The number of students diagnosed with ADHD seems to be constantly growing. As an educator, you will inevitably be teaching kids with ADHD; I have had many students with ADHD in my classes. Although this can be challenging at times (for you and the kids), there are many things you can do to make teaching kids with ADHD easier for you and to help those students learn more. Based on my own experience, conversations with other educators, and research on ADHD, I have come up with a list of strategies, tips, and tricks that will help when teaching kids with ADHD!
Strategies, Tips, and Tricks for Teaching Kids with ADHD
Build a positive relationship.
One of the best things you can do for any student is to build a positive relationship with him or her, but this is even more important for students with challenging behaviors. The better a relationship you have, the better you can work with your student, despite any difficulties they may have.
Choose their seat wisely.
Kids with ADHD get distracted easily. By choosing an appropriate seat for these students, you will help eliminate distractions and create a better learning environment. Think about your particular kid and what seats will be less distracting. Here are some ideas for where to seat students with ADHD:
- At the front of the room
- At a separate table from other students
- Away from the windows
- Away from the door
- Facing a blank wall
- Away from the computers
- At a seat with a privacy carrel around it
- With quiet or very attentive students
Incorporate breaks during the day.
Kids with ADHD have a hard time focusing for long periods of time. For that reason, it is helpful to incorporate breaks throughout the day so that the kids don’t get burned out. (And your students without ADHD will benefit from breaks, too!) Have set times during the school day where everyone takes a break.
Chunk their work.
Students with ADHD can easily get overwhelmed and discouraged by a large amount of work to do. This often causes them to get distracted and not do any of their work. To prevent this from happening, chunk their work into smaller pieces for them to accomplish one at a time. Here are a few ways you can chunk their work:
- fold their worksheet so they can only see some of it at a time.
- use post-it notes to cover some problems of questions.
- if you’re using a packet, give them one sheet at a time.
- highlight certain questions or problems for them to complete, then give a break or reward when that part is finished.
Most of the time, students with ADHD are not trying to be disrespectful when they don’t pay attention or have a hard time focusing. Their brain works differently, which makes these activities difficult for them. It’s easy to lose your temper or run out of patience when you have to remind little Johnny to pay attention for the hundredth time. However, it is so important to stay calm and remember that he’s not doing it on purpose. Not only will this help maintain a positive relationship between you and your student, but it will also allow you to help him overcome the challenges of having ADHD without taking it personally.
Make time for movement.
Allowing time for movement throughout the day is one of the best ways to help kids with ADHD (and is really beneficial for ALL of your kiddos). Having structured movement breaks allows kids to get out their wiggles, wakes them up, gets blood flowing to their body and brain, and is fun. Try to have at least a few times during the school day where you let your kids MOVE. Here are some possible movement breaks you could use:
- Play a game.
- Use GoNoodle. (This is a fun website with movement break videos of all different kinds. My kids LOVE using GoNoodle, so I highly recommend checking it out!)
- Do some stretching.
- Go outside and let your kids run around for a few minutes.
Many times, kids with ADHD just forget to focus. Sometimes, all they need is a gentle reminder to get them back on track. You could even come up with a certain signal just between you and your student so that he or she doesn’t get embarrassed by being called out.
Use tools (if they can handle it).
There are lots of great tools to help students who have some extra wiggles. However, not all students can handle these tools (I know I have had some!), so make sure its a good fit before trying these tools. Also, I suggest having clear rules and expectations for the child and for the whole class. (Some kids get jealous if another child has something special.). Here are some options:
- bouncy bands for the chair or bouncy bands for the desk
- sensory tools (e.g. velcro strip, silly putty, stress balls, etc.)
- exercise ball for kids to sit on
- wobble stools
Communicate with their parents.
When you are teaching a student with ADHD, it is extra important to communicate well with his or her parents . Not only do parents sometimes know effective ways to handle their child’s ADHD, but it also helps the child when the teacher and parents are on the same page. Another important thing to remember when communicating with parents is to contact them for positive reports as much or more than you do for negative reports. This can be hard to do, but is so beneficial for the parents and the child! (Also, check out this great way to record your contact with parents!)
Make them your helper.
Kids with ADHD have extra energy, so they make great helpers! Not only does it give the kid a chance to get up and moving, but it also shows that you trust him or her. You can have your helper hand out papers or materials, take notes to the office, assist during lessons, return books to the library, and any other tasks you need help with in the classroom. This is definitely a favorite with my kiddos!
Read books on the topic
A great way to help kids with ADHD understand more about themselves and how to handle their difficulties is to read children’s books on the topic. There are many wonderful books about ADHD and how kids deal with it. Plus, it may help the rest of the class empathize better with their classmates who have ADHD. Here are some suggestions:
- Mrs. Gorski I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgets by Barbara Esham
- This Morning Sam Went to Mars: A Book About Paying Attention by Nancy Carlson
- The Hank Zipzer series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver
- Pay Attention, Emily Brown! by Linda Burton
Teaching kids with ADHD can be difficult, but it can also be wonderful when you approach it with patience and understanding. I hope these strategies, tips, and tricks will help you when teaching kids with ADHD!
Do you have any other suggestions for teaching kids with ADHD? If so, leave a comment below or shoot me an email!
Thank you for explaining that there are a lot of boos to help kids with ADHD understand themselves. My sister thinks her son might have ADHD with how he can never pay attention. I will be sure to forward this to her, ad well as recommend that she has him officially tested.
You’re welcome! Books are a great way to talk about difficult topics with kids and I hope these help. Good luck to your sister and her son!