Every now and then children fool around in class. Silly and social issues take priority and they spend their time laughing, giggling, and talking rather than paying attention to their studies. This happened to me as a student and it still happens today.
As a teacher we are aware of what looks like lack of focus or attention on other matters, and generally when this happens we redirect. Sometimes students assure us that they're on task and they're not fooling around, and when that happens, I often choose to trust them as long as what looks like off-task behavior is not disrupting other learners.
Recently, however, a number of children who seemed to be off-task during class were very frustrated when they couldn't successfully complete a set of problems. With each child, I reminded them of the silliness I observed, talked to them about the days past, and noted that they lost time in the learning when they chose to be off task rather than seeking help or listening to lessons. The children weren't too happy about that--they realized that their choices to be off task disrupted their learning for the focus concept. Then, of course, I offered the help needed to catch up.
We're all off task now and then, and we know that behavior can get in the way of our good work and result. Young children love to be together, have fun, talk, and play, yet sometimes good learning does demand a more serious attitude, self discipline, attention, and care. Not every concept comes easy to every child--some concepts take real concentration and steady practice. One child who did particularly well with the focus concept is a dancer--I asked her if she thought the perseverance to learn the concept was similar to the perseverance she needs to learn a dance step--she agreed that both require similar perseverance.
I'll keep coaching the learners ahead with the knowledge that good attention and practice makes a positive difference. Knowing when it's okay to fool around and when you have to make the decision to focus is part of learning how to be a successful student too. Onward.