Doodlers and Dawdlers: Special Tricks for ADHDers and Other Wigglers
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
patience, patience, and more patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
(Galatians 5:22a NKJV--mostly)
Oh, and don’t forget patience.
What is more beautiful to a wiggly struggling student
than a teacher with loving, kind, peaceful patience?
May God bless you with these special gifts today.
ADHD: If you feel your child may be exhibiting ADHD qualities, there are many resources available. To start this process, you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a brief list of possible ADHD traits and resource information.
Multi-sensory Learning: The more senses that are introduced, the more the child will engage and remember. Saying the fact (verbal), seeing it (visual), and writing it (tactile.) Add some art, music, or drama whenever possible. For example, got a list of verbs? Post it, read it together, write it, silently act out each word for five seconds each.
Switching Gears: Please be aware that while a child is sitting quietly, he might actually be happily entertained by fun adventures inside his own head, or totally absorbed in a story or art project. So . . .
It takes dreamers a bit more time to switch gears, for example, switching from science to math.
- He needs to tear his thoughts away from his almost-finished volcano picture.
- He needs to put away his materials--and if he’s rushed, he’ll just shove it all somewhere.
- He’ll need to find his math book in his desk, which might look like the beach after a hurricane. (I think I’ve just described my house.)
- Then he’ll look up at the instructor and hear these words, “Item number three on our list is . . .”
Ways to help this situation:
- Find a way to give him a head start.
- Use a signal such as a bell or buzzer that means, “You have three minutes to switch gears.” Have the student acknowledge that he heard it.
Repeat What I Said: Some children don’t grasp what the teacher is saying until she’s twenty seconds into the speech. When you give instruction, ask the student to repeat what you just told her, whether it be verbatim or in her own words.
Brain Breaks: Get out of your chair. When a wiggle is upside down in her desk with her feet sticking up, it’s time to stop the lesson. No matter how hard you push, it’s almost impossible to get her back on track, especially when she’s been sitting a long time.
Have her (and any other students in the room) stand up and do gentle stretches.
Then do one of the following activities:
- Sing a favorite song, which burns up energy, and add motions.
- March in place
- Invent a rhythmic version of recitation. i.e. times tables or the continents.
- Sing along with SchoolHouse Rock, Veggie Tales, or other familiar videos.
- Dance to a favorite tune.
- The opportunities are endless.
The students need to be refreshed, and so do you. Then get back to business. We call these events “brain-breaks.”
More Brain Break Options: Go Noodle, The Learning Station, Jack Hartman Kids Music Channel, and YouTube. (Provided by Kelly Spradlin in South Carolina.)
Microwave Math: Dancing in the Kitchen. Before your wiggler gets free time, have her stand (not sit) near the microwave and review a short list of math facts. Practice reciting them. Then set the timer for two minutes. Have her recite them correctly before the timer dings. Then high five her and send her out the door.
To eliminate stress, make the list easily manageable. The goals are to review and to feel success.
Hand Signals: Catch if before it happens. When a wiggler looks as if he’s about to fall off his ledge of good behavior, have a pre-set hand signal system in place. Look him in the eye and touch your temple. Keep your finger there until he returns the signal. This is a reminder that the student is headed in the wrong direction, and gives him an opportunity to get back on track before he gets into trouble. If he is successful for five minutes, then reward him with a short break.
Listen and Draw: The afternoon yawn stopper. Are students plodding through the afternoon science curriculum amid an orchestra of yawns, doodles and squirms? It doesn’t have to be that way.
Provide colored pencils and an unlined page. For example, title the page, “Tundra Biome.” Then let students draw while you read to them. They can offer suggested elements to add to the page. For example, no trees, a signpost for a tundra-blessed country, and an igloo. Draw an arrow pointing down under the ground and label it, “permafrost.”
Last but not least, discuss what one would wear on a tundra, and have the kids draw themselves in parkas.
When they finish, turn paper over and write five facts about tundras, using complete sentences. This page may be kept for a study guide.
I found that with the teacher reading and not stumbling over the words, kids relax, listen, think, and ask questions. It’s a win-win.
This method can be used in any subject where things can be labeled, or scenes from history or stories. Encourage creativity.
The Notorious Red Pen: Don’t stab my page to death. When sensitive children receive a graded paper with red circles around their incorrect answers, it often gouges their hearts. The usual response is to throw the page in the trash.
If possible, let students grade their own work using a colored pencil or pen of their choice as you read off the answers. (Their #2 pencils go inside their desks for this.) As they check their own work, give opportunities to fix what they did wrong, using the colored pencil. This is a good way to learn. With practice, students will become efficient at this.
Self-grading Stations: The reward for finished work--take a walk. Provide colored pencils and answer sheets near you for self-checking. Regular pencils must remain at students’ desks. Sometimes a child will stop grading and say, “I missed a lot on this page because I didn’t understand it. Now I know what I did wrong.” Toss the bad page and hand him a new one. Send him back to his desk to try again, thus improving his grade and giving him a chance to practice what he just learned.
Three perks of student self-checking:
- As a reward for finishing his work, the wiggler can get out of his seat and walk to the grading station.
- Students learn what they did wrong so they can fix it.
In the "Who is the Author" section of this website you will find a list-making method that incorporates self-checking.
Doodlers: The satisfying scratch of a pencil. Sometimes there may be extra things on students’ pages--like puppies in the margins. As an ADHD person, I learned a long time ago that when I just listened to a lecture, my mind went off somewhere else. For some reason, when I doodled, I stayed focused, and the scratch of the pencil on the paper offered satisfaction. Give your wigglers an opportunity to try doodling while they listen, and see if it helps. Some, yes. Some, no.
Stand Up: Sometimes students find it helpful to stand up to do their work. Place their seat so they don't block other students. Outside edges work well.
The Weekly Cleanse: Designate a set time one day a week for a parent, older sibling, or other hopefully organized person help the student clean out her desk. Be available to answer questions such as. “What do we do with this half-finished crumpled paper?” Have a gentle answer ready.
One Folder: Having a folder for each subject is a great idea, but not for everyone. Children with focus issues do well if they select ONE colorful pocket folder for all unfinished and finished work. Left side is unfinished work, right side is finished work. This is still not perfect, but it does increase the odds of finding work and turning it in. If the left side becomes astronomically full, it’s time to consider some adjustments to the student’s schedule or work load.
The Worst Possible Punishment: Yes, it’s losing free time or recess. Think about it. Who needs free time the most (besides the instructor)? It’s the high energy, focus-impaired student who was trapped at his desk too long. He needs to be refreshed before he can sit down again.
Run around the Yard, or Not: Sometimes a wiggler just needs to wiggle. When the wiggles start to set in, send the child outside for ten minutes and a tell her to run around the perimeter of the yard a set amount of times. (Other options can be to shoot a certain number of baskets, kick the soccer ball around the yard between two cones, jump rope, dance, etc.) In a school setting, there will need to be a supervised area for this, or a place with window access.
This will result in one of two reactions.
- The student will come back, sit down, and get back to work.
- The student will come back with her eyes lit up, her cheeks flushed and her body ramped into party mode.
Quiet Clay: Another simple energy helper is a small plastic container with play dough or clay. Some students like to keep it in the desk and knead it while they listen.
Pencil Tappers and Hummers: If you have a pencil tapper, for example, you might notice that he does it unconsciously. In most situations there are other people who will be affected by this. If this is the case, meet with the tapper and his closest neighbor. Tell the neighbor that if the tapper starts tapping, silently stretch her ruler out across his desk so he sees it. This is a reminder that he’s tapping, and he might want to stop it before it requires a reprimand. He might like to tape a friendly cartoon face to the end of the ruler.
Gentle reminders ... can prevent reprimands which wigglers often receive in abundance. Go to “The Heart of a Struggler” for more information on this.
Don’t Trip on It as You Leave Home: When the student needs to be ready to go somewhere the next day, pack up his bag and set it in an open box blocking the door he’ll use when he leaves the house. Include sports practice uniforms, permission slips, and any other items he’ll need the next day. Write the words, “Take Lunch” on a big red sheet of paper and set it on top. In-your-face reminders are an important tool.
Another helpful practice is to keep a chair or bench in his room so he can lay out his clothes for the next day on it, including socks, shoes, and glasses.
Another method is to have the student make a checklist and attach it to back of the front seat of the car. When he gets in the back seat he can make a double-check of his necessary items. Short lists work best. (Provided by Chris Young from Minnesota.)
I would love to hear from my readers with more tried and true ways to work with wigglers. Please email them to email@example.com.