Quick Summary as this post is long: It is easier to keep focus when learning something if you aren't just trying to repeat it, but fully conceptualizing the mechanics, reasoning, and technique of a thing. Having the student realize the benefit of improved understanding and the downside of lack was also a huge help in getting past attention issues as it significantly improved self driven interest in learning.
Disclaimer: I have no experience as an educator, my opinion is based on what did and did not work for me as a child with ADHD issues strong enough that at 6 years old (1st grade) the school wasn't going to let me progress unless I was given medication or another form of professional treatment, they allowed us to try martial arts first. For the first 6 months or so there was no improvement and I just couldn't focus enough to learn anything, but we had an instructor move and his replacement had a different instruction style and I had rapid improvement.
For further background, my teachers/parents didn't think I had 'behavioural' issues, I was respectful of authority, highly empathetic of others, and pretty shy, so I wasn't one of the kids with the violent tantrums/outbursts/etc... I just would daydream or get distracted so easily I pretty much couldn't learn anything, and even entertainment didn't hold my attention for long. I hated losing focus, I felt like I was letting down my instructors, my parents, and myself, honestly I was consciously trying my hardest to stick with it, but during the conditions in which I would lose focus my ability to maintain control of my body/mind was just compromised, and there was no amount or style of scolding/punishment that could make me feel worse about it than what I already self-imposed. Given that, my information is likely not going to work on a kid that doesn't want to get better at concentrating/learning, and again I have never been an educator professionally or voluntarily, so take the following with a grain of salt.
Failing Strategies\Conditions (for me):
Simple rote based initial instruction, like Instructor shows the move a couple times, and then expects emulation. This failed because first and foremost it only captured my conscious attention (watching/assessing the task) and my body attention when trying to repeat it, my 'mind' essentially checked out as it was not needed and distractions would begin. Secondly, if I didn't repeat it successfully I didn't know why and that was amazingly frustrating and this would be amplified as the instructor tried to re-show or especially physically position me.
Strict demands for my attention, my attention would snap back, but there was no long term affect and I would quickly lose focus again if the contextual situation had not changed.
Long periods on a singular task, it is hard to define long, but more than a minute or twos/a dozen repetitions of the same maneuver, for me there is a finite amount of improvement/work that can be done on an individual task during any 1 period, and once I hit that wall, try as I might I cannot care about that task until I've had time to refresh with a different task/problem.
Sideline attempts to recapture my attention, like requests that I perform some unrelated task in the hopes to put me back in the now, these always felt purposeless, and the end result was an overall reduction in interest in the whole concept.
Specific and guided instruction/focus on mindfulness. Knowing exactly what my mind and body should be doing at any given snapshot in time during a given task gave me a whole new level of focus and significantly improved my ability to learn tasks presented in this way. Examples:
- Periods of time spent on very simple meditation with guidance like sit in specific given position, and rhythmically repeated instructions to think about this specific thing that does not allow for interpretation like breathe in/breathe out,... or 1/2.1/2,...
- The same rote based instruction from the first failure example, but with the initial demonstration being very slow, with thorough descriptions of what the different parts of my body should be doing at every point in the process, then when I don't have it right having the instructor initiate and guide a discussion where I end up figuring out (not being told) what was wrong. This way I am focusing on perceiving the action, physically repeating it, and mindfully contemplating/processing it.
Switching the task context in regular intervals, I could effectively spend all day practicing just 3 maneuvers so long as each interval was short and the switches were on a schedule/routine, like 10 horse stance punches, 10 round house kicks, 10 axe kicks, (repeat in the same order). It is additionally helpful if there are specific repeated behaviours between the changing points (moving to an attention stance and "yes sensei" before each new task set, and maybe a full bow between each round of sets), and if the specific actions have an additional component, breathe in/out on alternate punches, kia'ing on each kick, etc.
Being stern when I falter, and on repeated events or if I lose attention at a significant point like learning a brand new concept, rather than scolding show me why I should have paid attention like having me demonstrate the move to the class and ask them to critique it or have me publicly spar with a class mate (one who the instructor is confident will defeat me), something that makes me realize the lack created by my inattention, especially when that lack is present even compared to the others at my same level.
If any class segment is going to require a lack of participation, I need to know upfront that at the end of that segment I will be tested in some way, like maybe the instructor wants to spend 10 minutes or so just talking about effective ways to combine the actions we had been going over, each student should then very briefly spar (just a couple strikes) with an authority (instructor, higher grade student, etc) where the result corresponds to their implementation of the given info, complete shutdown/moderate fall to the mat/mild embarrassment on no utilization to even draw/pat on the back for great utilization.
Having students act as instructor and try to teach the class how to use a maneuver they have been practicing is a big help for encouraging a desire to actually learn the material.
As the student shows a greater ability to reign in their own attention, the hand holding/guidance should reduce to increase the challenge and autonomy, additionally the actual consequences of success or failure should become noticeably more significant, but the demonstrative consequences reduced, the hope is that eventually they will begin/increase self-governing, but they won't if they don't need to.
I never really got good at martial arts, but I did become a good student and enjoyed how much easier it became to learn that I began self-imposing these strategies for actual school and that similarly improved.
Also, I am not a medical professional in any way, these techniques helped me get past a lot of my attention issues, but as an adult I've started using medication as well, and that has made a whole new world of difference.
Different situations require different types/levels of treatments, so just wanted to be clear that I'm not advocating ignoring the advice of doctors, that's for you to decide.