For Teachers: 10 Tips for Making Lessons More ADHD-Friendly
Eileen Bailey | Aug 18, 2017
Going beyond traditional modifications
There are a number of standard modifications used by teachers, including extra time for tests, reducing homework assignments and creating organizational systems. While these are important to implement, additional strategies can also help students with ADHD.
Each student is an individual
Teachers should employ a variety of techniques and strategies. A combination of different methods works best as “no one intervention is universally effective for all students with ADHD,” according to a factsheet from the William & Mary School of Education. To help children learn, strategies must be “diverse enough to meet the needs of different kinds of children.”
Adding sound, color and other stimuli can help increase focus and learning. Engaging more than one sense in a lesson, such as adding manipulatives, having children recite a lesson, or adding movement rather than having children sit quietly and listen can increase engagement in the lesson and, in turn, potentially increase retention.
Frequent movement breaks
Sitting still in a chair for several hours is hard for any child, and sometimes impossible for children with ADHD. Teacher Lindsey Smith shared with HealthCentral via email that having all students get up, stretch, touch their toes or march around the room once an hour made a big difference in focus and concentration. This worked better than sending a child with ADHD on an errand, keeping the student from missing class and not singling him or her out.
Breaking down assignments
When breaking tasks into smaller chunks, the College of William & Mary suggests limiting the amount of work on each page, covering part of the assignment with a paper and using different ways to complete the work, such as speech-to-text software for portions of the project in addition to traditional methods of allowing extra time or reducing the length of assignments.
Create peer partnerships
By pairing students whose “skill levels complement each other,” peer partnerships can benefit students with and without ADHD by helping one another, according to researchers at William & Mary. For example, students paired together can tutor one another based on each child’s strengths, discuss lessons, check each other’s work, take turns reading, quiz one another and assist during transition times.
Give a heads up before discussing important points
Students with ADHD are often distracted or inattentive, daydreaming instead of listening. Create a signal for the class before discussing important points of the lesson. For example, you might turn the lights off and on, ring a bell or clap your hands. Let the class know that when you do this, it means they should pay close attention to what you are saying.
Three questions to answer
At the beginning of a lesson provide students with three questions they should be able to answer by the end of the lesson. Write the questions on the board to help keep students focused. At the end of the lesson, summarize the important points and answer (or ask students to answer) the three questions.
Parent and teacher participation
As a parent, you can share this information with your child’s teacher. When doing so, be respectful; you are a team in your child’s education. Set an appointment to talk privately with the teacher and use this time to explain how ADHD impacts your child’s daily life. Many teachers are familiar with the basics of ADHD but not how ADHD affects every aspect of a child’s life. You are the expert on your child; share your perspective and offer suggestions on what you have found that works. Have students think aloud to help them verbalize the thought process.