Classroom management techniques

Teachers can help learners diagnosed with ADHD, to function optimally in class by applying the principles of effective teaching when they introduce, conduct, and conclude each lesson. The following effective teaching principles can be followed:

Introducing lessons

Very important principal: Structure the lesson carefully

Explain what the learning outcomes of the current lesson are, and place it in the context of the previous lessons. Using an overview mind map of the subject curriculum for the year, as well as an overview mind map of the current theme can do this.

The learners need to know what the expectations are with regards to the outcomes of the lesson, and HOW to behave in class (this might need to be taught explicitly to ADHD learners).

A number of teaching-related practices have been found especially useful in facilitating this process:

  • Provide an advance organiser. Prepare learners for the day’s lesson by quickly summarizing the order of various activities planned. Explain, for example, that a review of the previous lesson will be followed by new information and that both group and independent work will be expected.
  • Review previous lessons. Review information about previous lessons on this topic. For example, remind children that yesterday’s lesson focused on learning how to regroup in subtraction. Review several problems before describing the current lesson.
  • Set learning expectations. State what learners are expected to learn during the lesson. For example, explain to learners that a language arts lesson will involve reading a story about Mandela and identifying new vocabulary words in the story.
  • Set behavioural expectations. Describe how learners are expected to behave during the lesson. For example, tell children that they may talk quietly to their neighbours as they do their seatwork or they may raise their hands to get your attention.
  • State needed materials. Identify all materials that the children will need during the lesson, rather than leaving them to figure out on their own the materials required. For example, specify that children need their journals and pencils for journal writing or their crayons, scissors, and coloured paper for an art project.
  • Explain additional resources. Tell learners how to obtain help in mastering the lesson. For example, refer children to a particular page in the textbook for guidance on completing a worksheet or give the learner an example of a completed task.
  • Simplify instructions, choices, and scheduling. The simpler the expectations communicated to an ADHD learner, the more likely it is that he or she will comprehend and complete them in a timely and productive manner.

Conducting lessons

In order to conduct the most productive lessons for children with ADHD, effective teachers need to incorporate the following in their lessons:

  • Periodically question children’s understanding of the material
  • Probe for correct answers before calling on other learners, and
  • Identify which learners need additional assistance.

Teachers should keep in mind that transitions from one lesson or class to another are particularly difficult for learners with ADHD. When they are prepared for transitions, these children are more likely to respond and to stay on task.

The following set of strategies may assist teachers in conducting effective lessons:

Be predictable. Structure and consistency are very important for children with ADHD; many do not deal well with change. Minimal rules and minimal choices are best for these children. They need to understand clearly what is expected of them, as well as the consequences for not adhering to expectations.

Support the learner’s participation in the classroom. Provide learners with ADHD with private, discreet cues to stay on task and advance warning that they will be called upon shortly. Avoid bringing attention to differences between ADHD learners and their classmates. At all times, avoid the use of sarcasm and criticism.

Use audio-visual materials. Use a variety of audio-visual materials to present academic lessons. For example, use an overhead projector to demonstrate how to solve an addition problem requiring regrouping. The learners can work on the problem at their desks while you manipulate counters on the projector screen.

Check learner performance. Question individual learners to assess their mastery of the lesson. For example, you can ask learners doing seatwork (i.e., lessons completed by learners at their desks in the classroom) to demonstrate how they arrived at the answer to a problem, or you can ask individual learners to state, in their own words, how the main character felt at the end of the story.

Ask probing questions. Probe for the correct answer after allowing a child sufficient time to work out the answer to a question. Count at least 15 seconds before giving the answer or calling on another learner. Ask follow-up questions that give children an opportunity to demonstrate what they know.

Perform on-going learner evaluation. Identify learners who need additional assistance. Watch for signs of lack of comprehension, such as daydreaming or visual or verbal indications of frustration. Provide these children with extra explanations, or ask another learner to serve as a peer tutor for the lesson.

Help learners correct their own mistakes. Describe how learners can identify and correct their own mistakes. For example, remind learners that they should check their calculations in math problems and reiterate how they can check their calculations; remind learners of particularly difficult spelling rules and how learners can watch out for easy-to-make errors.

Help learners focus. Remind learners to keep working and to focus on their assigned task. For example, you can provide follow-up directions or assign learning partners. These practices can be directed at individual children or at the entire class.

Follow-up directions. Effective teachers of children with ADHD also guide them with follow-up directions:

  • Oral directions. After giving directions to the class as a whole, provide additional oral directions for a child with ADHD. For example, ask the child if he or she understood the directions and repeat the directions together.
  • Written directions. Provide follow-up directions in writing. For example, write the page number for an assignment on the chalkboard and remind the child to look at the chalkboard if he or she forgets the assignment.

Lower noise level. Monitor the noise level in the classroom, and provide corrective feedback, as needed. If the noise level exceeds the level appropriate for the type of lesson, remind all learners—or individual learners—about the behavioural rules stated at the beginning of the lesson.

Divide work into smaller units. Break down assignments into smaller, less complex tasks. For example, allow learners to complete five math problems before presenting them with the remaining five problems.

Highlight key points. Highlight key words in the instructions on worksheets to help the child with ADHD focus on the directions. Prepare the worksheet before the lesson begins, or underline key words as you and the child read the directions together. When reading, show children how to identify and highlight a key sentence, or have them write it on a separate piece of paper, before asking for a summary of the entire book. In math, show children how to underline the important facts and operations; in “Mary has two apples, and John has three,” underline “two,” “and,” and “three.”

Eliminate or reduce frequency of timed tests. Tests that are timed may not allow children with ADHD to demonstrate what they truly know due to their potential preoccupation with elapsed time. Allow learners with ADHD more time to complete quizzes and tests in order to eliminate “test anxiety,” and provide them with other opportunities, methods, or test formats to demonstrate their knowledge.

Use cooperative learning strategies. Have learners work together in small groups to maximize their own and each other’s learning. Use strategies such as Think-Pair-Share where teachers ask learners to think about a topic, pair with a partner to discuss it, and share ideas with the group. (Slavin, 2002).

Use assistive technology. All learners, and those with ADHD in particular, can benefit from the use of technology (such as computers and projector screens), which makes instruction more visual and allows learners to participate actively.

Concluding lessons

Effective teachers conclude their lessons by providing advance warning that the lesson is about to end, checking the completed assignments of at least some of the learners with ADHD, and instructing learners how to begin preparing for the next activity.

Provide advance warnings. Provide advance warning that a lesson is about to end. Announce 5 or 10 minutes before the end of the lesson (particularly for seatwork and group projects) how much time remains. You may also want to tell learners at the beginning of the lesson how much time they will have to complete it.

Check assignments. Check completed assignments for at least some learners. Review what they have learned during the lesson to get a sense of how ready the class was for the lesson and how to plan the next lesson.

Preview the next lesson. Instruct learners on how to begin preparing for the next lesson. For example, inform children that they need to put away their textbooks and come to the front of the room for a large-group spelling lesson.