How to Quiet Noisy Fidgeting, Shhh!


I am a sixth-grade reading teacher. Many of my attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) students continually fidget or tap their pencils, and the noise drives the class crazy! Why do they do this, and how can I make them aware of their behavior?


Repetitive, irritating behaviors during reading time can be caused by an ADHD child’s impulsivity. However, the students may also be using motion and sound to stimulate their brain to focus and listen. Noise may focus the brain, but it is a disruption to the rest of the class.

Students will often become aware of -- and control -- their fidgeting when they’re asked to find a solution to it. Explain to your noisy students that their tapping interrupts the class and help them understand why they do it. Then ask them to monitor themselves by letting you know when they notice their own noisy fidgets.

Finally, give them quieter options. For example, doodling engages a child’s visual, motor, and rhythmic faculties. Research suggests that structured doodling, like shading in outlined shapes on paper, increases a student’s attention on the primary activity. Other strategies include using small, colorful toys, like “tangle toys” (, pipe cleaners, or “wikki stix” (, all of which can be manipulated without making much noise. Some teachers allow restless students to stand up and sway gently at the back of the class.

Roland Rotz, Ph.D., is a nationally known expert in ADHD. He is a clinical psychologist and director of the Lifespan Development Center, in Carpinteria, California. and the coauthor of Fidget to Focus (iUniverse), with Sarah D. Wright. Learn more about their book at
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