Much can be gained from altering the learning context. This is particularly important because children spend 6 to 7 hours per day for at least 13 years in classrooms. In addition, teachers understand their job as affecting learning through the management of tasks, instruction, and learning contexts.
Modify the classroom environment to reduce the negative impact of this disability
Although youth with ADHD exhibit more activity than classmates in most types of settings, their level of activity does change. Similar to their classmates, students with ADHD can reduce their activity for limited periods of time often until recess or until they arrive home (Madan-Swain & Zentall, 1990). Even though many can comply with setting requirements, it is difficult for them to do so, and it may focus their behavior on inhibition rather than on learning.
It is equally difficult for teachers to manage their behavior. In fact, teachers of elementary students with ADHD describe managing the quantity of their students’ activity as one of their most difficult tasks (Safran & Safran, 1985). See the cartoon below. Perhaps part of the reason for this difficulty is that teachers expect that they must reduce activity rather than redirect it. Strategies to redirect activity include structuring classroom spaces and children’s active responses.
Modify the structure in the classroom without making it restrictive or repetitive
Setting structure. Structure can guide physical responding with “what to do” and thereby reduce physical off-task behavior equally for students with and without ADHD (Madan-Swain & Zentall, 1990; Zentall & Leib, 1985). Note that behavioral guidance is more appropriate for children with ADHD-H than for those with ADHD-I because of the former’s excessive activity. However, “structure” should not be mistaken for “a very placid classroom, with traditional seating arrangements in neat rows of desks, students’ heads bowed quietly over worksheets, one student at a time raising his or her hand to respond to the teacher’s questions, and so forth. In fact these types of classrooms and teaching styles are often the worst environments for students with AD/HD” (Rief, 1998, p. 24).
Activity rules. Rules can be used to provide guidance for children’s active responses. There are “do rules” and “don’t rules.” “Don’t rules” can be helpful in reducing aggression.
More importantly and more often neglected are “do rules.” The following are some best practices for establishing “do rules”:
Teaching Strategies: Taking Responsibility in Small Steps
- Do stay on topic when talking or entering a group.
- Do set deadlines earlier than the due date to create urgency. Reward yourself with prizes for early drafts.
- Do ask questions why you don't know what to do or when you want to know if you can change something.
- Do plan ahead for wait time (e.g., have other activities on hand).
- Do decide what part of the problem you are willing to accept responsibility for and what part you are not.
- Do stick to the facts- what happened without blame and how am I going to fix it without excuses.
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