ADHD and science may not make a perfect marriage. Learning abstract concepts and organizing complex projects take work and imagination. The tips below will help parents and teachers bring out the inner scientist in your child.
Tools for Teachers
>Begin each lesson with a hands-on demonstration. Many scientific concepts are difficult to read about in textbooks. Demonstrations spark students' interest and allow them to grasp the concepts. Explaining a closed circuit by turning on a switch connected with wire to a D-cell battery and a light bulb will intrigue and enlighten him at the same time.
>Pose a question. If you are going to investigate a soaked bean seed, allow students to pose a question for this investigation. A possible question might be "What is found on the inside of a bean seed?" This simple question, when referred to throughout the investigation, helps to keep the focus of the ADHD student.
>Make it memorable and concrete. Instead of lecturing, turn your classroom into a scientific laboratory full of experiences for the senses. Get your ADHD students out of their seats to act out rotation, revolution, and phases of the moon. Build electrical circuits, construct simple machines, conduct chemical reactions to keep all types of learners actively learning.
>Keep science journals for organization and recording results. Keeping journals provides an outlet for students’ observations. Following the steps of the scientific method for investigative lessons (Question, Hypothesis, Materials and Methods, Results, Conclusion) provides a structured framework for discovery to the disorganized ADHD student. Students can color-code each section of their journals to make sure that they do not miss anything, and kids who prefer not to write can sketch illustrations.
>Encourage cooperative collaboration. Choose partners/teams carefully, pairing students with different learning styles to enhance the experience. Every scientific investigation group needs a leader, organizational specialist, recorder, and materials expert, so choose each role in the group based on the students’ academic, organizational, and focus skills. Giving each child a job maintains the group’s focus. Change up the group from project to project.
Pointers for Parents
>Develop science study tricks. Create flash cards with questions on one side and answers on the other. A student can use these to quiz himself on the periodic table or play a quiz show game with friends. Try songs (think "Schoolhouse Rock") and mnemonic devices (think Roy G. Biv to remember the color spectrum -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) to aid rapid recall of science facts.
>Explore the outdoors. Whether in a wildlife sanctuary or your own backyard, there are opportunities for scientific discovery in the outdoors. Bring along a "science pack" containing a camera, journal, pencil, and specimen collection containers along on your nature trek. This will help your ADHD child organize materials and focus on learning while keeping her busy hands active.
>Grow a garden. Work with your child to plant vegetable seeds and make meals from the harvest. Planting lets an ADHD child explore the needs, care, and life cycle of plants. It also teaches patience as he tends the garden and watches the vegetables grow, week by week. When it's time to harvest, he will feel the satisfaction of knowing he's helped provide the ingredients for a family meal.
>Turn the kitchen into a laboratory. The kitchen is a great place to take the ADHD child beyond the textbook. Gather materials from the pantry or the fridge. Conduct experiments with vinegar: Turn an egg into rubber, or mix it with baking soda to make a volcano. To see physical changes, look no further than the freezer. Make ice cubes, then watch the ice melt back into water.
This article appears in the Fall 2012 issue of ADDitude.
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Does your ADHD student find science challenging? Visit the Parents of ADHD Preteens support group on ADDConnect to talk with other parents in your shoes.