Critical skills to teach ADD/ADHD students
Critical skills to teach ADD/ADHD students-There is an outstanding program that is being used in many school districts that trains students in the above skills as well as in several learning strategies such as active reading, taking notes, mapping written materials, proofreading, studying for tests, and using reference books. The program, skills for school success, by Dr. Anita Archer Mary Gleason, curriculum association, Inc. is very effective and successful in teaching students these important lifetime skills and strategy. Many schools are using skills for school success as a school-wide program, so students have the training and consistency across grade levels and the opportunity to truly internalize the organizational and study skills taught.
A major component of the skills for school success program is the consistent use of a standard three-ring note book with subject dividers and side pockets (for take-home/leave home and take-home/return papers). Students are also given a plastic pouch for supplies and a monthly calendar for recording all assignments.
Student need to be taught how to use a monthly calendar and record assignments on their due date. As Dr. Archer point out, the ‘due date’ is not, as many students believe, the day you are supposed to ‘do’ the assignment. Parents need to expect notebooks home daily and check the assignment calendar and side pocked with the student. Dr. Archer recommends having a laminated card stating ‘no homework tonight’ which is given to students to place in the side pocket of their notebooks when indeed there is no specific homework assignment that evening.
Methods for recording homework assignments and organizing work area and materials
ADD/ADHD students often have trouble recording homework assignments in any format (on a monthly calendar or daily/weekly homework sheet). Try the following to assure that assignments are being recorded accurately:
- Assign a peer study buddy, this student will assist in making sure all assignments are recorded on the assignment sheet or calendar. Usually study buddies are seated at the same table or next to each other.
- Make sure all assignments are written on the board, not just given orally.
- At the time you give assignments for each subject, have students open to their assignment calendars and record along with you at that time. If you have an overhead projector, it is ideal to make a transparency of the assignment calendar and lead students through the recording of their assignments.
- Students who have particular trouble with these skills may do better with a daily action list. After recording assignments on the calendar (including tests, book reports, and any projects due), help students with writing a things-to-do list. Daily things-to-do lists where students cross off items as they are completed are very effective.
- Leave a couple of minutes at the end of the school day to review all homework, have a quick check to make sure necessary books and supplies are going home, and so on.
- Communicate with parents when there is a problem with homework, make sure they know your system and what you are doing to provide extra help. Parents need to do their part to help with homework, organization, and study skills.
- Teach your expectations for materials that you expect in class at all times (e.g., sharpened pencils with erasers, notebook paper). When students come to class unprepared, give them inferior, less desirable materials as substitutes (e.g., backside of ditto paper; old, chewed-up pencils). This will show that you are serious about your expectations. Don’t reinforce poor study skills and irresponsibility by allowing them to borrow desirable materials from you or their neighbours, particularly on a regular basis.
- Have schedules and unscheduled notebook checks/desk checks, and reward students for good organization (e.g., special certificates, ‘no homework tonight’ passes, special privileges)
- Collect homework! Either have a specific place for turning assignments in each day or go student-to-student and collect it directly.
- Provide for clean-out times for students to sort and clean out their desks and notebooks. Students with problems in organization need an adult to help them sort and dump (recycle) unnecessary papers periodically. Use an aide, volunteer, or very organized student buddy for this purpose.
- Make sure homework is review work or practice work, not new information that the student has to figure out on his/her own with a parent.
- If student/parent reports that he/she is spending hours each night on homework, modify that work, cut the workload.
How to help students with written work organization
- Teach consistent standards of work (e.g., on notebook paper, write on every other line, include a heading with name, date, subject, and page number). Skills for school success is excellent for teaching students these standards and the importance of neat, quality work.
- Teach student to space properly and avoid crowding by placing his/her index finger between each word to avoid crowding.
- Lightly draw in left and right margins on paper for students and teach them not to cross the boundary lines.
- Many students try writing without anchoring their paper on the desk. Often they write whole propping up their heads with their other arm, teach/require that one arm or hand should anchor the paper. If it’s a real problem, try adhesive to keep paper down on desk.
- ADD/ADHD students make numerous careless errors and frequently need to make erasures-resulting in torn, messy papers. I recommend that they use heavier, thicker paper that doesn’t rip so easily. It is also easier and kinder to accept neat cross-outs (one line through word) with caret (^) and correction above the line. Even if you don’t allow this for the rest of your class, it is very helpful for students who struggle with written output.
- Teach proportion of letters for younger students by referring to the top line as the ‘head line’, middle line as the ‘belt line’, and the bottom line as the ‘foot line’.
Remind students about the relative size of their letters: remember, the humps on the letter m come up to the belt line and not higher.
- Math problems are often hard to organize on paper. Require students to leave lots of space between problems and to number and circle the number of each problem. It is often helpful to have students use graph paper for math problems or to use notebook paper written on sideways (with lines going down the page, rather than across the page). Any pre-line paper that helps students keep their columns aligned properly is helpful.
How to avoid visual clutter
Students with ADD/ADHD and/or students with visual processing problems have trouble focusing when there is visual clutter distracting them.
Help these children focus by trying the following:
- Provide handouts and tests that are dark copies, double or triple-spaced and easy to read (not too cluttered).
- Try to erase unnecessary writing on the chalkboard, use color whenever possible to catch attention. White boards are preferable to chalkboards (because of lack of dust and ability to use different colors)
- Avoid clutter on desks, help students keep as little as possible on their desk tops.
- Color-coded file folders for student’s use are helpful
- Placing colored sticker (dot) on outside cover of texts often helps student locate book more quickly. For example, blue dot=writer’s corner, green dot=reader’s corner.
- Make sure student has adequate storage space and as few materials to worry about as possible.
- Require students to carry a backpack of book bag.
- If younger students don’t use a notebook, you may want to use a large, laminated envelope with students’ names printed on it for the take-home system.
- You may want to try an organizational system in your room with tubs or trays labelled ‘to be checked’, corrected work to return, needs help. Students know precisely where to turn in work to be checked by the teacher. Teacher assistants, aides, and parent volunteers can come into your room, pull assignments from the ‘needs help’ tray and assist individual students.
- Divide all long-term, major projects into smaller segments. Give time frames and sequence for each segment. Teach your specific expectations for each part and communicate clearly the date each part is to be done. Make sure you collect and give feedback on each segment. Remember that ADD/ADHD students have particular difficulty on such projects. Tap their interests, give extra assistance and communicate with parents so they can help.
Time management/organization techniques
- Help with individual time management and organization by taping a cardboard clock face to their desks with the hands on the time that individual students need to leave the room for various pull-out services. Write the time in words and numbers as an extra reminder for student.
- Help students make schedules. Tape them to desk.
- Some students could be helped with time management by using a 10-minutes or 15-minute timer. If you don’t find this system too annoying of distracting, allow an ADD/ADHD student to set the timer for individual seat work. If the assignment is completed with accuracy within that time frame, the teacher or aids reinforces according to a contract.
Helping students organize their ideas
Specific strategies for cognitive organization such as pre-writing, story mapping, learning how to read and determine the ‘meat of the text’, knowing how to organize steps for solving math problems, and other skills will be discussed in the academic strategy sections. These are all difficult skills for a number of children, particularly students with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder. Teachers need to break down these skills and be able to teach them to their students.