Students with ADHD must be taught strategies to promote appropriate and stay on-task behavior. Students with ADHD have persistent patterns of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity and difficulty with working memory. Therefore, strategies are needed for students to control their own inattention and/or impulses.
Educators need to teach students what appropriate and on-task behavior is and use visual models for reminders. Strategies include having choices, using movement in lessons, praising students, taking breaks, checklists, peer modeling, and visuals. Students with ADHD can use these strategies to self-monitor themselves and become more independent.
The Positive Effects of Providing Students with ADHD Strategies to Promote Appropriate and On-Task Behaviors in an Inclusive Classroom
Students with ADHD need to be explicitly taught strategies to promote appropriate behavior and on-task behavior. Students with ADHD have a difficulty with working memory. Strategies to have appropriate behavior and on-task behavior include visuals, taking breaks, student choice, positive classroom environment, praise, and peer modeling. After educators teach these strategies, students with ADHD can use self-monitoring skills, such as a checklist, to promote independence. By teaching the students with ADHD independence practices, it will increase their knowledge in academics and carry over of good practices for the future.
Students with ADHD learn a in different way from typical students. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- 5th edition (DSM V), a person who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) displays a “persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development,” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Students with ADHD have difficulty with taking turns, often appear to not look at the person speaking to them, and/or tends to interrupt others’ conversations, (Daley ; Birchwood, 2010). Educators need to teach students strategies such as modeling conversations and taking turns with friends.
“Neuro-imaging studies of children with ADHD have shown a decreased size of the prefrontal cortex (Hill et al. 2002; Mostofsky et al. 2002); therefore, there are expected deficits in certain prefrontal executive functions, such as response inhibition and working memory,” (Daley ; Birchwood, 2010). Students who struggle with working memory will also need skills to help them memorize strategies for appropriate and on-task behaviors.
Appropriate behavior can be defined in different ways. In the classroom, the educator must establish what appropriate behavior means and what it looks like. A strategy to show students what appropriate behavior is would be to provide them with visuals, (DuPaul, et al., 2011). The educator could first explain in words and pictures different situations of appropriate behavior. An appropriate behavior in math class may not be appropriate behavior during English class.
The educator could also model the appropriate behaviors. The educator could show the students what they should be doing by doing it her/himself. Educators can also have students act it out. This will give students peer models of how to act appropriately, (DuPaul, et al., 2011). Students with ADHD need to be taught explicitly how to act appropriately and should have some sort of reminder to remind them what appropriate behavior looks like. This reminder could be a sticky note on their desk, a small book with pictures of him/herself acting appropriately during different subjects, or an app on an iPad to show the student a video of what appropriate behavior looks like.
The student could also have a self-monitoring checklist of the steps for appropriate behavior, (Daley ; Birchwood, 2010). For example, during English, a checklist, made of words and/or pictures, could be a picture of a person sitting in a chair with both feet on the floor, pencil and paper on desk, book turned to the correct page, and finger pointing to the words. The student could physically check each step off the list and then give themselves a star or a sticker on a chart when they are have completed all of those steps. Once the sticker chart is complete the student could earn a prize! (DuPaul, et al., 2011).
Educators need to establish appropriate behaviors across all subjects by providing classroom rules. After educators read the classroom rules, they need to model what each rule means, (Dupaul, et al., 2016). For example, if one classroom rule was keep hands, feet, and objects to themselves, the educator would have to give examples of what that looks like. If a student wanted a hug, the appropriate thing to do would be to give a high-five, indicating to the student hugs are not appropriate but high-fives are appropriate.
For students who are visual learners, the rules would be posted in the front of the room with a picture alongside each rule. For students with ADHD, educators could tape a smaller list of the rules or just the pictures, depending on student preference, on the students’ desks. That way the educator can remind one student if they are not following the rules by pointing to the rule on the list on their desk.
Along with establishing the classroom rules, the educator could have the students sign a class contract. Class contracts hold students accountable for following the rules. The educator could also sign the contract, indicating the rules also apply to her and any other staff that enter the classroom. Educators could also have a behavior management system that is based around the rules and have students monitor their own behavior each day. An example would be if the students were on green when they first entered the classroom and then broke a rule within that the day, the students would move down to yellow.
The educator would assist the students by telling them what rule they broke and what they could do to improve their behavior in the future. After a month or two of discussing it with the students, it would become the students’ responsibility to think about what rule they broke and how they can have appropriate behavior. If need be, the educator could review the rules and what each rule means. On a positive side, if the student is consistently following the rules, they can move up in a color and earn a reinforcement for following the rules.
Educators who teach appropriate behavior also need to teach on-task behavior. Students with ADHD need reminders to stay on-task during academic work. An article titled Building Bridges with Students who have ADHD by Lisa Medoff explains strategies to assist students to stay on-task during academic work. One strategy Medoff explains is “rather than trying to calm down on off-task behaviors, use them to get to know students better,” (Medoff, 2016). Medoff uses the example of doing five math problems with the student and then the student can share a story.
Another example is during writing, the student writes one paragraph and then listens to music. This is especially good to start with students if they can only focus for a certain amount of time. As an educator, I would start with a baseline of how long my student with ADHD can attend to a task. I would then increase the amount of time by creating breaks for the student. During the breaks, the student could do something they enjoy such as listening to music or playing a game.
Another Strategy Medoff explains is “try as much as you can to accommodate the needs of students with ADHD,” (Medoff, 2016). Students can choose what writing utensil they want to use, where they want to sit, and/or to work alone or with friends. By choosing small items or areas, students can increase the amount of time that they can stay on-task.
Students in my classroom can choose to sit on a yoga ball, in a chair with arms, in a chair without arms, on a circle cushion, or on a wedge. Students can also have the option to write on a dry erase board or paper. Students who have some choices within the class feel they have more power and increased power to your students makes them feel important, (Dupaul et. al., 2011).
In the article Medoff agrees by saying, “giving the students choices about what they think might work best for them and can set the stage for a trusting relationship,” (Medoff, 2016). Having an open and trusting relationship with your students is key to a successful classroom management plan and keeping the students attending to you and the academic task.
To have trusting relationships means to have a positive classroom environment as well. Medoff’s next strategy includes limiting negative interactions with challenging students. Students can pick up on negative interactions with educators and therefore distract them from staying on task. Educators need students to feel comfortable with them, enough so that they can confined in them when they are frustrated. As a final strategy, Medoff discuss it the hardest one to keep consistent, “be patient,” (Medoff, 2016). Students need to know that the educator is not going to give up on them. Educators who have good relationships with their students are more likely to see the students succeed.
After the strategy to stay on-task has been taught, students with ADHD can also be taught how to self-monitor to stay on-task during academic work. Self-monitoring “involves the individual setting goals for classwork completion and accuracy, monitoring these goals and administering rewards upon successful completion, (Daley & Birchwood, 2010). Self-monitoring strategies can be checklists such as the previous example of appropriate behavior.
In my classroom, I had a student with ADHD, student E. This student struggled with consistent appropriate behavior and staying on-task during academic work. Student E would yell inappropriate comments in the middle of a lesson. A strategy I used was modeling appropriate behavior and giving Student E sentence stems. I would also say to him, “Is what you are about to say appropriate for school?” If he answered yes, I would let him answer.
If he said no it’s not appropriate, I asked him to change it to be appropriate or keep it to himself. We discussed early in the year what appropriate answers or comments were. If he didn’t know if it was appropriate, I would have him whisper it to me or write it down and give it to me, after which I would tell him if it was or was not appropriate. If appropriate, he could say it aloud. If not, he had to reconsider his words or keep them to himself.
Student E also struggled with staying on-task because it was difficult for him to sit for long periods of time. A strategy that assisted him to stay on-task was adding movement into each lesson. This could include giving him the option to stand behind his desk or sit on a yoga ball. It could also be asking questions and tossing a ball around to each student as they answer the question. Adding movement into each lesson was a big motivator for this student to pay attention and stay on-task.
Student E also struggled with writing. I told him to write a sentence and then take two minutes for a break to draw, (Medoff, 2016). After he wrote the sentence, I would check it to make sure it was correct and then he would set the timer for his break. I could have also extended it to two sentences and a one-minute or three-minute break. I would have also added a self-monitoring strategy that Student E could control to track when he is off-task and how often he needs a break, (Daley & Birchwood, 2010).
These strategies would work for him, however, as he mastered the strategy he would become bored and find different ways to have inappropriate behavior and/or become off task. I would have to rotate my strategies and use the ones that fit best for him at that time. Using new strategies for different subjects, rotating strategies between different months, or using strategies that are themed to different holidays may assist students with ADHD. Choice was also a great motivator for Student E, (DuPaul et. at., 2011).
Student E liked to choose what writing utensil he would like to use, if he wanted to work alone or with a partner, and if he wanted to sit or stand. I would also praise student E whenever he had appropriate behavior or on-task behavior, (DuPaul, et al., 2011). Praising the student by saying “great job on staying on-task” or “that was a great appropriate answer,” or giving a student a high five, showed student E instantly that he did a great job and to keep it going.
Students with ADHD who are taught strategies to promote appropriate behavior and on-task behavior are more successful. Students with ADHD need choices, praise, breaks, movement, visuals, peer models, and reminders to use appropriate behavior and stay on-task. Students with ADHD can be more independent by self-monitoring their own success with these strategies. Student E was successful by rotating the strategies that he learned and can use different strategies in different settings.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.
- Daley, D., & Birchwood, J., (2010) ADHD and academic performance: Why does ADHD impact on academic performance and what can be done to support ADHD children in the classroom? Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Child: care, health and development, 36, 455-464.
- DuPaul, G., Weyandt, L., Janusis G., (2011) ADHD in the classroom: Effective intervention strategies. Theory Into Practice, 50, 35-42.
- Hill, D. A., Yeo, R. A., Campbell, R. A., Hart, B., Vigill, J. & Brooks, W. (2002) Magnetic resonance imaging correlates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children. Neuropsychology, 17, 496-506.
- Medoff, L., (2016). Building bridges with students who have ADHD. Educational Leadership. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. 45-48. Retrieved from ASCD. Org.
- Mostofsky, S.H., Cooper, K. L., Kates, W. R., Denckla, M.B., & Kaugmann, W.E. (2002) Smaller prefrontal and premotor volumes in boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 52, 785-794.