For Teachers

The Best Seat in the House

Students with ADHD are easily distracted — and seating them by a window certainly doesn’t help! Instead, follow these tips to boost their focus, without singling them out.

Your distracted child's seating arrangements and where his school desk is can make all the difference
Your distracted child's seating arrangements and where his school desk is can make all the difference

Some teachers assign certain seats to students because they believe it helps maintain class discipline, makes record-keeping and memorizing names easier, and meets the students’ academic needs. If you assign seats, think about the issues involved, and decide which seating arrangement works best for each student.

Give the student a choice. If you don’t assign seats for other students, and the student with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) is doing her work, let her select her own seat. Many students with ADHD don’t want to be singled out and are easily embarrassed when they are.

Assign a front row seat? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes students with ADHD are seated in the front row near the teacher’s desk to help them pay attention. However, the teacher’s desk is often the center of activity, and a nearby seat may be too distracting for the student with attention challenges.

Seat a student with ADHD two or three rows from the front, on the side of the classroom. If she becomes restless, the student can stand without drawing attention to herself.

Use other students to provide visual cues. Some educational experts suggest that distractible students benefit from watching and taking cues from others regarding the activity of the moment.

If other seat assignments don’t work, assign the student with ADHD to a seat near where the teacher gives instruction. Some students will stay focused if they are seated near the teacher’s podium or the area where the teacher is most often standing and teaching.

Make an alternate seat or workstation available. This allows restless students to get up and move to a different table or desk to do classwork or projects. One of the extra workstations may be a stand-up desk, allowing a student to stand up and work.

Seat a student with ADHD away from major distractions. Avoid seating a distracted student near an open door, a pencil sharpener, or a loud air conditioner.

Seat a student with ADHD in a group. Place the student with good role models. In group teaching sessions, especially those conducted in a circle, seat the student across from you, rather than beside you. It will be easier to maintain eye contact with him to send a private signal to pay attention.

Excerpted from Teaching Teens With ADD, ADHD & Executive Function Deficits, Second Edition, by CHRIS A. ZEIGLER DENDY, M.S. Copyright 2011. Published by Woodbine House.

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