In addition to the general strategies listed before for introducing, conducting, and concluding their lessons, effective teachers of learners with ADHD also individualise their instructional practices in accordance with different academic subjects and the needs of their learners within each area. This is because children with ADHD have different ways of learning and retaining information, not all of which involve traditional reading and listening. Effective teachers first identify areas in which each child requires extra assistance and then use special strategies to provide structured opportunities for the child to review and master an academic lesson that was previously presented to the entire class. Strategies that may help facilitate this goal include the following (grouped by subject area):
Language arts and reading comprehension
To help children with ADHD who are poor readers improve there reading comprehension skills, try the following instructional practices:
Silent reading time. Establish a fixed time each day for silent reading (e.g., D.E.A.R.: Drop Everything and Read and Sustained Silent Reading [Manzo & Zehr, 1998 and Holt & O’Tuel, 1989]).
Follow-along reading: Ask the child to read a story silently while listening to other learners or the teacher read the story aloud to the entire class.
Partner reading activities: Pair the child with ADHD with another learner partner who is a strong reader. The partners take turns reading orally and listening to each other.
Storyboards: Ask the child to make storyboards that illustrate the sequence of main events in a story.
Storytelling: Schedule storytelling sessions where the child can retell a story that he or she has read recently.
Playacting: Schedule playacting sessions where the child can role-play different characters in a favourite story.
Word bank. Keep a word bank or dictionary of new or “hard-to-read” sight-vocabulary words
Board games for reading comprehension: Play board games that provide practice with target reading-comprehension skills or sight-vocabulary words.
Computer games for reading comprehension: Schedule computer time for the child to have drill-and-practice with sight vocabulary words.
Recorded books: These materials, available from many libraries, can stimulate interest in traditional reading and can be used to reinforce and complement reading lessons.
“Backup” materials for home use: Make available to learners a second set of books and materials that they can use at home.
Summary materials. Allow and encourage learners to use published book summaries, synopses, and digests of major reading assignments to review (not replace) reading assignments.
To help children with ADHD master rules of phonics, the following are effective:
Mnemonics for phonics: Teach the child mnemonics that provide reminders about hard-to-learn phonics rules (e.g., “when two vowels go walking, the first does the talking”) (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2000).
Word families: Teach the child to recognize and read word families that illustrate particular phonetic concepts (e.g., “ph” sounds, “at-bat-cat”).
Board games for phonics: Have learners play board games, such as bingo, that allow them to practice phonetically irregular words.
Computer games for phonics: Use a computer to provide opportunities for learners to drill and practice with phonics or grammar lessons.
Picture-letter charts. Use these for children who know sounds but do not know the letters that go with them.
In composing stories or other writing assignments, children with ADHD benefit from the following practices:
Standards for writing assignments: Identify and teach the child classroom standards for acceptable written work, such as format and style.
Recognizing parts of a story: Teach the learner how to describe the major parts of a story (e.g., plot, main characters, setting, conflict, and resolution). Use a storyboard with parts listed for this purpose.
Post office: Establish a post office in the classroom, and provide learners with opportunities to write, mail, and receive letters to and from their classmates and teacher.
Visualize compositions: Ask the child to close his or her eyes and visualize a paragraph that the teacher reads aloud. Another variation of this technique is to ask a learner to describe a recent event while the other learners close their eyes and visualize what is being said as a written paragraph.
Proofread compositions: Require that the child proofread his or her work before turning in written assignments. Provide the child with a list of items to check when proofreading his or her own work.
Tape recorders: Ask the learner to dictate writing assignments into a tape recorder, as an alternative to writing them.
Dictate writing assignments: Have the teacher or another learner write down a story told by a child with ADHD.
To help children with ADHD who are poor spellers, the following techniques have been found to be helpful:
Everyday examples of hard-to-spell words: Take advantage of everyday events to teach difficult spelling words in context. For example, ask a child eating a cheese sandwich to spell “sandwich.”
Frequently used words: Assign spelling words that the child routinely uses in his or her speech each day.
Dictionary of misspelled words: Ask the child to keep a personal dictionary of frequently misspelled words.
Partner spelling activities: Pair the child with another learner. Ask the partners to quiz each other on the spelling of new words. Encourage both learners to guess the correct spelling.
Manipulatives: Use cut-out letters or other manipulatives to spell out hard-to-learn words.
Color-coded letters: Colour code different letters in hard-to-spell words (e.g., “receipt”).
Movement activities: Combine movement activities with spelling lessons (e.g., jump rope while spelling words out loud).
Word banks: Use 3″ x 5″ index cards of frequently misspelled words sorted alphabetically.
Learners with ADHD who have difficulty with manuscript or cursive writing may well benefit from their teacher’s use of the following instructional practices:
Individual chalkboards: Ask the child to practice copying and erasing the target words on a small, individual chalkboard. Two children can be paired to practice their target words together.
Quiet places for handwriting: Provide the child with a special “quiet place” (e.g., a table outside the classroom) to complete his or her handwriting assignments.
Spacing words on a page: Teach the child to use his or her finger to measure how much space to leave between each word in a written assignment.
Special writing paper: Ask the child to use special paper with vertical lines to learn to space letters and words on a page.
Structured programs for handwriting: Teach handwriting skills through a structured program, such as Jan Olsen’s Handwriting Without Tears program (Olsen, 2003).
Numerous individualised instructional practices can help children with ADHD improve their basic computation skills. The following are just a few:
Patterns in math: Teach the learner to recognize patterns when adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing whole numbers. (E.g., the digits of numbers which are multiples of 9 [18, 27, 36 . . .] add up to 9).
Partnering for math activities: Pair a child with ADHD with another learner and provide opportunities for the partners to quiz each other about basic computation skills.
Mastery of math symbols: If children do not understand the symbols used in math, they will not be able to do the work. For instance, do they understand that the “plus” in 1 + 3 means to add and that the “minus” in 5 – 3 means to take away?
Mnemonics for basic computation: Teach the child mnemonics that describe basic steps in computing whole numbers. For example, “Don’t Miss Susie’s Boat” can be used to help the learner recall the basic steps in long division (i.e., divide, multiply, subtract, and bring down).
Real-life examples of money skills: Provide the child with real-life opportunities to practice target money skills. For example, ask the child to calculate his or her change when paying for lunch in the school cafeteria, or set up a class store where children can practice calculating change.
Colour coding arithmetic symbols: Colour code basic arithmetic symbols, such as +, –, and =, to provide visual cues for children when they are computing whole numbers.
Calculators to check basic computation: Ask the child to use a calculator to check addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.
Board games for basic computation: Ask the child to play board games to practice adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers.
Computer games for basic computation: Schedule computer time for the child to drill and practice basic computations, using appropriate games.
“Magic minute” drills: Have learners perform a quick (60-second) drill every day to practice basic computation of math facts, and have children track their own performance.
Solving math and word problems
To help children with ADHD improve their skill in solving word problems in mathematics, try the following:
Reread the problem: Teach the child to read a word problem two times before beginning to compute the answer.
Clue words: Teach the child clue words that identify which operation to use when solving word problems. For example, words such as “sum,” “total,” or “all together” may indicate an addition operation.
Guiding questions for word problems: Teach learners to ask guiding questions in solving word problems. For example: What is the question asked in the problem? What information do you need to figure out the answer? What operation should you use to compute the answer?
Real-life examples of word problems: Ask the learner to create and solve word problems that provide practice with specific target operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. These problems can be based on recent, real-life events in the child’s life.
Calculators to check word problems: Ask the learner to use a calculator to check computations made in answering assigned word problems.
Use of special materials in math
Some children with ADHD benefit from using special materials to help them complete their math assignments, including:
Number lines. Provide number lines for the child to use when computing whole numbers.
Manipulatives. Use manipulatives to help learners gain basic computation skills, such as counting poker chips when adding single-digit numbers.
Graph paper. Ask the child to use graph paper to help organise columns when adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing whole numbers.
Organizational and study skills useful for academic instruction of children with ADHD
Many learners with ADHD are easily distracted and have difficulty focusing their attention on assigned tasks. However, the following practices can help children with ADHD improve their organization of homework and other daily assignments:
Designate one teacher as the learner’s advisor or coordinator. This teacher will regularly review the learner’s progress through progress reports submitted by other teachers and will act as the liaison between home and school. Permit the learner to meet with this advisor on a regular basis (e.g., Monday morning) to plan and organise for the week and to review progress and problems from the past week.
Assignment notebooks: Provide the child with an assignment notebook to help organise homework and other seatwork.
Color-coded folders: Provide the child with color-coded folders to help organise assignments for different academic subjects (e.g., reading, mathematics, social science, and science).
Work with a homework partner: Assign the child a partner to help record homework and other seatwork in the assignment notebook and file work sheets and other papers in the proper folders.
Clean out desks and book bags: Ask the child to periodically sort through and clean out his or her desk, book bag, and other special places where written assignments are stored.
Visual aids as reminders of subject material: Use banners, charts, lists, pie graphs, and diagrams situated throughout the classroom to remind learners of the subject material being learned.
Assisting learners with ADHD with time management
Children with ADHD often have difficulty finishing their assignments on time and can thus benefit from special materials and practices that help them to improve their time management skills, including:
Use a clock or wristwatch: Teach the child how to read and use a clock or wristwatch to manage time when completing assigned work.
Use a calendar. Teach the child how to read and use a calendar to schedule assignments.
Practice sequencing activities: Provide the child with supervised opportunities to break down a long assignment into a sequence of short, interrelated activities.
Create a daily activity schedule: Tape a schedule of planned daily activities to the child’s desk.
Helpful study skills for learners with ADHD
Children with ADHD often have difficulty in learning how to study effectively on their own. The following strategies may assist ADHD learners in developing the study skills necessary for academic success:
Adapt worksheets: Teach a child how to adapt instructional worksheets. For example, help a child fold his or her reading worksheet to reveal only one question at a time. The child can also use a blank piece of paper to cover the other questions on the page.
Graphic organisers (like mind maps): Teach a child how to use graphic organisers to help illustrate and organise key concepts in reading, mathematics, or other academic subjects.
Note-taking skills: Teach a child with ADHD how to take notes when organizing key academic concepts that he or she has learned, perhaps with the use of a program such as Anita Archer’s Skills for School Success (Archer & Gleason, 2002).
Checklist of frequent mistakes: Provide the child with a checklist of mistakes that he or she frequently makes in written assignments (e.g., punctuation or capitalization errors), mathematics (e.g., addition or subtraction errors), or other academic subjects. Teach the child how to use this list when proofreading his or her work at home and school.
Checklist of homework supplies: Provide the child with a checklist that identifies categories of items needed for homework assignments (e.g., books, pencils, and homework assignment sheets).
Uncluttered workspace: Teach a child with ADHD how to prepare an uncluttered workspace to complete assignments. For example, instruct the child to clear away unnecessary books or other materials before beginning his or her seatwork.
Learning preferences: Find out what the learner’s preference for learning is, kinaesthetic, visual or auditory, and inform on best practices to support his/her learning.