Help ADHD Students Pay Attention and Learn: A Classroom Guide for Teachers

As an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) adult and teacher, I know the challenges children with learning disabilities and other special needs face. Here are my teaching techniques for helping ADDers fight boredom, pay attention, and make good grades.


Filed Under: For Teachers of ADHD Children, Learn to Focus with ADHD, ADHD Career Paths
Debra Manasco of Claremont, North Carolina

I had many obstacles to overcome when I was in school. My attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) made sure of that. Still, the condition didn’t stop me from realizing my dreams. I have a B.S. in elementary education from Appalachian State University, and I’m on track to get my master’s this summer. I am a fourth-grade teacher at St. Stephens public school, in Claremont, North Carolina. I love to be around children, and every day is different in the classroom, so I am never bored at work.

I know how I learned best, so I’m always looking for ideas to help my students with ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, and other learning differences do the same. Ideas come to me in the shower or when I’m driving to work. So parents and teachers take notes, here are several teaching techniques that have helped my kids succeed:

Give slow, clear, and simple directions. Children with ADD/ADHD get confused when teachers run through instructions in a hurry. I give directions one at a time. I tell students to take out their reading book. When everyone has their book out, I tell them what page to turn to. When everyone has found their page, the lesson begins. The reward is that the students pay attention to the material instead of scrambling to keep up with directions.

Be a drama queen. Teachers who present material in an exciting, dramatic way keep ADD/ADHD students focused on it. I don’t mind acting silly in the classroom to keep their attention. The other day I was talking about the Cherokee Trail of Tears. So I pretended I was a Cherokee girl who was going to be taken away from her house by soldiers. I acted scared, I cried for my mother and father to help me. If I had read them a book, they would have tuned out.

Use technology. Computers and other electronic devices focus children with ADD/ADHD on the material being taught. I use GPS units when we visit the zoo or when learning about the Iditarod. Students use the device to answer questions in the classroom and on quizzes. They also learn how to use technology.

Get students out of their seats. When a teacher makes a child part of a history lesson or a math problem, he pays attention -- and learns. I recently taught a lesson on division by asking the class to come to the center of the room. One student was asked to place kids into groups of four. Eventually, there were only two students left. They were the remainders. Movement helps children retain more.

Let them know they’re loved. Children with ADD/ADHD want to focus and sit still, but often they can’t. They need to know that they are loved, and are as important to the teacher, as everyone else in the class.


This article appears in the Spring 2010 issue of ADDitude.

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