By | July 18, 2022
  • EDUCATION Elementary School

When there is a lot of background noise, it can be difficult to focus. This is a problem for adults working in open-plan offices. It’s even more problematic for elementary school students.

 

 

While researching a book, I observed a class of first-graders of 20. They were working in small groups at tables. Some were talking, others were collaborating on worksheets. Others were arguing loudly. One tiny girl spoke up to her teacher and she was prompted to tell the class.

 

The girl begged, “Please be quiet!” “I can’t even think with all of this noise.”

 

After a short pause, the teacher nodded in approval. The noise then returned to its original high level after another pause.

 

This incident occurred to me while I was reading Annie Murphy Paul’s new book The Extended Mind: How Thinking Outside the Brain. Paul writes in a chapter titled “Thinking with Built Spaces” that intense thinking is an unnatural activity and “our minds need external structure to achieve it.”

Paul says that people started to live closer together, and distractions increased. Walls were created in response. She quotes one expert who said, “The wall was built to protect us against the cognitive load of trying to keep track of the actions of strangers.”

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