Purpose – Studies suggest that children's experiences during first grade help establish educational trajectories that eventually shape their life chances. Research also…
Purpose – Studies suggest that children's experiences during first grade help establish educational trajectories that eventually shape their life chances. Research also indicates that student attentiveness in the classroom is integral to learning and later academic achievement, with low-income students of color running a greater risk of “attentional difficulties.”
Methodology – Joining these two bodies of work, I map the social conditions that shape attentiveness in the first-grade classrooms of “at-risk” students. Using ethnographic data collected over three school years, I examine how children actively construct attentiveness during their everyday interactions at school.
Findings – First graders sustain attention but often onto their own auto-involvements and mutual engagements, focal concerns teachers consider “distractions.” By learning the moment-by-moment variations of what to pay attention to and how “attentiveness” looks, children navigate the social ropes of schooling. Young students apply these lessons to self and peers, regulating attentiveness and socializing one another to the norms of their classroom. They are also resourceful actors who skillfully use their understandings of attentiveness to maneuver around the strict order of the day. Schoolchildren multitask, conceal other focal concerns, and give the impression of attentiveness, all of which influence what behaviors get detected as “(in)attentive.”
David A. Kinney is professor of sociology at Central Michigan University. He obtained his Ph.D. in sociology from Indiana University at Bloomington, completed postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago and worked as a research development specialist for the U.S. Department of Education in Philadelphia. His primary research areas are sociology of adolescence and sociology of education. He has published articles and chapters on children's time use, adolescent peer cultures, and education in venues such as Sociology of Education, Youth and Society, American Behavioral Research Scientist, and The Praeger Handbook of American High Schools. He is past president of the Michigan Sociological Association and elected council member of the American Sociological Association sections on Sociology of Children and Youth and Sociology of Education. He became series editor of this volume in 1999 and has been series co-editor with Katherine Brown Rosier since 2004.