Working with children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can appear daunting for a number of reasons. Parents are nervous about their child’s ability to learn, and teachers may be plagued by mental movie-stills of the class-clown stereotype. Because research on ADHD is relatively new, it has not been until the past couple of decades when targeted educational strategies for ADHD have emerged.
Educational Strategies for Children with ADHD
While every child has different strengths and challenges, there are now some general place markers for those who teach students with ADHD.
Regardless of your or your students’ general dispositions toward rules, every classroom needs them. One thing you can do at the start of the academic year is to work together with your students to establish classroom ground rules. Make sure to have these rules written down on and visible to the class; keeping the rule sheet small and simple is ideal.
Students with ADHD have their own unique needs. Work independently with these students to learn what they’re good at and what they need to improve. See if you both can pinpoint cases in which the student loses focus and then set forth methods for getting back on track. It may be helpful to devise a way to communicate with these students without any of the other students catching on—like a simple hand gesture—to inform them that they might be called on next. If the student appears fidgety, allow them to bring in a small device—like a hand-held stress ball—to use while seated.
Children with ADHD often have difficulty staying on task, which is why it is essential to build structure and routine into your lessons. Take a cue from a writing lesson and give an oral or written outline of what the day/week/month will look like. For each day, make sure your students have an idea of what to expect next (group work, reading, lunch, etc.). This mental calendar keeps students on track and guarantees that there won’t be any surprises.
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Get a Move on
The tried and true method of “burning off energy” applies here, which is why you should always allow ample time for recess and avoid infringing on it. Students with ADHD have shown improved focus when given time for physical activity.
Piggy-backing on recess, adding movement within lessons is a great way to break up the monotony of the traditional lecture-based classroom. Alternating sitting activities with those that require movement, having students perform simple classroom clean-up after each project, and structuring your lessons so that students have to get up and write responses on the board are simple ways to add movement.
- The U.S. Department of Education has put together a detailed report on instructional methods for educators teaching students with ADHD. The report is in the public domain, and you can find a PDF version here: