Parent-Teacher Cooperation

Positive Teaching Strategies to Uplift Students with ADHD

Great teachers know that saying the right words in the right way can turn a defeated student into a go-getter. Here are 5 communication strategies specifically scripted for students with ADHD.

Teacher giving high five to child with ADHD, encouraging learning in the classroom with positive language

Succeeding in school is one of the most therapeutic things that can happen to a student with ADHD. Key to ensuring a child’s success are teachers that are invested in their students’ growth by focusing on positive communication.

There are a few communication strategies that I have found to be especially effective when teaching students with ADHD. For these strategies to work, you have to treat the student with respect. Avoid public embarrassment, sarcasm, and put-downs.

Positive Teaching Strategies for Students

Be Positive

Researchers tell us that three to five positive statements should be given for every negative comment. Expect the best of students. To many students with ADHD, a teacher’s words paint a portrait of the student’s soul. “If the teacher says I can do it or that I’m smart, then I must be.” Students will work hard to become what the teacher says they are. Here are some comments that should be used when teaching students with ADHD:

  • “You’re working really hard. You have the skill it takes to do this.”
  • “You’re doing a great job. I can tell you’ve really got a talent for this sort of thing.”
  • “You’ve put a lot of effort into this activity” or “Well done” or “Now you’ve got it.”
  • “You’re getting better at this. I knew you could do it.”
  • [Your Free Download: The Teacher’s Guide to ADHD and Classroom Behavior]

If a student gives an answer that is incorrect, the teacher might say:

  • “Can you think of another way to do (say) this?”
  • “Let’s go over this again.”
  • “Why don’t we talk this through?” (Talk through the steps. Sometimes hearing themselves talk helps students recognize where the error is.)
  • “Do you think something is wrong here?”
  • “Read it to me. Does it sound right to you?”
  • “That’s close.” (Then explain).

Give Students Choices

Give students a limited number of options for assignments when possible. “You may choose between these two topics for your essay: 1) one of the major characters and how he or she changed or 2) what you consider the most important theme of the novel.”

Too many choices will be confusing, and students may spend excessive time trying to select an essay topic. Researchers tell us that when students are given choices, several positive things happen: They produce more work, they are more compliant, and they are less aggressive.

[Get This Free Download: Explaining ADHD to Teachers]

Try Not to Personalize

Eliminate criticism and blame. Teachers should help guide students as they cope with ADHD behaviors. Describe the problem as one that is common for many students with this condition: “A lot of teenagers with ADHD have trouble remembering to take down homework or copying summaries. There are some things that might help you: A friend could remind you; I can give your assignments in writing. What would be most helpful for you?”

Give “I” Messages

State how you feel (in private). “I am surprised that you didn’t turn in your work. That is not like you. Is there a problem? What is going on?” “You” messages, as opposed to “I” messages, are often negative and blaming, and may put the student on the defensive. Saying, “You aren’t trying. You could do this work if you just try” can be damaging to a child’s self-esteem.

These students have experienced so many failures in school that they are sensitive to the least bit of negative feedback. When they receive negative messages, many will withdraw and shut down emotionally. As a result, they do less schoolwork.

Ask Students About Their Actions

When a student misbehaves, the teacher may ask, “Is that a good choice or a bad choice?” The student gets the message that his behavior is inappropriate without a reprimand from the teacher. The student learns to label and correct his own behavior.


ADHD and Behavior at School: Next Steps


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