Best Strategies for Students with Adhd-Ways to get student attention
Attention: getting it, focusing it, keeping it
Best Strategies for Students with Adhd-Being able to catch and hold our student’s interest and attention is not always an easy task. Keeping an ADD/ADHD student focused and on-task is a monumental challenge to teachers, and one what requires experiencing with a variety of approaches.
Ways to get student attention
- Signal your students by any number of techniques-turning off the lights, flashing the lights, ringing a bell, raising your hand which signals the children to raise their hands and close their mouths until everyone is silent, playing a bar of music on the piano or guitar, and so on.
- Vary tone of voice: loud, soft, whispering, try making a loud command: listen! Ready! Freeze!, followed by a few second of silence before proceeding in a normal voice to give directions.
- Eye contact, student should be facing you when you are speaking, specifically while instructions are being given. Teachers who have students seated with desks in clusters need to work out and structure with those students who face away from them, how to turn their chairs and bodies around to face the teacher when signalled to do so.
- Model excitement and enthusiasm about the upcoming lesson
- Ask the class an interesting, speculative question to generate discussion and interest in the upcoming lesson.
- Try ‘silliness’ and theatrics at times. Sometimes props such as a crazy hat or music are helpful in getting your student’s attention.
- Mystery, bring in an object relevant to the upcoming lesson in a box, bag, pillowcase. This is a wonderful way to generate predication and can lead to excellent discussions or writing activities.
- Other ‘into’ strategies prior to reading (see language arts, section 10), bring in past experiences of students through discussion, poems, visuals, and so on prior to reading the story/chapter.
How to focus students’ attention
- Employ multi-sensory strategies when directions are given and a lesson is presented.
- Use visuals, write key words or pictures on the board or overhead projector while presenting.
- Use color, use colored chalk to highlight on the chalkboard, and colored pens on the overhead. Write key words, phrases, steps to computation problems, tricky letters in spelling words, and so on in a different color.
- Frame the visual material you want students to be focused on with your hands or with a colored box around it.
- Point to written material you want students to focus on with your finger, a dowel, a stick/pointer.
Note: overhead projectors are the best tools for focusing student’s attention in the classroom, the teacher is able to write down information in color without having to turn his/her back on the students, thus improving classroom management and reducing behavioral problems. On the overhead, teachers can model easily, frame important information, and students love to be called up to write on the transparency.
Transparencies of material can be made in advance, saving the teacher time. The transparency can be partially covered up, blocking out any distracting visual stimuli. The room can be darkened, and the light on the screen holds students attention. I urge teachers who do not have access to an overhead projector to try any available means to get one.
- Use of flashlight, turnoff the lights and get students to focus by illuminating objects or individuals with a flashlight.
- Incorporate demonstrations and hands-on presentations into your teaching whenever possible.
- Explain purpose and relevant whenever possible to hook students in to your lesson.
- Maintain your visibility.
- Project your voice and make sure you can be heard clearly by all students. Be aware of competing sounds in your room environment such as heaters and air conditioner.
Tips for helping distracted students
- Seat students up close near the teacher
- Make direct eye contact with this student.
- Clear hands and desk of distractions.
- Make sure child is seated among attentive, well-focused students.
- Positive reinforcement and behaviour modification techniques/incentives can be employed (e.g table points for being attentive and on-task, individual charts, contracts and cards for teacher to give points, stickers, initials, and so on).
- Praise the student when focused: ‘ I like the way Adrian is sitting up and looking at the board’.
- Use private signals and cues that have been arranged with this student to help focus attention. Examples: when teacher points to his/her eyes, it means ‘look’. Pointing to the teacher’s ear means ‘listen’. When the teacher points to and taps his/her chin it means ‘watch my face and pay attention’.
Maintaining attention and keeping student’s involvement
- Keep the lesson clear.
- Present at a snappy, brisk pace.
- Reduce lag time by being prepared.
- Use pictures, diagrams, gestures, manipulative, and high-interest material.
- Structure the lesson so that it can be done in pairs or small groups for maximum student involvement and attention. Cooperative learning is the ideal strategy and structure for keeping students engaged and participating. It is critical teaching skill to learn for today’s classroom.
- Use higher-level questioning techniques, ask questions that are open-ended, require reasoning and stimulate critical thinking and discussion.
- Have students write down brief notes during instruction.
- Use close techniques, provide a study sheet or study guide with key words omitted. Have students fill in the missing words during instruction. Using a teacher-provided study sheet, have students highlight in color the key points. Example of cloze method: ‘this chapter provides suggestions on how to get students’ ____ and keep them ___.
- Call on students with equity, many teacher inadvertently ignore certain students in the classroom. Teachers are generally unaware that they overlook students seated in certain parts of the room, or that they may call on males more frequently than females. Some teachers tend to call on those students who typically can ‘feed back’ the information that the teacher is looking for. Other teacher will deliberately call on students who they think are not prepared or will not know the answer. Statistics in gender/ethnic expectations and student achievement (GESA) prove this to be overwhelmingly so.
Students are very astute and quickly their teachers’ habits and system and their chance of being called on to contribute in class. Students who perceive that they will be required to contribute and speak in front of their peers will remain more attentive. GESA training suggests strategies to ensure that students are called on with greater equity. Teacher may want to try some of the following:
- Use a deck of cards with each student’s name on it. Pick from the deck randomly to call on students, replacing the card back in the deck each time.
- Write the students’ names on Popsicle sticks and pull them at random to call on students.
- Videotape yourself or tape record yourself on occasion to check your own tendencies and observe who you respond to the most. This awareness helps us make a conscious effort to respond to students, we may have been ignoring in the past. Note: I notice that I look toward the left side of the room and respond to those children more frequently than students on the right. I also tend to give more attention to those students who are disruptive than to the quieter students. With this awareness, I am trying to change.
- Have students keep a tally card on their desk, tell them that you are trying to make sure you are being fair in who you call on in class. Ask them to put a tally mark on the card each time that you call on them in class. This can be done for a day, or over a period of a few days or a week. The results can be very revealing to the teacher, and kids are generally happy to cooperate. Students also view random methods as being fair.
- Allow at least 5 seconds of wait time, many students need more time to process the question, gather their thoughts, and be able to express them. Try rephrasing, ask probing questions, and wait longer for a response. Tell students who cannot answer the question that you will come back to them later-then do it.
- Make special arrangements. Be sensitive to students who are often viewed by peers as poor students who never know the answer. Be open to making a special arrangement in private with a student to help bolster their self-esteem. You may try telling the student to go ahead and raise his/her hand with a fist closed, and you will not call on him/her at that time. When the student raises an open hand, you will make every effort to call on the student at that time.
I have heard from my colleagues that this technique is very effective in changing peer perception of individuals who seldom raise their hand. Other classmates are not aware of the fist or open hand and only notice that the student appears to know the answer and wishes to contribute in class.
- Have students actively participate in the lesson to keep them involved and focused, try the following techniques:
- Brainstorm, have students generate ideas related to the topic orally. Teacher writes down all ideas/contributions on the chalkboard, butcher paper, or overhead transparency.
- Turn to your partner (or person across from you, behind you) and discuss for a few minutes or write down with your partner all the things you can think of that.
- Quick writes. Give students a brief amount of time to write in a response to your question or prompt. They then have to read what they wrote to a partner, group, or the whole class.
Methods for unison response
Rather than calling on individual students (which gives the distracted student the opportunity to zone out), try other methods for checking for understanding:
- Use individual whiteboards or chalkboard, each student can keep one at their desk or the teacher can pass them out as needed, when the teacher asks the class a question or has them do a math problem, the students write on their boards, and at the teacher’s signal, hold them up under their chins for the teacher to see.
Note: Many teachers who use individual chalkboards have students bring an old sock or baby bootie to class to store their piece of chalk and use as an eraser.
- Direct instruction methods, hold your hand out with a straight arm while asking your students a question. Make sure they are instructed to watch you carefully, after giving some ‘think time’, drop your arm-preferably with a snap of your fingers or other auditory signal. At this prompt, students all call out the answer in unison.
- Point/tap method. Point to the left of a word (e.g, from a list of words written on the chalkboard or overhead projector). Tell students that whenever you are pointing to a word, they need to be trying to read t he word silently. Tell them that when you tap the word with your pointer or chalk, they are to say the word out loud. Give some think time and then cue: ‘what word’ then tap. At that signal, all students respond in unison. This direct instruction technique is very effective for keeping all students attention when reading lists or charts.
- Yes/no whole class responses. These can be done in a variety of ways. It is recommended that hand signals or held-up cards should be done in such a way that there is communication only between the teacher and the individual students. Teach students to hold up fingers, card and so on under the chin, close to the body, facing forward. This way the rest of the class can’t easily look around and check your answer. Examples may include:
- Thumbs up (yes), thumbs down (no)
- Green card (yes), red card (no)
- Open hand (yes), close hand (no)
- Happy face card (yes), sad face card (no)
- Operation sign cards (for word problems). Students hold up the sign of the operation that is needed to solve the problem.
- Number fans. These are excellent for whole group responses to math problems or other questioning. They can be used for responding to questions such as: (1) I strongly agree; (2) I kind of agree; (3) I disagree. Number fans can be made by writing numerals on cardboard tag cards, hole punch one end and attach with a brad. Students hold up their answer to math problems or math facts.
Keeping students on-task during seat work
- Check for clarity. Make sure directions were clear and understood before sending students back to their seats to work independently
- Give a manageable amount of work that student is capable of doing independently.
- Give other ‘fail proof’ work that student can do in the meantime if he/she is stumped on an assignment and needs to wait for teacher attention or assistance.
- Scan classroom frequently. All students need positive reinforcement. Give positive comments frequently, praising students you observe to be on-task. This serves as a reminder to students who tend to have difficulty.
- Consider using a timer for some students who work well with a ‘beat the clock’ system for work completion.
- Use contracts, charts, and behaviour modification systems for on-task behaviour
- Use response costs and natural consequence for off-task behaviour. Student might ‘owe you time’ at the end of the day, before school, or for part of recess time. If they are on a point system, they may be fined points if a reasonable amount of work isn’t accomplished.
- Make use of study carrels or quiet office areas for seat work.
- Study buddies or partners may be assigned for nay clarification purposes during seat work, especially when the teacher is instructing another group of students while part of the class is doing seat work.
- Signal to the teacher/aide for ‘I need help!’ some teachers use a sign or a colored signal that students may place on their desk that alerts any adult scanning the room that he/she needs assistance.
Related Topics to Consider on ADD/ADHD
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