In a previous post I focused on the fact that sitting still for extended periods must be absolute torture for someone dealing with hyperactivity. Yet this is exactly the scenario that thousands of children with ADD/ADHD face every day. I suggested that a better way to facilitate learning would be to develop strategies and interventions that are designed to accommodate and reduce the urge for constant movement that is such an integral part of the ADD/ADHD experience of many school-aged children.
This week I will focus on some of the accommodation strategies that you can employ to make your classroom an ADD/ADHD friendly zone. At the heart of these strategies is a simple conviction: Movement is not the enemy of learning! Stating it out loud like this may seem a bit strange but it is necessary. We have been so effectively indoctrinated by the ‘teacher speaks/student sits’ paradigm that we almost instinctively recoil at the very idea of movement in the classroom, especially as kids become older. This need not be the case however. Here are some ways in which you can ‘move towards results’:
Experiment with ‘learning areas’: If you analyze the activities that occur in the typical first grade classroom you will note that there is constant movement. The kids constantly troop from their desks to the ‘story mat’, to the art area and so on. Yet we do not seem to think that all of this movement is somehow incompatible with learning. What a pity that we lose this flexibility when students get older! It need not be the case. Nothing prevents you as a teacher from setting up similar learning areas in your classroom. You will probably not have a story mat anymore but the possibilities for moving yourself and learning opportunities around the classroom are endless. You can, for example:
• Make a point to always teach certain subjects from a certain part of the classroom (this can be as simple as ‘writing to the left’ and ‘arithmetic to the right’. This may not seem like much but the fact that you vary your position also means that the students will have to vary their body positions in order to interact with you.
• Concentrate information in certain parts of the classroom. In addition to varying your own position you can also organize your classroom so that students will have to get up and join you in a certain part of the classroom to participate in certain learning activities. Here the use of wall charts and other educational resources can prove invaluable.
Reconfigure your classroom: This might be a bit of advice that would be easier to follow in some cases than in others but it is worth noting nonetheless. There is no good pedagogical reason why students should always sit in rows and face the front. In some cases this would obviously be the optimal configuration but certainly not always. If this is at all practical you should experiment with some alternative configurations for specific activities (i.e. ‘buzz groups’ where small numbers of students work together, placing desks in a large circle etc.). Many teachers will balk at this suggestion as they can imagine the chaos that would quite likely ensue if they start asking children to move their desks around. I urge you, however, to take the risk. Not only will you create positive learning environments and outcomes. You will, also, through the act of moving things around create movement! This would certainly be especially welcomed by the ADD/ADHD kids in your class as movement is exactly what they crave!
Make the most of learning opportunities outside the classroom:There is obviously a limit on how often you can take your kids outside the classroom but do make the best of every opportunity. Field trips and excursions present kids with ADD/ADHD with the chance to learn in an environment where movement is not restricted to the same degree as in the classroom. It is therefore the kind of situation in which they will naturally thrive. If you don’t believe me try and test the recall of some ADD/ADHD kids after an excursion. You will almost certainly find that they perform significantly better than would be the case with static classroom based learning. It is vital that you carefully plan learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Try and determine some of the areas that ADD/ADHD kids struggle with the most and then think up creative ways in which this can be taught through an excursion, field trip or some other form of non-classroom based learning. Targeting your ‘out of class interventions’ in this way means that you will be able to make the most of these golden learning opportunities.
Please check back for the next article, we will continue to discuss some of the exciting and practical ways in which the craving for movement so often associated with ADD/ADHD can be accommodated in the classroom context.