I've worked with many students who have been diagnosed with ADD. Each of them have been wildly different from the other. When I think of their internal clocks, some of them were on high energy and needed to be doing something at all times. Then there were some whose clocks were super slow and this got in the way of us working too. One thing they had in common? They learned differently! Just like the way I learn is different from the way you learn.
Sometimes when a kid gets labeled with ADD, autism, or any other diagnosis, we tend to put those kids in a box. Instead, I like to think of them as a puzzle. What makes them tick? How am I going to get them to focus just a little longer today? As Temple Grandin says, “The world needs all kinds of minds”.
Here are 5 ways that I have found will engage and stretch focus for my ADD students.
1. Nuts n' Bolts
A while back I created these nut and bolt math sticks for them to hold. Their fingers went wild spinning the nut on the bolt allowing them to create different math problems. I wrote on the nuts with wet erase markers so I could change the numbers or operations easily. Read more about them here for math and here for reading.
2. Get Up and Move!
After a long day of sitting, many of my ADD students needed to get up and move a little more. We would do all kinds of things like Even and Odd Basketball, outdoor games, toss a ball, or dribble while practicing math facts.
Instead of watching them wiggle and bounce in their seat, tell them to stand up and get rid of the chair while they work. For some of my students, it really helped them focus. I even allow them to pace a little while they think, it's okay. Just another different way of learning!
In my office, I actually have swivel stools so they can spin around while they think or gently sway back and forth. They really like the stool, it's me that has to focus on not getting annoyed with the movement!
3. Environment Considerations
Take a hard look at where you tutor or teach. How is the lighting? Too bright or dim? Are there audible sounds like a heater vent, cars outside, other children talking? What can you do to minimize the noise?
On the other hand…maybe it's too quiet! Not everyone enjoys working in silence. Consider trying some quiet classical, acoustic guitar, or piano music. I find that I work better when there is a little bit of music in the background. Nothing with too much rhythm though.
4. Shorter Activities
Studying for long periods of time with tutoring can be difficult for a child with ADD. Consider breaking your tutoring into 10-15 minute increments and change what you do frequently. Many of my students like it when I have a short check list of what we'll accomplish that day. I always let them know if we finish everything on the checklist, they'll earn a reward too like educational computer games or time on my tablet.
5. Understand their Intelligence!
I can't emphasize enough what Temple Grandin said. The world really does need all kinds of thinkers. This world presents some very difficult problems and we need bright minds to be able to solve them. If you haven't watched Temple's TED talk, I highly recommend it. Focus on their talents and interests when planning for your students.
I also suggest you use Laura Candler's Multiple Intelligence survey to figure out your students learning style and then use it to your best advantage to help them enjoy learning and problem solving.
Tell me more about what you do with your ADD students. I would love to hear your ideas.
If you are new to tutoring or to this site, welcome! I hope you'll stick around and find a few more ideas to inspire you.