Ethan was a 4th grade student with moderate ADHD. His teacher, Mrs. W., was running out of ideas to keep him focused on his work and in his seat. She noticed he was very interested in U.S. History. Someone had recently given her a state quarters collector’s map. Mrs. W. brought the map and a jar of quarters to school. Ethan had a couple of checkpoints during the day when, as long as he had completed class assignments, he could look through the jar of quarters and find the ones that were missing on the state map. This worked for several weeks (until the map was completed) and both Ethan and Mrs. W. were pleased with the outcome. This strategy could now be used in various ways to combine Ethan’s love of history with an incentive for getting his assignments complete.
I love this successful outcome in the classroom. I wish we had lots of “Mrs. W’s” out there working with our ADHD kiddos! Sometimes it just takes a bit of creativity to help a child improve focus in class!
First steps in the classroom
Let’s go through the first steps that a teacher usually takes to minimize off-task behaviors in the classroom:
- Special seating – closer to the teacher, next to a peer helper, and/or away from areas of the room that are more distracting (doors, pencil sharpeners, fish tanks, etc.)
- Repeated directions
- Special cues or signals between the teacher and student to get back on task
- Positive reinforcement and feedback for appropriate behaviors
- Flexible grouping opportunities and paired with a peer helper
- Time built into the schedule for physical movement or a “brain break”
This leads to the question of what to do next in the classroom when students are not being successful with initial strategies to minimize off- task behavior.
ADHD: Daily or weekly behavior plan
This is where a daily or weekly behavior plan, in addition to the regular classroom management plan, can be effective.
Let the teacher know that you will reward your child at home for meeting his or her goals at school.
This opens the lines of communication from school to home and shows that you and your child’s teacher are working as a team to improve work habits and behaviors at school.
These plans do not have to be time intensive or complicated. Simple and specific works best!
The plan could include the teacher giving positive reinforcement or a special incentive when your child meets a certain goal for time on task and work completed.
I’ve included two examples that I’ve seen used successfully in the classroom.
The first (plan A) is generally used with younger students in grades PK-2.
The second (plan B) can be used or adapted for any elementary through middle school aged student.
The third example (plan C) is one that I have used with my own young child at home (who struggles with sensory input and hyperactivity). I’ve seen all three plans contribute to a child’s success.
and Plan C
(All of these plans are available for instant download in the resource library.)
3 characteristics of effective behavior plans
There are three important things to remember about these plans.
- The goal(s) must be very specific and include no more than two or three.
|Example that’s not specific:||Example that is specific:|
|Johnny will make good choices.||Johnny will keep hands to himself.|
2. The reward must be something the student enjoys in order to create buy in. This might include things such as computer time, special snack, extra recess, etc.
Teachers can consider having a reward choice list and should consult with parents about student interests when building the plan.
I once worked with a very young student who started improving his behavior just to lead the song at the end of the day! His teacher was happy to allow him that privilege in return for better behavior throughout the day.
3. A daily/weekly behavior plan is most effective with a team effort. This includes everyone from teachers and parents to other educators and caretakers who can help promote and reinforce when a child meets his or her goals.
What about consequences?
If a behavior plan is working, consequences should be minimal and mirror those given to typical peers. If a teacher is giving more consequences (usually loss of privileges) than rewards, then the behavior plan is not working and should be reevaluated.
The entire goal of the plan is appropriate behavior choices and is positive, not punitive.
Children with ADHD are the very ones who need to exert energy and taking away recess as a consequence should be reconsidered if 1- the behavior’s not changing 2- it creates more stress and anxiety for kids who already have a difficult time, which frequently leads to more inappropriate behaviors.
There are many studies and research that back up the benefits of physical activity.
The quote below comes from an article in ADDitude magazine called Exercise and the ADHD brain: The Neuroscience of Movement:
“When you walk, run, or do a set of jumping jacks or pushups, your brain releases several important chemicals.These brain chemicals affect focus and attention, which are in short supply in those with ADHD.”
At the very least, these students should be allowed to get physical activity, such as walking along the perimeters of the playground, during the loss of a privilege time.
(Note: This article is Chapter 1 from my ebook on ADHD: Non-medication options. Additional chapters below. The entire book is a 40+ page digital download for $4.99- direct link to purchase here.)