Easily distracted and ADHD students

In every learning environment, students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often find themselves easily distracted. This can manifest as incomplete homework, desks cluttered like waste baskets, or persistent, unnecessary interruptions like pencil tapping. ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders, affecting about 3-7% of children globally. Symptoms of ADHD, outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, typically emerge before the age of 7, with boys being more frequently diagnosed than girls.

Students with ADHD might exhibit a range of symptoms including difficulty staying focused, making careless mistakes in their academic work, and struggling to follow directions. These ADHD symptoms often contribute to broader challenges in managing distractibility and maintaining order in their educational activities. Moreover, ADHD in children can include hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention, leading to a significant impact on their ability to learn effectively. It’s important for educators to recognize these signs early to tailor their teaching strategies to better support the individual needs of these students.

So easily distracted or ADD/ADHD – but how do we cope with this in the classroom every day? Please find below some tips they may help you:

  • Get to know the individual student and be mindful of his or her uniqueness.
  • Seat the student away from doors and windows that may distract him or her. The student may work best closest to the teacher.
  • Allow physical activity breaks such as stretching and incorporate movement activities into a lesson.
  • When possible, provide the heaviest academic instruction to these students in the morning. Evidence suggests that on-task behaviors of a student worsen over the course of a day.
  • Write important information down where the student can easily reference it, most likely at their desk.
  • Divide large assignments into small segments. Write these segments down. Have the student cross the items off.
  • Provide frequent breaks for the student to get a drink or walk around the room.
  • Allow the student to run errands for you (e.g. take a note to the office) or have they be in charge of sharpening the classroom pencils!
  • Provide the student with a stress ball or other object for them to play with discreetly at their seat, especially when they need a break but can’t have one just yet.
  • Write the schedule of the day on the student’s desk and allow him or her to cross off each item as it is completed.
  • Recognize and praise aloud all good behaviors. Be specific in what the student is doing correctly so they know what gets praise.
  • Provide an assignment book for the student to keep track of homework and daily work. Encourage this book to be signed by parents so parents know what is going on in the classroom. Communicate with the parent as much as possible.
  • Form small groups for students with similar needs to work in so as not to get distracted and lost in a large group.
  • Allow the student to work in a quiet zone within the classroom. This should be a place in the room that is quiet and free from visual stimulation.
  • Establish a secret signal with the student to use as a reminder when he or she is off task.
  • When giving directions, make eye contact with the student and be as brief as possible.
  • Use visuals. Highlight words in colours. Underline and circle important things to remember.
  • Use auditory cues. Set a timer and encourage the student to work uninterrupted until the timer goes off. Allow the student a break following the work period as a reward and to recharge them for the next task.
  • Provide specific, well-defined rules to the student. Write these rules down and tape them to the student’s desk. These rules should have clear consequences, consistently and fairly applied.
  • Most importantly, students need guidance, compassion and understanding from their parents and teachers as they navigate the path of dealing with their needs.
  • Easily distracted students tend to be “concrete” thinkers. They often like to hold, touch, or take part in an experience in order to learn something new. By using games and objects to demonstrate concepts, you can show the child that learning can be meaningful—and fun. Be sure to cater for all learning styles in your planning.

Troubleshooting specific issues


Students who are easily distracted, particularly those with ADHD, often find classroom environments challenging. To manage distractibility and enhance focus, it’s effective to seat the child away from doors, windows, and other sources of external stimuli that might disrupt their attention. This reduction of potential distractions helps them stay focused on their tasks.

In addition to spatial adjustments, alternating seated activities with physical movement can significantly benefit children with ADHD. Incorporating movement into lessons not only helps manage their energy but also improves their ability to concentrate on one task at a time. Writing down crucial information in places where the child can frequently reference it, such as their desk or a central classroom board, ensures they have continuous reminders of their academic responsibilities.

Dividing large assignments into smaller, manageable tasks is another effective strategy. This approach allows children to experience frequent moments of completion, which can boost their confidence and motivation. It’s also beneficial to provide frequent breaks, allowing them to reset and return to their work with renewed focus. By adapting the learning environment to accommodate these needs, educators can significantly enhance the academic experience for children with ADHD, helping them to control their attention and minimize careless mistakes.


Children with ADHD often experience difficulty controlling their impulses, which can lead to frequent interruptions in the classroom. These interruptions can manifest as calling out, commenting inappropriately while others are speaking, or other symptoms of impulsivity that might be perceived as aggressive or rude, thus affecting their social interactions.

To help students manage this aspect of their ADHD experience, educators can establish a ‘secret language’ or system of discreet signals. These agreed-upon gestures or words serve as gentle, private reminders for the student when they are interrupting. This approach not only helps reduce unnecessary interruptions but also supports the student in developing better awareness of their behavior in a respectful manner.

Additionally, it is crucial to recognize and praise the student for interruption-free conversations. Positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool in encouraging desired behaviors, helping students with ADHD to better integrate into social settings and improve their communication skills. This targeted praise should focus on specific instances where the student successfully controls their attention and refrains from interrupting, thereby reinforcing their ability to participate constructively in group settings.


Impulsivity in children with ADHD can lead to challenging situations both socially and within the classroom environment. Students may act without thinking, which can be perceived as aggression or unruliness. To effectively manage these behaviors, it is crucial to establish structured behavior plans and enforce immediate and specific discipline for infractions.

A written behavior plan should be easily accessible to the student, detailing clear expectations and consequences. This plan aids in making abstract concepts of discipline more concrete and understandable for children who struggle with impulse control. When a misbehavior occurs, it is important to provide immediate feedback. Be explicit in explaining what the student did wrong, ensuring they understand the link between their action and the consequence.

Equally important is the recognition of positive behavior. Specific praise vocalized openly helps reinforce good behavior and encourages repetition of those actions. This acknowledgment should detail exactly what the student did correctly, helping them identify and repeat the desired behavior.

Additionally, writing the daily schedule on the board or on paper where it can be seen and referred to throughout the day helps these students. As items are completed, crossing them off provides a visual representation of progress, giving students with ADHD a sense of control over their day and helping them feel calmer and more oriented.

Fidgeting and hyperactivity

Students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often display various forms of hyperactivity and have a natural inclination towards constant physical movement. This may manifest as jumping, kicking, or fidgeting, presenting challenges within the structured settings of a classroom. Effective strategies to help manage these ADHD struggles include providing opportunities for controlled movement and sensory engagement.

To help children with ADHD manage their need for movement, educators can incorporate activities that allow them to expend energy in constructive ways. Asking students to perform simple tasks, like delivering messages to other teachers or organizing classroom materials, provides necessary movement without causing disruption. Similarly, encouraging participation in sports or arranging for active play before and after school can significantly reduce hyperactivity during times when focus is required.

Providing tactile objects such as stress balls or small toys can also be beneficial. These items allow students to channel their energy discreetly when sitting still is required. It’s crucial to ensure that students who exhibit fidgeting behaviors are not excluded from recess or physical education, as these are prime opportunities for them to release pent-up energy in a suitable environment.

By adopting these strategies, educators can help students with ADHD experience fewer disruptions due to hyperactivity, thereby enhancing their ability to concentrate on academic work and participate effectively in the learning environment.

Trouble following directions

For children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), following directions can be particularly challenging. They may appear to understand instructions and even write them down, but still fail to execute tasks as expected. This can lead to incomplete work, careless mistakes, or a complete deviation from the assigned task. Such difficulties often stem from ADHD symptoms that impact their ability to process and retain verbal instructions.

To help students with ADHD follow directions more effectively, it is crucial to adopt strategies that cater to their unique learning styles and help them control attention. Breaking instructions into smaller, manageable steps allows these students to focus on completing one task at a time, reducing feelings of overwhelm and increasing the likelihood of task completion.

Writing directions in a clear, visually distinct manner can also be highly beneficial. Use bold markers or colored pens to highlight key points, making it easier for students to refer back to the instructions and remember what is required of them. Additionally, regular reminders and redirection can help keep students on track. If a student deviates from the task, a calm yet firm redirection can guide them back to the correct path without increasing their anxiety or provoking negative thinking.

Implementing these strategies not only aids in reducing the frequency of misunderstandings but also enhances the overall learning experience for students with ADHD, enabling them to achieve better academic outcomes and feel more confident in their abilities to follow directions.

Educators play a crucial role in shaping the educational experience for students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). By implementing effective strategies tailored to manage distractibility, impulsivity, and other symptoms associated with ADHD, teachers can create a learning environment that enhances both academic success and social integration for these students.

It is essential to approach each child with empathy, understanding their unique challenges and strengths. Reducing distractions, managing impulsive behaviors, and reinforcing positive actions are fundamental steps in supporting students to stay focused and engaged. Furthermore, consistent communication with parents and mental health professionals ensures a comprehensive support system, aligning home and school efforts.

Ultimately, the goal is to empower students with ADHD to overcome their challenges and harness their potential. Through patience, creativity, and dedicated intervention, educators can help these students navigate their educational journey successfully, making learning a rewarding experience for every child

Key Takeaways for Supporting Students with ADHD

Understanding ADHD as a Neurodevelopmental Disorder:

  • Recognize that ADHD is not just about being easily distracted; it’s a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that includes a range of symptoms such as difficulty focusing, inattentive symptoms, and challenges in staying focused.

Identifying ADHD Struggles:

  • Acknowledge the common struggles associated with ADHD, which include managing potential distractions, completing homework assignments, and consistently paying attention in a busy classroom environment.

Strategies to Enhance Focus:

  • Implement tailored strategies to help students with ADHD avoid distractions and maintain focus. This can include structured routines, clear and concise instructions, and minimizing environmental distractions.

Collaboration with Mental Health Professionals:

  • Engage with mental health professionals to develop a comprehensive understanding of each student’s specific needs and the most effective interventions. This collaborative approach can ensure that educational strategies are aligned with therapeutic insights, providing a holistic support system.

Educational Practices to Support ADHD:

  • Adapt teaching methods to address the core symptoms of ADHD. This includes breaking tasks into smaller steps, using visual aids to enhance clarity, and providing frequent breaks to help students manage their energy levels.

By focusing on these key areas, educators can create a more inclusive and supportive learning environment that accommodates the needs of students with ADHD, enabling them to thrive academically and socially.

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