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Selective Attention - Intermediate Mid

Lesson Information

Positive Psychology Learning Outcomes

Students will...

  1. identify both the positive and negative effects of selective attention.
  2. practice directing their focus on more mindful habits. 

Language Learning Outcomes

Students will...

  1. listen for specific information.
  2. be able to repeat spoken information.

Materials Needed


Selective attention is the ability to notice specific information while ignoring irrelevant information. When we practice selective attention, we are better able to focus our attention on one thing and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the many different events that happen in our lives. Selective attention can increase our well-being since it can potentially help us focus on the positive while leaving the negative aside. Explain to students that they will be learning about selective attention, in basic terms this means what you decide to focus on.

Defintion retrieved from:

Activate Background Knowledge

Watch the following video until at least 3:00 (if the students want to watch the remainder of the video to see other people’s reactions that is optional). 

Selective Attention Test 

After watching the video ask students the following question:

  • Were you surprised with the results?

Ask students to think about why they might not have noticed the duck, extra hand, or color switching while they viewed the video. 

Activity 1: Speaking

What is a distraction? Introduce this word. It’s something that prevents us from giving our attention to something else. Distractions are everywhere around us. Discuss what the woman is trying to do in this picture and what kinds of distractions the woman is receiving around her.

How to Reduce Digital Distractions at Work

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  • Pretend that you are at home trying to do a homework assignment. What kinds of distractions will stop you from doing your homework? 
    • Examples: phone, eating, other people, TV, pets, kids, etc. 
  • How can distractions have a negative influence in our life?
  • How can focusing on something be positive? Think about the woman in the picture. Why is it helpful if she can use selective attention to read her book?
  • Now think about the video with the cups. How can selective attention also be unhelpful to us sometimes? 
    • Example: If I am only paying attention to the game on my phone I might not hear what somebody is saying to me, even if it’s important and from somebody I love and care about. 

Activity 2: Listening

Selective attention is something we use in listening all the time. First, have students listen to this audio: College Majors

During the first listening have the students take notes on the main ideas. Then, have students listen again, but this time have them take notes on the details--including names, numbers, dates, etc.

Afterward, discuss if they noticed any differences or changes in their attention while listening.

Then, the class may answer the comprehension questions from the website to see if they got any notes that help them find the correct answers. 

Activity 3: Speaking

What are mindless habits? Give a few examples to help students understand what these are exactly: driving without really thinking about where you are, scrolling on your phone with no real purpose, saying “I’m good” to anyone who asks, surfing the internet, not thinking about what you are eating, distractions, making judgments, put in headphones as soon as you get on the bus. 

Have each student think of at least one mindless habit he or she has and share it with a partner.

Then, have partnerships brainstorm together a habit they could replace or substitute this with that will help them be more mindful, or in other words, pay more attention.

Example: Instead of looking at my phone while I eat, I am going to sit at the table and think about what my food tastes and smells like. 

Have students then set a goal to do their best to replace this mindless habit with something better? 

Activity 4: Listening and Speaking

How can we improve our focus to have better selective attention? There are many ways and only a few can be practiced in class.

First, have students do a domino storytelling. Start at one end of the class and one student will say one word to begin a story. The next student will repeat that word and add another word onto it and so on and so forth until you reach the end. This means that the students near the end will have to do a lot more work to focus and remember what was said. To make it even repeat the activity again but this time starting on the opposite side of the room with the student who finished last in the first story. 

Note* It may be helpful if the teacher starts the story to give students a prompt. 

Activity 5: Listening 

Have students prepare to listen to a guided meditation. This requires a lot of attention about our own bodies, which is very beneficial to our health and minds. 

Watch the following video together:

5 Minute Guided Meditation 

Note* There might be some phrases students aren’t familiar with, as they come, it may be useful to pause and briefly explain them so the students can continue to follow the meditation.


Have students write down their goal of replacing a bad habit with a better one. Invite them to make a short plan of how they will achieve their goal. Tell students that they will follow up on this on Thursday and that they will be invited to share their experiences. 

Example: Instead of looking at my phone while I eat, I am going to sit at the table and think about what my food tastes and smells like.



Play the game telephone. Tell one student a few short sentences and they must focus to remember what was said, then pass on the information to the next student. Have students convey messages relating to selective attention, the reduction of mindless habits, etc.  A teacher might even model by saying something like “Instead of surfing on my phone, I sent uplifting notes to friends” or “I listened to a guided meditation yesterday and tried hard to tune out the noises around me.” 


Ask students the following questions: What does the word concentration mean? Did anyone try to concentrate more this week?  Did you cut out distractions?. Highlight any comment about dealing and avoiding distractions. 

Have students look at the infographic below and discuss anything they found interesting or surprising from the tips given. Also, have them think about one tip they would like to try this week. Or maybe talk about how doing some of these things makes them feel.

7 tips to help you concentrate better infographic

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Invite students to share their experience with replacing a mindless habit with something better. What differences have they noticed since they decided to replace a bad habit by a mindful action? . Remind students that using selective attention to make good habits is extremely useful and they should try to replace mindless bad habits with better ones.  Highlight that as we are more mindful in what we do, we tend to be happier.

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