Attention plays a highly prominent role in our day-to-day lives, as it defines our ability to concentrate on the world around us. Our senses detect stimuli and direct our attention to them. The stronger the stimulus, the more rapidly our attention is drawn to it. The amount of time spent focusing on any such stimulus is, however, determined by internal as well as external factors. While the human attention span is extremely short in early childhood, it improves with age. A long attention span allows us to sustain attention on a particular stimulus for an extended period of time and as such, is a prerequisite for success in life.
Attention deficits may be observed in children as early as preschool. The child may fail to sustain attention on a task for long, interpret speech, follow instructions and the like. An inability to perform a task for a sustained period of time combined with a poor and fleeting ability to focus, however, may be sufficient to constitute an attention deficit disorder. While attention deficit disorders are usually inherited, their development depends on stimulation provided by the child’s environment, as attention may also be improved through practice. Games and exercises for attention training abound in the literature. In addition, silence is also postulated to improve focus and attention. This thesis sought to determine whether silence exercises used as part of the Montessori method of alternative education affect the attention spans of children in public preschools.
For the empirical portion of this thesis, an experiment was conducted at a public preschool. Silence exercises were performed with a group of children aged five and six for a week. Ten children were pre-selected and tested before and after the experiment using a test devised for the experiment. Though improvement in test scores could be observed in both the experimental and the control group, the experimental group saw greater progress. We conclude that silence exercises affected the attention spans of the children in this public preschool. However, the obtained results cannot be directly applied to the whole population as the experimental sample was limited, and the experiment would have to be conducted over a greater period of time.