The term ADHD is a common label used in every classroom throughout America. Some students with ADHD have IEPs and others do not. The problem many teachers are facing is the task of accommodating individual IEP plans with a mixed group of students who have different levels of attention spans and ability to retain information.
Most teachers are required to only take one or two special needs courses to qualify for their college degrees unless they were planning on graduating with a major or minor in the special needs field. One course does not completely prepare a new teacher for the real world classroom. The majority of students have differing learning disabilities in combination with ADHD becoming a prominent issue in every classroom today.
Having taught a 60-40 % ratio classroom with ADHD and having an elementary aged child that is on an IEP with ADHD, I can offer several tips to help make teaching such a diverse group of students easier on a new teacher during their first few years.
Classroom arrangement is in every textbook dealing with classroom management and educational behavioral studies course out there. What they fail to tell new teachers is that its more than theorizing the perfect setup around space for movement and centers, it’s about room placement to hold your student’s attention.
Windows are wonderful but can be your worst enemy in the classroom. All it takes is the slightest movement from outside and most of your class will be staring out the window instead of listening to the lesson. I suggest setting up your centers along the window wall. Have your desks or table settings facing the corner of where two solid walls come together. Hopefully you have a whiteboards on one or both of these walls. Having the students sit at an angle allows them to still see the board and keep distractions from outside out of view.
They tell you that you should make your classroom bright and inviting to encourage learning. It is true that bold colors will catch your student’s eyes and benefit the learning experience, but again, when it comes to students with ADHD these colors often times become distractions. Keeping classroom decorating simple and not busying the walls will help hold your student’s attention better.
Again, I would suggest limiting decorations and/or posters to only the essential on the wall in which your students will face in their desks. My son has a habit of reading all the posters over his classroom’s white board instead of listening to the lessons. All students have a tendency to mentally wonder off when a lesson is not interesting to them or too difficult for them to understand. Taking away possible wall distractions will help keep all your students better focused on what you are teaching.
My son’s desk is a disaster. Books, papers, loose erasers, and pencils clutter his desk. If you have the bucket style desks where your students keep their materials right under the desk top and not under their seat you may want to think about desk position and where you want your students to keep their materials.
Fidgeting in desks is a major issue in any classroom. Loose objects in a desk become imaginary play things for a child who has ADHD. My child’s teacher has had to turn his desk around to keep him from playing with his pencils during lessons. If your classroom arrangement allows, it may be a good idea to set all your desks backwards as to keep all your students from playing in them.
When I arranged my room this way I found that the desks remained cleaner over time and my student’s school supplies (ie. paper and pencils) lasted longer. I institute a one out at a time rule; meaning, one textbook, one notebook or paper, and one pencil or pen. This has help teach organization skills and kept the majority of my students on task during lecture time and desk work.
Having a new classroom with ADHD children can be intimidating, but simple steps in how you arrange your room can help both them and you during their learning experience. Establish routines and keep with it and your year will go by smoothly.