Teacher Tips: Guiding Good Behavior from ADHD Children

How teachers can engage ADHD children in the classroom and inspire better behavior from all students.

Children with attention deficit disorder (ADD / ADHD), dyslexia, or other learning disability overcome challenges in the classroom and improve behavior with ADDitude's expert tips from a veteran first-grade teacher. ADDitude magazine

Work together with the child on some non-verbal signals.


Empower Children with ADHD

From day one I say, “Be in charge of your own behavior,” because I want the students to internalize the rules and to be responsible for monitoring themselves. One way to achieve this is to ask the kids to formulate some of the classroom rules. Sometimes I’ll say, “Wow, you took away my job. Now, you’re in charge of getting your journal and sitting in your place at story circle.”

A Hands-On Curriculum for ADHD Kids

The more engaged children with ADHD are, the better their behavior will be. A hands-on curriculum is essential. I ask my students what they want to learn. They might want to learn about racecars, a local construction site, zebras, and so on. We build the social studies curriculum on their interests, with lots of trips around the neighborhood.


In my 34 years of teaching first-graders, I’ve found that children with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD), dyslexia, or other learning disabilities are sometimes the most fascinating, the most knowledgeable, and the deepest thinkers.

Children with attention deficit disorder might go unappreciated — unless teachers look for the positive qualities while helping them improve their behavior. Here are some things that have worked for me.

Avoid humiliating children

It’s easy to call out the names of children with problematic behaviors. “Jack, don’t do that!” “Gracie, don’t touch that!” But not only does the rest of the class tire of hearing these refrains, it’s terrible for the morale of the child who may not be able to control his constant movement.

1. Choose seating wisely.
Have the dynamo sit near the teacher or other adult. That way, the teacher can whisper, rather than broadcast reminders, about behavior.

2. Agree on signals.
Work together with the child on some non-verbal signals. For example, one child in my class was constantly tapping the floor or poking other children. He and I had decided that, when I looked directly at him and patted my knees, he would put his hands on his lap.

Plan for smooth transitions

For some children, transitions from one activity to another, or from the classroom to the lunchroom, are difficult times.

1. Review expectations.
Before every transition, I give a signal and review what is expected. I might say, “We are finished with writing workshop. You will put your writing folders in the box.”

When that is completed, I’ll say, “You will bring your reading journal and a pencil to story circle.” When children know exactly what is expected of them, it is much easier to develop and follow that pattern of behavior.

2. Assign special jobs.
If a child has trouble with a task, such as getting his coat from the closet and waiting in line to go to lunch, I give him a special job while the rest of the class is getting ready. I will say quietly, “Braydon, hurry and get your jacket, then sharpen these pencils.”

Braydon is delighted to use our electric sharpener, and he knows he’s making a contribution that actually helps our class.

for a free copy of the ADHD booklet...
Success at School for Children with ADHD.

3. Stay close.
My students choose new line partners each month. I determine which pairs of kids are toward the front of the line. A child who has difficulty with behavior will walk closer to me. In some cases, a child will be my partner. This changes as a child’s behavior improves.

This article comes from the August/September issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: For Teachers of ADHD Children, School Behavior, ADHD Accommodations, 504s, IEPs

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