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Classroom Strategies: Teaching the Child with ADHD

I have great admiration for the dedicated teacher. And most teachers I know are teaching because they love children and like being around them. They have a sense of satisfaction when they see their students learn, grow and succeed.

On the other hand, they are frustrated and personally defeated when one of their students fails to achieve and succeed. Thus the presence of a child with ADHD (Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder) in a class tends to stir up a mixture of reactions in a conscientious teacher. He or she wants to help, but is thwarted by lack of time, too many students, or a lack of materials or training. This easily leads to frustration and hopelessness.

One fourth-grade teacher spoke not only for herself, but also many colleagues, when she discussed a child with ADHD in her class. “Jimmy is a puzzle. I want to help him but I’ve been frustrated at every turn.”

In this short note we cannot offer solutions to all the problems of attention, hyperactivity, or organization that besets the child with ADHD. But there are some tried and proven methods that help. From time to time we will share methods and tools gleaned from experienced teachers. Hopefully, they will make the job of teaching the child with ADHD or learning disabilities a little less frustrating and more rewarding.

From long experience, we know that children with hyperactivity and attention deficits function much better in an organized, structured atmosphere. Not only does such an atmosphere facilitate the child’s performance in the present, this atmosphere also encourages the child to internalize this imposed organization so that, in time, he or she becomes more self-controlled.

The following suggestions regarding classroom management have been derived from the available literature, current research findings, and clinical observations, as well as teaching experience. The goal of these strategies is to help the child internalize control of attention, impulsiveness, and activity, thus improving work habits and general behavior. The methods are designed to help the child develop more conscious control. Each teacher will not, and should not, employ each and every technique presented. This is simply a sampling of practical techniques which can help with certain problem behaviors. The teacher can pick those he or she thinks may work for him or her with the child in question.

Classroom Strategies Useful With ADHD Children

1. Seat the student near the teacher’s desk in a reassuring non-threatening way.

2. Call the student’s name before addressing him or asking him to recite.

3. Stand near the child when giving instructions.

4. Physical features of the work environment influence the activity and lack of focus level and the following guidelines should be followed:

a. Reduce the visual stimuli in the child’s visual field (place construction paper over windows; reduce the presence of posters, pictures, etc.)

b. Lighting should be of medium intensity, no flickering or bright lights.

c. Try to schedule work so that the child is not being expected to concentrate when there is a lot of distracting noise in the hallway.

d. For children with significant attention deficits, create a private study office by screening off the work area.

5. A child with ADHD will often have difficulty finishing work. Give shorter assignments with immediate feedback of results. Multiple short assignments work better than one long assignment.

6. Work from small units to larger units in the quantity of work required, the complexity of the task, and time required to complete tasks.

a. Shorten assignments.

b. Start with easily accomplished tasks.

c. Build assignments in terms of length and complexity.

d. Plan interruptions of long assignments.

e. Cut work sheets, e.g. arithmetic, into long strips, present each strip individually.

f. Vary activity.

g. Break assignments and experiences into smaller units.

h. Gradually increase quantity and complexity of timed units.

i. Do not make large leaps either forward or backward at any one time.

7. Use techniques, such as assignment cards, that help improve short-term memory.

8. Use unique, distinct visual and auditory stimuli.

a. Cue the child to distinguish features of each stimulus in reading or arithmetic by: underlining, color coding, and/or specific verbal direction.

b. Use a multi-sensory approach to allow rehearsal of the material, i.e. speaking orally, writing down key words, drawing pictures, etc.

9. Provide an opportunity to express motor restlessness in appropriate ways. When possible you may allow the child to work standing or moving about at times; the use of a round table that child can move about may help. Incorporating adequate physical education that allows for gross body movement without involving competitive sports can be helpful.


Yes, there are no easy answers to treating and teaching children with ADHD. These children are often lovable and attractive, while at the same time frustrating and exhausting to the teacher. One or two such children in a regular classroom without help for the teacher can be stressful for everyone. Open, free communication between teacher, parent, physician, and educational diagnostician is of critical importance if success is to be realized.

While the institution of a well structured, organized environment at home and school will allow many hyperactive children to function reasonably well, others will need additional modes of therapy such as medication or a prescribed behavior modification plan. However, the teacher is always a key member of the management team.

Additional teaching tools to help with the Child with ADHD can be found in Dr. Grant’s book, ADHD—Strategies for Success which can be ordered from this website.

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