Guest Author - Jeanne Rutgers
Students with attention problems provide a unique set of challenges for teachers and parents when teaching reading. The constant fidgeting, and asking off topic questions can be extremely frustrating. It may seem like this student will never finish a chapter let alone an entire book.
The first thing to remember when working with an A. D. D. student is that his mind works differently than other students. It is crucial to accept this fact. Strategies for focusing that are used in the general population will fail with the A.D.D. student. Remember these students focus on a variety of topics and ideas at one time. They donít have difficulty paying attention. They pay attention to everything. For success, stop trying to work against his brainís natural ability. Adjust your techniques to his needs.
I have had tremendous success when I have specifically given a student something to fidget with while he reads. It can be a pen to tap, a penny to wobble around the desk, or a kush ball to squeeze. The constant tapping may drive you crazy, but I have found that by giving my students something designed for fidgeting, it helps keep their focus. If the noise of a tapping object drives you insane, a piece of play dough or a rubber band around the wrist will allow the student to manipulate something while working. Remember these are students who are designed to focus on more than one thing at once. By providing them with the second activity in addition to reading, they are no longer looking for what else they could be doing.
Look for ways to break up what you are reading
Before I start reading with a student who has attention problems, I ask him if he has anything to tell me. Then I have to listen to what he says. I have heard stories about Mt. Everest, Star Wars action figures, and the latest episode of Ed, Edd and Eddie. After he has finished talking about whatever it is that is on his mind, I show him how much we will be reading, before taking a break to talk about something else. For some students you will read as little as three sentences. Some will be able to do a few paragraphs and others a page or more. When you reach the stopping point, it is time to listen to more off topic stories and adventures. After the student is done sharing, show him the next stopping point and return to reading. Continue this long and painstaking process until you have finished reading your chapter or short story. Before you begin asking questions about what you have read, once again give your student a chance to go off topic. After he has finished, then ask comprehension questions.
When I first tried this method, I was shocked at how much of the written text the child understood and remembered. In fact he had retained more than I did. This is because his brain is wired to focus on more than one topic.