One meaning of the term “bracketing” is “to place within.” This concept of “placing within” is a helpful strategy that students and adults can use to identify and appropriately deal with distracting thoughts. In stage one, students decide whether their current thoughts are appropriate for the task at hand. If they are not, students can bracket them in stage two.
It is very helpful to teach students (and adults) to classify thoughts into three groups:
Now: appropriate to follow up on now, i.e. thoughts that promote full engagement in the lesson or other current task. During reading, for example, a “now” thought would be about the content of the reading (reading comprehension) or about ways to stay focused on reading.
A “now” thought about comprehension of a history text assignment could be, “There are three branches of the state government, and the governor is the head of the executive branch of the government.” A “now” thought about the process of reading could be something such as, “I didn’t understand what I just read…I need to read that again.”
Later: appropriate to pursue, but not now, for example, an interesting related idea, a clarifying question or an important task to perform. A “later” thought might be, “I wonder what laws our governor is in favor of? I could look that up on the internet.” Another example is, “I forgot to talk to my English teacher. I have to do that after school.”
Never: not an appropriate thought, for example, a discouraging or negative thought such as “I can’t get this,” or “This is stupid.” “Never” thoughts are power destroyers; they erode confidence and commitment and should be dealt with and eliminated every time they surface!
Help your child make a list of examples of thoughts in each group. Discuss these thoughts and why they are “now” “later” or “never” thoughts. Be sure your child can give good examples on their own of thoughts in each group.Help your child use their imagination to draw a “container” into which they can place their “later” thoughts in order to relieve distraction. Your child may wish to choose a container that could hold keepsakes such as a chest or jewelry box. Ask your child to draw and decorate the “later” container in a special manner, worthy of important thoughts!
Encourage your child to visualize a trash can into which they place their “never” thoughts. Have your child draw the container. Since “never” thoughts are power bandits, they must be tossed away every time they occur. If left alone, they can poison other thoughts! When attention begins to drift from the task at hand, decide if the thought is a “later” or a “never” thought and place in the appropriate container. If the thought is a “later” thought, make a note to follow up at a future time. As children become older, they can write a quick note to themselves if the later thought is very important. The most important part of this process is that your child is taking conscious control over their thoughts, gaining a powerful mechanism to direct their attention in productive rather than destructive ways.