Making Learning Meaningful
Effective management techniques are essential in every classroom, but they are especially important in classes serving students with ADHD. Because students with ADHD have difficulty maintaining concentration, there are standardized techniques that many instructors use. These include having the student sit close to the teacher, speaking directly to the student while maintaining eye contact, minimizing distractions, creating and keeping a daily routine, and having the student make itemized lists and crossing off tasks as they are accomplished. These techniques help the student function in the classroom, but there is another thing you can do to help these students thrive in a traditional class.
An important aspect in learning is that it be meaningful to the student. A simple way to make any student feel important is to give them a leadership role in your class. This is often misinterpreted and students are given token classroom jobs: collecting papers, line leaders, supply dispensers. These are legitimate jobs that must be done but they do not put the student in a leadership role. Oftentimes they are just an alternative discipline technique. We are underestimating students if we believe they are unaware of the fact they are often given a job because it is something that can be taken away when their behavior falls under our expectations.
Creating an authentic leadership opportunity for students with ADHD takes some careful thought. The goal is to help the student recognize and appreciate his or her unique skill sets. It's also important to encourage other students to view their classmates with ADHD as an integral part of the community rather than a frequent disruption.
Students with ADHD share some common characteristics, both positive and negative. They are important to think about when creating leadership opportunities. But it is even more important to get away from looking at the student with ADHD as a group of symptoms. Every child has a talent. The key is to find it, develop it, and show them how to use it to their advantage.
Do you have a student who shows his creativity by doodling on everything? Would you like to spend less time on classroom art such as posters, themes, bulletin boards? Let him lead a small group of students who could take care of this classroom task under your direction. The entire classroom will become a source of pride for this student.
Is there a student who can't sit still? She might be a good choice to plan outdoor activities in which the entire class can participate. What about the student who loves to talk and draw attention to himself? Let him be in charge of classroom visitors. He can interview and introduce them to the class. Not only will this allow him to do what he loves, but it will also help him invest in the outcome of the visit – an incentive to let someone else bask in the limelight for a while!
With a little creative thinking, and a little more flexibility, students with ADHD can be successful participants in your classroom.