For Teachers

5 Ways to Modify Writing Assignments

5 ways teachers can modify writing and note-taking assignments for ADHD students.

How Teachers Can Help ADHD Students With Written Assignments
How Teachers Can Help ADHD Students With Written Assignments

Completing written work and homework on time is one of the biggest challenges students with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD) face. In fact, over 50 percent have difficulty with written expression because of limited working memory, low processing speed, fine motor difficulties, or another problem.

But teachers who are willing to be creative with written assignments and note-taking-without diluting the material-can help students excel. Here are several strategies to consider:

1. Assign fewer problems or questions.

Math homework can be a real challenge. Teachers might modify assignments so that a student is required to do only every second or third problem. In the classroom or for homework, some students may benefit from photocopying math, science, or history pages from their textbooks, and filling in the blanks instead of writing out the whole problems or sentences.

2. Streamline note-taking.

If an ADHD student is distracted by the note-taking process, he’ll have trouble focusing on what is being said in class. One solution is to ask a student who excels in the subject to take notes for the whole class, having him draw stars near the important themes of the lesson. Then make copies for any students who need notes. Another strategy is to provide direction to students who are frantically trying to take down every word you say. Make a point of frequently saying, “Now this is really important-write it down!”

3. Allow dictation.

Researchers have found that the quality and length of reports and essays improved when students spoke them into a tape recorder. Instead of having a student write a paper, allow him to dictate his material to a parent or friend, who can type it up.

4. Get creative with reports.

Develop an assignment “menu” that offers creative, active assignments, not just written ones. One language arts teacher allowed her students to film themselves acting out two or three favorite scenes or baking a cake that was described in the written material. Other creative activities include building a model or calling up an official-at NASA, say-for an opinion on the topic.

5. If students are in a crisis, cut them some slack.

If the child seems to understand the basic concept of the lesson, accept unfinished class work on occasion. Piling work onto an already heavy load of homework assignments can cause a student to under perform-or worse. ADHD students may be so overwhelmed by overdue schoolwork that they give up because they feel they’ll never catch up.