Engaging students with attention issues and ADHD—rather than just managing their behavior—should be a goal for every teacher. Teachers worry, though, that they will have to create a separate curriculum or otherwise alter how they teach.
Not so, said Ezra Werb, M.Ed., an educational therapist and author, in his edWebinar “Engagement Strategies for Students with Attention Challenges: Lower Anxiety and Raise Confidence.” During his presentation, he offered strategies to lessen the anxieties of students with attention issues. These strategies can also raise their confidence, so they can meet the same goals as their peers who do not struggle with attention issues.
1. Get interest rates up. Students’ interests aren’t talked about enough or used to a teacher’s advantage, said Werb. By meeting students in their areas of expertise, anxiety goes down and interest goes up.
2. Let out the fizz. For students with sensory or hyperactivity disorders, the typical student desk can be detrimental. Maybe it’s too big for the kid and their feet dangle, or maybe the seat is too hard. While one solution won’t work for all, teachers can experiment with adjusting desks, providing footstools, or even letting kids sit on sweatshirts to allow them to focus on the lessons.
3. Make a long story feel short. Many students with attention issues also have a language processing disorder. It can be hard for a teacher to tell where one begins and the other ends. Werb found that frontloading required texts helps many students. For instance, he would explain the main characters, setting, key plot points, unfamiliar slang or anything that he thought would help them feel comfortable with the text. Other strategies include showing them the movie, letting them read the graphic novel version, or following along with the text while listening to the audiobook.
4. Send them in the write direction. Whenever possible, he advocated for letting kids use technology. Being able to use a word processing program can provide immediate help for many students. For those with more complex issues, Werb found that letting them use slide presentation programs where the students can easily add graphics, organize their ideas shapes and colors, and move around their content can tap into their strengths as a learner. He also let students use speech-to-text programs.
5. Teach in high definition. This means that every assignment, print or digital, should be as visually clear as possible. For example, he suggested that instead of cramming every math problem possible on a page, teachers space out the problems and make the page look less crowded.
Excerpted from “5 strategies to engage students with attention issues” by Stacey Pusey, education communications consultant and writer. Read the full article in eSchool News.