. Why do all children attend when the teacher raps on the desk, when

she writes on the board, when some one opens the door and comes into the


2. Some teachers are constantly rapping with their pencils and raising

their voices in order to attract attention. What possible weakness is

indicated by this procedure?

3. Why do adults attend to fewer things than do children?

4. n what sense is it possible to attend to two things at the same


5. Why are children less able to concentrate their attention than are

most adults?

6. Will a boy or girl in your class be more or less easily distracted as

he gives free attention or forced attention to the work in hand?

7. What educational value is attached to an exercise which requires that

a boy sit at his desk and work, even upon something in which he is not

very much interested, for twenty minutes?

8. n what sense is it true that we form the habit of concentrating our


9. Why is it wrong to extend a lesson beyond the period during which

children are able to concentrate their attention upon the work in hand,

or beyond the period during which they do concentrate their attention?

10. How is it possible to extend the period devoted to a lesson in

reading, or in geography, or in Latin, beyond the time required to read

a story or draw a map, or translate a paragraph?

11. Why is it possible to have longer recitation periods in the upper

grades and in the high school than in the primary school?

12. Give examples from your class work of free attention; of forced

attention; of free derived attention.

13. n what sense is it true that we work hardest when we give free


14. n what sense is it true that we work hardest when we give forced


15. Can you give any example of superficiality or inaccuracy which has

resulted from divided attention, upon the part of any member of one of

your classes?

16. Does free attention imply lack of effort?

17. Name incidents which you think might properly be offered boys and

girls in order to secure free derived attention.

18. Can you cite any example in your teaching in which children have

progressed from forced to free attention?

19. What interests have been developed in your classes which you think

may make possible the giving of free attention in the field in question,

even after school days are over?

20. How can you teach children what it is to concentrate their attention

and the value of concentrated attention?

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