Children and young people with ADHD need predictability, structure, short work periods, more individual instruction, positive reinforcement and an interesting curriculum. Building a positive relationship with the student will also ensure more successful outcomes. This article gives more detail on how to meet this need.

Teaching approach

Planning and structuring the lesson:

  • Work from the students’ strengths and interests i.e. focus on what they can do not what they can’t.
  • Make students active participants in their learning.
  • Make learning FUN.
  • Divide lessons into short, clearly defined sessions.
  • Reduce expectations of seat work and use alternative ways of task completion.
  • Discreetly build in movement breaks e.g. errands, messages.
  • Set a variety of tasks and activities, where possible include a ‘hands on activity’.
  • Give one task at a time and monitor it.
  • Make direction clear and concise; maintain eye contact during instruction – avoid multiple requests.
  • Make sure the student understands before beginning task – if necessary, repeat in a calm and positive manner.
  • Help child feel comfortable about asking for help.
  • Allow extra time for tasks – a child with ADHD may need help for longer than an average child so gradually reduce assistance.
  • Plan ahead for transition times – count down to transition times.
  • Minimise changes in schedules – give plenty of warning when changes are about to occur.

Provide structure through lists, timetables, timescales, prompt cards and such as these :

Example to do list

Learning objectives sample sheet

Specify expectations:

  • This is the work you MUST do
  • This is the work you SHOULD do
  • This is the work you COULD do


  • Avoid unnecessary pictures or visual stimuli
  • Use large type on handouts
  • Ensure white space on each page
  •  Only one or two activities per page

Managing the environment

  • Seat student near the teacher keep other students out of view.
  • Avoid always sitting at the front as this could be seen as punitive.
  • Provide good role models – facilitate peer tutoring, mentoring and cooperative learning.
  • Avoid distracting stimuli – away from doors/windows, heaters, computers. (see below). Consider whether being seated near a window may actually help (some benefit as it’s a better alternative than focusing attention on their peers!)
  •  Create stimuli reduced area.
  •  Provide alternative environments for some tasks and activities.

Group work

  • When taking turns in a group, use a timer to set limits.
  • Remind the students before they speak to give one sentence only.
  • Remind the students to put their hand up if they want to talk, encourage pupils to stop and think before talking – this will help a child with ADHD.

Managing Distractibility

– Try and work out main distractors (auditory, visual, kinaesthetic, internal).
– Look at ways in which these distractions can be prevented.
– Make sure that tasks are as interesting as possible.
– Match tasks to the child’s ability – present challenge but not so difficult that the child is defeated.
– Monitor progress and provide frequent encouragement as the work develops.
– Remove nuisance items – insist all materials stay in bags, drawers or in desk tidies.
– Allow pupil to doodle/make notes/mind maps when listening.
– Provide something to ‘fiddle’ with particularly in seated situations with lengthy listening – keeping hands busy can help the child listen and focus.
Set basic rules at the outset of the lesson for use of the concentrator: sanctions for misuse.
– Developing an appreciation of time is difficult for children with ADHD, they have a limited sense of time management regarding a learning activity.
Egg timers are really useful to indicate how long is left in a task and as a means of tracking length of concentration and allowing points for each minute on task.

Supporting Learning Behaviour

  • Build a positive rapport and relationship with the student.
  • Simple, easy to follow code of conduct explained visually.
  • Display classroom rules and routines that are written in a positive way.
  • Provide ample opportunities to earn tangible rewards.
  • Set up a positive behaviour recording system where realistic and measurable targets are linked to rewards for success. Daily reward system that extends to home.
  • Provide verbal and non-verbal praise.
  • Selectively ignore inappropriate behaviour.
  • Use non-verbal responses to low-level nuisance.
  • Have positive expectations – explain what you want the student to do not what you don’t.
  • Use ‘thankyou’ rather than ‘please’ – language of expectation.
  • Be consistent, firm, fair and patient – appreciate and accept that the child cannot help her/himself: her/his behaviour is not prompted by naughtiness.
  • Allow ‘time out’ if required to move/de-stress/breathing/relaxation.
  • Monitor progress regularly throughout the lesson.
  • Be calm and assertive.
  • Give warning of consequences of poor choices.
  •  Pupils with ADHD have a clear sense of what is unjust and just so be consistent.
  • Use a simple, easy to memorise hierarchy of sanctions.
  • Apply sanctions as near as possible to the event.

Useful links