Organizing the Environment for Attention Challenges
After spending my life immersed in education, I find it difficult to turn my back on thoughts about special children. This post focuses on adjusting the learning environment to help children with attention challenges. I invite homeschool parents and all other teachers to consider the thoughts below.
Whether you teach in a regular school environment or in a home school setting, you want to do everything possible to help an ADHD student stay focused. The following ideas will help.
Keep the environment surrounding the student as clear from distractions and movement as possible.
Display five or fewer “expectations” or rules. Too many rules overwhelm a child.
If possible, remove fluorescent lights and replace them with lamps and soft LED lights. Fluorescent lights produce visual and auditory vibrations that irritate and distract students with attention problems.
During the first three weeks of school, explain, model, and rehearse procedures for every activity and transition. Initially, make procedures more important than content. Effort will pay off later.
Post a daily schedule in the same place each day. Maintain the schedule as closely as possible. A routine creates an “anchor,” which evokes immediate responses without a need for oral reminders.
Organize all class pencils, paper, scissors, glue, and other school supplies in one location.
During the first few weeks of school, avoid clutter by picking up all items left out of place. Put all random items in a special Collection Box. When children look for an item say, “You left it on the floor so look in the collection box. You can earn the item back by organizing and picking up the classroom for five minutes.” Later in the year, you can assign the job of collecting items left out of place. Be sure each child gets an opportunity to be the the Organization Coach before the year is over.
Ask students to turn in completed assignments immediately.
Use separate colors for each subject. Use colored dots to color code all related books, folders, places to turn in assignments and assignments.
Often, students with attention problems get into trouble because they cannot hear other students as they make reports. In addition, students may have difficulty distinguishing the teacher’s voice from background noise. To combat the hearing problem and help focus attention, purchase an inexpensive microphone. Children can stand at the microphone to make reports and you can gain attention more easily. Even a whisper can be heard with a microphone.
Instead of pointing to information on the board with your hand, use a small pin light.
Your willingness to try new ideas has the potential to improve learning for many children. Often even those without an ADHD label benefit from organization as well as from your prompts.
As I read through my suggestions for children, I wonder if any of the ideas above will help my husband, who struggles with staying focused. Naw — I think I’ll leave him alone!