Many teachers have been struggling with my pandemic-influenced kids who not only aren’t getting the input they need but are distracting other students. Most of the class is smiling/laughing/engaged… so the compelling aspect may not be the problem… but some students just won’t pay attention long enough to give them more repetitions… How do you make teaching more comprehensible when so many more kids now act as if they have ADHD?
These three key practices will help:
1) Let them get up and get moving. Anticipate their energy. Say that any student can stand up and/or walk around any time they want to. The only proviso is that they just don’t upstage the rest of the class. Show them where and how they can stand or pace in the classroom. Praise them when they do that.
2) Recruit them. Make them actors. Use their energy to your advantage. Let them shine. Some of my best actors and biggest fans have been ADHD kids that have been used as actors–story after story and year after year. They know their other teachers don’t like them. You can be different. No other teacher had ever channeled their energy like that before and they have thrived on the attention. Got another one hooked today.
3) Give brain breaks. Plan brain breaks every ten minutes. All students are standing up and moving purposefully. Brain breaks can be silly, or they can be meaningful and tied to the course content (better). Your choice, but do them. Get them to stand up , move and get a different face in front of them to interact with for a minute with a specific task. Teachers that make kids sit all period should be jolted with a cattle prod every 10 minutes until they catch on, which may take a while since somewhere in our cultural teacher heritage there must some secret mandate that all kids need to sit all day.
4) Give them jobs. Give students Classroom Jobs where they need to get up and move often. Put them in a back corner and give them a job where they have to get up to turn on and off the lights or open or shut the door to the classroom several times per period. Put the door under their control: If the door person thinks it is too stuffy, or hot, or cold in the room, they can get up and open or shut the door. They have that power.
5) Own your part. Show this TED talk video by Sir Ken Robinson or this one on how teaching methods can cause ADHD. You won’t have any trouble finding it since it is one of the most watched TED talks of all time. Apologize on behalf of our profession, take ownership of the problem, explain your commitment to change, and ask the students for help. Now don’t try to contain their energy. Don’t attempt to squelch them. Use them. And for goodness sake, don’t make them just sit there. Give them something to do.
6) Show them the irony. Ask all your students if they don’t think it is weird that teachers get to stand up, walk around and talk all day, while we make kids, who have lots more energy, sit and be quiet? That is backwards. Who thought up that system? Do something about it. Flip your classroom–not with videos at home, but with you sitting and listening while the students stand and walk and talk. You can at least do this some of the time with Ping Pong Reading, giving a quick summary, or even a Draw Write Pass activity. At the very least let them stand up and move once in a while!
7) Read their body language. Make it a point to get to know the signs that they are ready to do something crazy and preempt that behavior. Start to become a student of body language. Notice the baseline behavior of each of these ADHD kids and you will begin to see trouble coming before they do. You can get them moving or focused before they go nuts on you and start to take over the class.
8) This is more than three. And that’s the point, if you have not picked up on it. A lot of us have ADHD, or dealt with it as students. I’m still a bit ADHD myself. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
ADHD can be a strength, not a weakness. Think about convincing your high energy students to embrace it, rather than always repressing it. The ADHD kids you know could have the potential to be smashing successes. There are some extremely successful people with ADHD: Woopie Goldberg, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Jordan, Steven Spielberg, Justin Timberlake, Michael Phelps, Paris Hilton, Will Smith, Michelle Rodriguez, Albert Einstein, Jim Carrey, John F. Kennedy and Sir Richard Branson.
With our help all students can have more energy, focus and ideas than their unfortunate, backwards, one dimensional peers that don’t have the condition. Almost makes you feel sorry for those that don’t have it.