Marie Delaney is a teacher, trainer, educational psychotherapist, and author of ‘Teaching the Unteachable’ (Worth). She will be hosting a webinar entitled “Teaching Students with attention, concentration and hyperactivity difficulties” on 11th and 14th March. Here, she explores some of the themes of the upcoming webinar.
Imagine being in a crowded shopping centre, music blaring, people shouting, laughing, talking excitedly all around you, traffic whizzing by, flashing neon signs, … and sitting in the middle of this chaos, trying to learn a foreign language.
This is what it is like for some learners in our classrooms. Information and ideas bombard their brains and they find it impossible to focus on one thing.
Joachim, a learner says.
It’s as if every room in my brain has the lights on, I don’t know which room to go into first, in case I miss something important in another room.”
Teaching these learners can make us feel quite agitated and stressed.
Agata, a teacher says
Teaching Maja gives me a headache, she is like a spinning top, never stopping. I lose my own focus when talking to her.”
The behaviour of these learners usually falls into one or more of the following categories:
- They are easily distracted
- They cannot pay attention to detail
- They do not seem to listen or follow instructions
- They forget things all the time
- They fidget and squirm
- They constantly leave their seat
- They seem constantly ‘on the go’ as if driven by a motor
- They shout out
- They cannot wait their turn
- They often express emotions inappropriately
Some of these learners might have been diagnosed with ADHD. However, there are many possible reasons for this type of behaviour. If we can try to understand the underlying reasons and identify the needs of the learner, we can find teaching strategies to support them.
Possible reasons for the behaviour
- They might be tired or hungry
- They might be preoccupied about outside worries or feel unsafe in class
- They might lack confidence and be anxious about their ability to do the work
- They might not understand the classroom rules
- They might have difficulties with executive functioning – the part of the brain which we use to think and solve problems. This also includes the internal voice, the voice we use to self-regulate
- They might have difficulties with working memory – holding information in our minds long enough to act on it
Identification of needs and teaching strategies
This leads us to the following learner needs and possible teaching strategies:
The need to feel safe and secure
- Have a few clear classroom rules and remind learners of them
- Have a clear reward system; involve the learners in the design
- Set clear time limits for work; give warnings when time is nearly over
- Have a worry box for learners to post their concerns to the teacher
- Sit the learner near the teacher, away from distractions such as windows, heaters
- Allow the learner to go to a designated quiet area if the classroom gets too stressful
- Use visual prompts and timetables
The need to build self-esteem
- Notice and praise when the learner is on-task and behaving appropriately
- Focus on the learner’s strengths
- Send home good reports
- Encourage study buddies
The need for help with self-regulation
- Use individual laminated whiteboards for learners to show their answers rather than shouting out
- Allow the learner to work with headphones on or to imagine wearing headphones to cut out distractions
Above all, do not give up with these learners, they will benefit from your perseverance!
For other ideas on meeting the needs of these learners, particularly with regard to executive functioning and working memory, join my forthcoming webinar on 11th and 14th March entitled “Teaching Students with attention, concentration and hyperactivity difficulties“.