Teaching Strategies for Students with ADD


Over the past year, I’ve come into contact with more and more students that struggle with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) even as adults. These students have difficultly focusing their attention when presented with large amounts of information. Loud, busy classrooms with lots of sensory input are a challenge for them. So are long reading passages or two-hour-long lectures. These students also generally struggle with maintaining information in their working memory. So, they might start doing a multiple choice question and by the time they get to the last choice, they might have forgotten what the initial question was. Depending on the academic background of your students, they may or may not have developed methods of coping with their challenges. Below are some strategies I have used to help my ADD students.

1. Have students cover up the information they aren’t using when reading a test paper, web page, or textbook.

It sounds deceptively simple, but it works. Have students use a piece of paper to cover up test questions, so that they only view one at a time. In case of a web page, have them tape a piece of paper to the screen to cover up ads or other distracting information. Decreasing the amount of information that they view, helps compensate for the information overload.

2. Control F (Ctrl-F) is their friend.

Many students have to do research or search online for information. Web pages laden with information can be intimidating. Prior to viewing the web page, have the students make a list of key words for each question or for the research topic as a whole. Then, have them go to the website and use Ctrl- F to pull up a search bar. The student can then type in the key words, and those key words are magically highlighted on the web page, making it easier for your student to find answers to questions.

3. Offer information in bit sized chunks.

If you have ADD students in your classroom, break up any lectures into smaller chunks of time. After each section, ask a few concept check questions to ensure the students understand what has been presented thus far. Assign small groups of problems for students to work

4. Avoid busy slide presentations.

Slide presentations can be great for students, but can also provide lots of distraction. Avoid putting massive chunks of information on any slides that you use. Put one or two clear, simple pictures maximum on a slide, and avoid using pictures with unnecessary animation. Limit the amount of colors on any slides you use, and ensure that the way you use colors is significant. Putting all of the verbs in a sentence in blue, for example, is fine. Making every sentence a different color for no reason, however, is distracting.

5. Create quiet places in your classroom.

Most classes involve some amount of group activity. Communicative classes involve lots of partner discussion which can lead to an extremely loud classroom. If you have your own classroom, create a few areas in your classroom that are low on distracting influences. You can set areas apart with screens or divider. Put down small rugs to absorb noise in those areas. Students that are easily distracted can move to these spaces during conversation activities or any time they need to focus. If you don’t have your own classroom, you can allow students to move into the hall or outside if possible. If you are in a small area, you can also allow students to do “whisper conversation” to decrease the overall volume in the classroom.

6. Teach test taking strategies

When working with multiple choice tests, have students read the question and come up with a possible answer to the question first. Have them write down that potential answer and then look through the choices for a potential match. Finding a match is easier than trying to remember all of the choices at once. Have them mark off any choices that don’t work. For essay tests, consider having them write down a brief outline to help keep them on track as they answer the question. As they finish each section on the outline, they should check it off as complete. Similarly, have students create an acronym for multi-step processes in subjects like math or science. They should write the acronym next to each problem and refer back to it after each step to confirm all of the steps have been done.

Do you have any strategies for working with ADD students? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

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