For Teachers

First, Learn to Listen. Then, Listen to Learn.

Stopping, paying attention, listening — these skills do not come naturally to students with ADHD. So use these strategies to build better listening habits at school and at home.

Teacher engaging students with ADHD to improve their listening skills
Teacher engaging students with ADHD

One of the frustrations for teachers and parents of kids with ADHD is getting a child to stop, listen, and understand what is being taught or asked of him. These tips and strategies will improve listening skills in children with ADHD — enabling students to listen, learn, and contribute in school and at home.

Tools for Teachers

> Get your students’ attention! Clap out a rhythm and have your students clap the rhythm back until the class is quiet. This signals that it is time to move to the next activity. During group lessons, keep students involved by asking them questions. Play music or sing a song to keep them focused on the material being taught.

> Repeat it back. When giving instructions, limit the number of steps involved and have the students repeat the steps back to you, one at a time. Use the words first, next, and last to give order and structure.

> Go beyond textbooks. Relate concepts to real-life experiences through visuals, sign language, or gestures. Bring vocabulary words and stories to life by giving students examples from everyday life. If you are starting a story about a supermarket, bring in items that you buy there.

> Make directions concrete. Make sure your commands and directions are precise. “Do careful work” or “Be respectful” are too vague. Be specific in what you expect to see: “Eyes looking at me, bottoms in your chairs, book open to page 21, and desks cleared except for a pencil.”

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> Take small steps. Read a few pages of an article or story at a time. Teach students how to stop and ask themselves questions about what they have read. Allow them to draw a picture or write a key word on a sticky note and attach it to the page.

> Use attention-getting strategies. Make your voice go up or down, or make it louder or softer while doing a read-aloud or giving directions. Buy a garden glove and write a story element on each finger.

Pointers for Parents

> Keep it predictable. Be consistent with the words you use to give directions, and stick to established schedules in your household. This will increase a child’s listening comprehension because he knows what to expect and feels secure and calm.

> Show him what you want him to do. Walk through the steps of a task. Check for understanding of directions. Write down the task you want done (in words or pictures) and give it to your child for reference.

Classroom Rules That Keep Kids’ Attention on Learning

> Check in with a child to make sure he isn’t tuning out. Before, during, and after chores, homework, or a task, have your child tell you specifically what he is doing. This continuous reminder of the task at hand keeps your child focused. It may seem redundant, but it works!

> Move to remember. Get your child up and moving to help with listening skills. Use hand gestures, exercises, or dance moves to help him remember what to do.

> Help a child recall. If your child is watching TV, ask her about what she is watching. When your child gets off the phone, ask him what he talked about — and don’t interrupt.

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