Friday, October 19, 2007

Instructional Strategies for Children with ADHD

"No two children with ADD/ADHD are alike"...but isn't that true for all of our students? In my quest to offer you concrete strategies to help those students in your classroom who may or may not be formally diagnosed with ADHD, I have found that the formula is quite similar to the effective instruction model we use at PSM/PECS. This style of teaching with well structured lesson, high expectations, minimal behavioral disruptions, and maximum engaged learning time meets the needs of MOST students.

Students (with ADHD) learn best within carefully structured environments. Watch as the strategies listed below, paraphrased from US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, align with our formal observation/evaluation form.

  • Before beginning a lesson, preview your expectations about what students will learn and how they should behave during the lesson. (State and write objectives)Standard A

  • Be consistent! Peform ongoing student evaluation, watch for signs of daydreaming or visual/verbal indications of frustration (playing in desk, drawing, flipping pages in book, angry facial expression) Standard E

  • Provide follow-up directions. ORAL: after giving directions to the class as a whole, provide attional oral directions for a child with ADHD. Ask the child if they understood the directions, or to repeat the directions together. WRITTEN: Write objectives, assignments, and the page number for the assignment on the board, remind students to look at the board if they forget. Standard D

  • Divide work into smaller units. Break down assignments into smaller, less complex tasks. For example, allow students to complete five math problems before giving them another five. Standard B

  • Provide advance warnings. Let students know that a lesson is about to end. Announce 5 or 10 minutes before the end of the lesson, how much time remains. This is extremely easy if you have the class time schedule on the board!!!!! Standard A
  • Check assignments. Review with some students what they have learned during the lesson to get a sense of how ready the class was for the lesson and how to plan for the next lesson. ADHD students will often tell you they "get it." Make them repeat exactly what "they get" to ensure accuracy. Standard B

Many students with ADHD are easily distracted and have difficulty focusing their attention on assigned tasks. However, these practices can help children improve their organization of homework and other daily assignments.

  • Designate a "student advisor." Permit students to pair up with each other to assist in planning and organizing before and after school. They could help record homework, file worksheets, and fill and empty the backpack with necessary materials.
  • Allow time to clean out desks and book bags. Remind the child, on a regular basis, to sort through and clean out their desk, homework folders, or book bag.
  • Create a check list of materials to go home, materials needed at school...etc. Post check list on desk as a visual reminder.

As we already know, well-managed classrooms prevent many disciplinary problems. Behavioral interventions should be viewed as an opportunity for teaching in the most effective and efficient manner, rather than as an opportunity for punishment. The mose effective intervention is VERBAL REINFORCEMENT. Positive reinforcement produces the changes in attitudes that will shape a students' behavior over the long term. A few reminders...

  1. Define the appropriate behavior while giving praise. Be specific to a student, not always whole class.
  2. Give praise immediately.
  3. Vary the statements. The same praise statement made over and over eventually loses its value.
  4. Be consistent and sincere. Beware of false praise.

Other behavioral interventions:

  • Selectively ignore inappropriate behavior.
  • Physically remove nuisance items in desk...rubber bands, broken pencils, barrets. This works best after the student has been given the choice of putting it away immediately and then fails to do so.
  • Allow for outlets. Permit students with ADHD to leave the class on an errand, provide them an honorary job that will give them the opportunity to get out of their chair occasionally.
  • Proximity control. Tap the desk or shoulder of someone when you need to regain attention.

Do you have other suggestions? Use the comments link below to share with us the strategies or interventions that have worked well, or maybe not so well in your experiences.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

School Based Problem Solving

What is School Based Problem Solving?
It is a progression of steps taken by the school to eliminate unnecessary special education evaluations and labels. Some consider it a stalling tactic, in my opinion it's more like quality control. We need to make sure that we are exhausting every option available in the classroom and community to resolve an issue before unnecessarily starting the "paper trail." In some cases, a label of special needs is inevitable. More often than not, interventions can be put into place that exhibit progress to a point that intervention is no longer needed.
The public school board requires that a plan of interventions take place for a minimum of 6 weeks. These interventions have to be documented and show that a reasonable effort has been made by the teacher and related staff to educate a child within the everyday classroom environment. The steps are outlined in 3 tiers.
Tier 1: YOU
I know it is tough, but first look at what you can do better.
  • What can you offer the student who is terminally unorganized and losing homework? Weekly time in class to clean out desk and back pack. You may have to reteach proper transition behavior. Attach a checklist of items needed before and after school.
  • What can you offer the student who can't seem to follow directions? Ask yourself...are you giving too many directions at a time? Are you writing the directions as well as saying them aloud? Are you asking the student to repeat the directions to ensure comprehension?
  • What can you offer the student who can't pay attention? Ask long is my lecture time? How long do I expect the students to sit in their chairs without standing up? Do you call on students who don't raise their hands? Use a code word or gesture to remind a student to focus.
Tier 2: HELP!
It has now been 6 weeks, and there is no change in behavior or academic progress. We need to rally as a team and see what everyone in the school can offer. This can involve the special education teacher, an aide, specials teachers, social worker, and/or administrators. The public board of education now wants documentation that more intervention has been sought within the school. At this stage, you would look into...
  • After school tutoring
  • One on one instruction time with an aide or special education teacher
  • Supplementary homework
  • Outside resources like a commercial or private tutoring program
Don't forget that we need to be communicating to parents throughout this process. Use this homework survey to find out what parents think about homework.

At this stage, we have documentation of everything we've tried in the classroom and beyond but a problem persists that will just not go away. At this point, all concerned parties should agree that an evaluation for services beyond the regular classroom should be considered. The parent may request an evaluation in writing, and the public school team combined with those involved in the SBPS team will convene to discuss appropriate options.

At no time during school based problem solving should modifications be made to the grading system, or curriculum content modified without prior administrative approval.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Differentiation in the Classroom

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Differentiation tips for teachers: Practical strategies for the classroom

Author(s): Jana Kirchner, Tracy Inman
Source: The Center for Gifted Studies Winter 2005 No. 14, pp. 10-11

What Is Differentiation? Why Is It Important?
As educators, we know and agree that it is critically important to have a classroom that meets the academic and emotional needs of each student. However, with a classroom of twenty-five to thirty students and the pressures of day-to-day school demands, that task becomes a challenge. Oftentimes, we as teachers feel overwhelmed and underprepared to effectively run a classroom focused on continuous academic progress for all students. In order to ensure that continuous progress, we need to be aware of the critical components of differentiation. Using differentiation in the classroom means designing and implementing curriculum, teaching strategies, and assessments to meet the needs, interests, and abilities of all students. Differentiated service experiences are defined as "educational experiences which extend, replace, or supplement learning beyond the standard curriculum."

Planning: The Need for Preassessment
In order for differentiation to be effective, assessment must be an ongoing part of teaching and learning. Preassessment is especially critical to be able to determine the student's level of readiness to proceed with the new unit of study. These three questions should guide every lesson:

  • Planning: What do I want students to know and/or to be able to do?
  • Preassessment: Who already knows the information and/or can do it?
  • Differentiation: What can I do for them so they can make continuous progress and extend their learning?

Planning: What Do I Want Students to Know and/or to Be Able to Do?
Those educators following best practice must plan their instructional objectives carefully. These objectives reflect national and state standards, the Core Content, Program of Studies, and Learning Goals. If a teacher has not assessed what she is doing in a unit, then she can certainly not guide her students to those outcomes. He is like the captain who doesn't chart his course and doesn't know his destination.

Preassessment; Who Already Knows the Information and/or Can Do It?
Once those objectives are created, the teacher must then ascertain who already knows the information or can already perform the skill. There are myriad ways to preassess. Teachers match the preassessment with their content, their students, and their own teaching styles. Some will use the final assessment as the preassessment. If a child already knows 80% of the material, then there is no need for him to "learn" it all over. He's already mastered it.

Another strategy that works particularly well with skills is "the five hardest questions" (Winebrenner 1992). In math, for example, ask the five hardest questions in the unit. If a child gets four out of five correct, then she doesn't need to study that material.

Not all preassessments must be pen and paper. (Although written preassessments provide important documentation.) Teachers can determine what kids already know by a class discussion, a KWL chart (What do you already KNOW? What do you WANT to know? How do you want to LEARN?), or even an oral question/answer session.

If something written is a better match, it still does not have to be the printed preassessment in the teacher's manual (although those are handy to use and important to document the starting point). It could be that before you begin a new unit on photosynthesis, for instance, you instruct students to jot down what they know about the topic. A quick skim over the papers helps the teacher put them into three piles; those who write a page with diagrams go in one while those saying "photo-what?" go in another.

The form of the preassessment isn't nearly as important as its utilization. Not only do educators need to preassess, but they must also use those results in teaching the unit. That's where differentiation comes in.

Differentiation: What Can I Do for Them So They Can Make Continuous Progress and Extend Their Learning?
Now that a teacher has a strong understanding of who knows or can do what, she plans. He will differentiate the content, process, or product to better meet the needs, abilities, and interests of all kids. Stay tuned on how to accomplish that.

A list of approved rewards for students.

1. Lunch with the teacher in the cafeteria.
2. A telephone call home to say what a great student you are.
3. Complete only half an assignment. (student must get pre-approval)
4. Choose any class job for the week.
5. One day pass to help a kindergarten class with recess. (must be pre-approved with K)
6. Front office helper for 20 minutes.
7. Choose a book for the teacher to read to the class.
8. No homework coupon.
9. Extra 5 point coupon to be used on homework.
10. Show and tell opportunity
11. First pick of recess activity or equipment.
12. Move your desk for a day.
13. Coupon for extra 5 minutes on a test.
14. Sit with a friend at a separate table at lunch.
15. Write the homework on the board for a week.