Handling attention deficient disorder in children or those who have hard time learning due to a slightly different brain circuitry throw real challenges to any teacher. In a classroom, the number is usually more than one, so it’s tougher for the classroom teacher to cope with ADHD and learning challenges for multiple students in a typical classroom.
Handing Specific Situations in the Classroom
Here are some practical suggestions for them. Use these suggestions both for regular and spec-eds classrooms. This intervention lists help teachers to select multiple strategies, especially when applying a single strategy doesn’t work.
They have been built to suit specific children in specific environments. Below are given some strategies. But first, you must know which students should be your target recipient for such intervention strategies.
Situation 1: Children Struggling to Set Realistic Goals
Such children might have high aspirations but may lack the expertise to carry it out. These children set out to get a ‘straight A’ in everything but end up mostly with E or F. They are in a habit to set unrealistic goals; the strategies will assist them to set long-range goals, broken into realistic, achievable parts.
A questioning strategy, in this case, works wonders.
Ask the student what abilities does s/he think they needs to be able to complete the particular task. Keep asking that question until the student has found the way to an obtainable goal.
Also make him/her set clear timelines of all that needs to be done in order to accomplish each step. You got to monitor the student’s progress frequently.
Situation 2: Difficulty in Sequencing and Completing Steps
Many children find it difficult to sequence and complete steps to accomplish specific tasks. Writing book reports or a term paper; organizing paragraphs or while making equal divisions – difficulties might rise in anything that they do.
Break up the task into workable and obtainable steps for faster and better results. You must start with providing examples and setting specific steps to accomplish the task(s).
Some kids are always shifting from one uncompleted activity to another, without a proper closure of the previous tasks. Here you need to define the importance and requirements of a completed activity. Some kids have difficulty in prioritizing the most important tasks, assignments and activities from the least.
Providing a model or a prioritization matrix like the one able helps these students immensely.
Situation 3: Children finding it Difficult to Follow Instructions
Many children find it difficult to follow through on instructions from others (peers, parents or educators). To make their lives easier, you need to gain their attention first! Use alerting cues and mix oral with written directions, one direction at a time. Repeat the direction(s) to the student again after the rest of the class received it.
Situation 4: Children struggling with Attention Spans
Those facing difficulty sustaining effort and accuracy over longer spans and never completing assignments. Please read ADHD and attention spans.
For them, reduced assignment lengths and stressing on quality rather than quantity brings improvements. Also, point out the steps necessary to complete each assignment and check frequently for work/assignment completion. A study buddy works wonders with them and it is always better if you increase the frequency of positive reinforcements (complements for a job well done).
Apparently inattentive students exhibiting underachievement and daydreaming must be turned attentive first by actively involving the student(s) in lesson. This is cooperative learning.
Situation 5: Memory and Test Anxiety
A deficit to retain information i.e. memory problem can be handled properly if you combine visuals, verbal and written information together. Teaching memory techniques is an effective studying strategy and may include mnemonics, visualization, oral rehearsals and numerous repetitions.
If tests generate fear in a student, allow some extra time and oral tests; also teach test-taking skills and strategies. Clear, readable and uncluttered test forms with lined answer spaces and in a format that the student is most comfortable with are must! Ample space must be given for the student to respond.
Situation 6: Students with difficulty understanding non verbal cues
Students who find non-verbal cues (gestures, body language etc.) to be confusing will need direct teaching on the meanings of the non-verbal cues. Crate a model and get the student to practice reading cues in a setting with no distraction. If written materials appear confusing to the student, put greater importance to minor details to help him/her find out the primary idea by underlining or highlighting the appropriate sections.
You may also provide an outline of important points from the reading material and then teach how it is done. With all that, if you can provide an audio recording of the text/chapter, it’s all the better. Alternatively, you can use the PECS Model.
Situation 7: Students with poor Organizational skills
Messy or sloppy students must be taught organizational skills through clear copies of worksheets in a consistent format. Establishing a daily routine and arranging for a peer to help with organizing, will assist a student to keep materials in a specific place. You may also have to repeat expectations from time to time.
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Those with poorly developed study skills must be taught organization (e.g. assignment calendar), textbook reading, note-taking (finding main idea / detail, mapping, outlining), skimming and summarizing in the subject area. Those who are poor with self-monitoring (careless errors in spelling, arithmetic and reading) benefit immensely from proof-reading finished work.
Situation 8: Handling Poor Handwriting
Students with poor handwriting (cursive handwriting mixed with inappropriate upper and lower-case letters) must be allowed the use of computer. But never penalize the student for mixing cursive with manuscript handwriting. A pencil with a rubber grip shall take care of the difficulty with fluency in handwriting and will improve on speed and clarity. This may sometimes be related to poor development of fine motor skills.
Situation 9: Students struggling with Classroom Participation
Students finding it difficult to participate in class without being interruptive or faces difficulty being quiet must be seated in close proximity with the teacher. Any appropriate behaviour must be rewarded. If he/she seeks attention in inappropriate ways, assign another student as a model and show the problem-creating student the proper ways to gain other’s attention.
If s/he talks excessively (and frequently), hand signals are a good way to make the student learn when to talk and when not to.
Some children find it difficult to make transitions from one activity to another activity or from one class to another. Programming them for the transitions (giving advance warning before a transition takes place) will make him/her expect the transition in a much better way. Here are 2 resources that can help:
Children who find it difficult to remain seated or hold a particular stance or posture must be given frequent opportunities to get up and move around. Allow space for the movement. They are also found to be fidgeting with hands, feet or objects or squirm in their seats.
Special Strategies for Children with ADHD
Children with ADHD, often lose focus and wander off in the mindscape. Their mind is never with the rest of the class except during the beginning. To get their attention, pause and create some suspense before throwing your question. Look around to intensify a bit more.
Do not take too much time to pick up momentum while teaching. Be random; this keeps children away from timing their attention. Point and pick; not by names. You may use the child’s name after asking the question.
Ideally, the first question should be a simple one; it may not be even related to the topic the class was on. If you can develop a private joke on times he/she starts to wander and run it when you feel he/she has start to wander, it will invoke attention for a longer span and help him/her re-involve with you.
Try to stay close to an inattentive child. Gentle, affectionate touches are also good to reinforce attention. Walking around the classroom brings dynamism to the whole setting; as the lessons progress, occasionally tap the place in the child’s book that is currently being read or discussed.
Break up lessons into smaller parts whenever possible. Make them engage in physical and mental activities alternatively. And try to adorn dry, auditory lessons with interesting, sequential audiovisuals. The child must find something of his/her interest in a lesson plan.
Remove the wrong concept of “daydreaming is bad“. Structured, guided daydreaming is good. Set aside some time for it. And always, keep your instructions short, simple and concrete and your voice soft. You must give them once and not repeat it. You must also teach children self-monitoring strategies. Employing peers or older students as tutors go a long way.
Strategies for Children with who are Cognitively Impulsive
These are children with difficulty in staying with the task at hand. Their verbalizations seem irrelevant; their performance indicates there’s no thinking or reflecting about what they are doing. However, with positive attention and recognition (as much as possible), things change for better.
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You must start with clarifying the social rules. The external demands of the classroom also need to be explained. Establishing a cue between a teacher and a child brings space for personal discussions and the child to emphasize the similarities between him and the teacher.
To control impulsive behaviour in a child, have the child repeat questions before you answer. You must get into the habit of letting at least 10 seconds pass before you answer the question from a child. However, it must not exceed 16 seconds at any cost. Also, probe into any irrelevant response when you spot its possible connection with the question! Choose a student to be your question keeper.
Memory games are a good way to discipline and control impulsive behaviour. Make a well known story go around the class; each of the students orally recites it from where the previous student ended. Make it a chain story. Alternatively, tell stories mixing fact and fiction, distinguishing between reality and fantasy. Ask the children to critique them picking out elements that are true, possible and absurd.
When introducing a new topic in any academic area, have the children generate questions first on the topic. Do not provide them with much information right at the start.
Summary Checklist for Teachers & Educators
- Do not confront lying by making children admit they have been untruthful.
- Play attention and listening games.
- Remove un-needed stimulation from the classroom environment.
- Keep assignments short.
- Communicate the value of accuracy over speed.
- Evaluate your own tempo as teacher.
- Using the wall clock, tell children how long they are to work on an assignment
- Make children keep a file of their completed work.
- Teach children self-talk.
- Stress on the Stop-Look-Listen mode of survival.
- Pair with responsible peer (rotate responsible students so that they don’t wear out!).
- To improve on poor adult interactions, provide positive attention by talking with the student individually about his/her inappropriate behaviour rather than scolding. This will also reduce his/her frequent self-putdowns, low self-esteem, poor personal care and posture and negative comments about self and others.
- You must train the student for reinforcing improvements with self-monitoring and self-questioning strategies.
- Allow opportunities for the student to show his strength through positive recognitions.
- Teach how to use unstructured time (recess, lunch etc.) by providing him/her with a definite purpose instead of sitting, staring into the space, doodling or plain idling). This will also help them to get organized and keep them from losing their belongings. Provide positive reinforcement for good organization.
- Provide student with a list of needed materials and locations and give the student a time limit for a small unit of work with positive reinforcement for accurate completion.
- Group games and participations in school clubs and activities help these children a lot.