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Successful Instruction for Students With ADHD: Individualizing Instructional Practices -- Language Arts

Teaching Children With ADHD:
Instructional Strategies and Practices Part 6


In addition to the general strategies listed in previous sections for introducing, conducting, and concluding their lessons, effective teachers of students with ADHD also individualize their instructional practices in accordance with different academic subjects and the needs of their students within each area. This is because children with ADHD have different ways of learning and retaining information, not all of which involve traditional reading and listening. Effective teachers first identify areas in which each child requires extra assistance and then use special strategies to provide structured opportunities for the child to review and master an academic lesson that was previously presented to the entire class. Strategies that may help facilitate this goal include the following ones.


To help children with ADHD who are poor readers improve their reading comprehension skills, try the following instructional practices:

Silent reading time.
Establish a fixed time each day for silent reading (e.g., D.E.A.R.: Drop Everything and Read and Sustained Silent Reading [Manzo & Zehr, 1998 and Holt & O'Tuel, 1989]).

Follow-along reading.
Ask the child to read a story silently while listening to other students or the teacher read the story aloud to the entire class.

Partner reading activities.
Pair the child with ADHD with another student partner who is a strong reader. The partners take turns reading orally and listening to each other.

Ask the child to make storyboards that illustrate the sequence of main events in a story.

Schedule storytelling sessions where the child can retell a story that he or she has read recently.

Schedule playacting sessions where the child can role-play different characters in a favorite story.

Word bank.
Keep a word bank or dictionary of new or "hard-to-read" sight-vocabulary words.

Board games for reading comprehension.
Play board games that provide practice with target reading-comprehension skills or sight-vocabulary words.

Computer games for reading comprehension.
Schedule computer time for the child to have drill-and-practice with sight vocabulary words.

Recorded books.
These materials, available from many libraries, can stimulate interest in traditional reading and can be used to reinforce and complement reading lessons.

"Backup" materials for home use.
Make available to students a second set of books and materials that they can use at home.

Summary materials.
Allow and encourage students to use published book summaries, synopses, and digests of major reading assignments to review (not replace) reading assignments.


To help children with ADHD master rules of phonics, the following are effective:

Mnemonics for phonics.
Teach the child mnemonics that provide reminders about hard-to-learn phonics rules (e.g., "when two vowels go walking, the first does the talking") (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2000).

Word families.
Teach the child to recognize and read word families that illustrate particular phonetic concepts (e.g., "ph" sounds, "at-bat-cat").

Board games for phonics.
Have students play board games, such as bingo, that allow them to practice phonetically irregular words.

Computer games for phonics.
Use a computer to provide opportunities for students to drill and practice with phonics or grammar lessons.

Picture-letter charts.
Use these for children who know sounds but do not know the letters that go with them.


In composing stories or other writing assignments, children with ADHD benefit from the following practices:

Standards for writing assignments.
Identify and teach the child classroom standards for acceptable written work, such as format and style.

Recognizing parts of a story.
Teach the student how to describe the major parts of a story (e.g., plot, main characters, setting, conflict, and resolution). Use a storyboard with parts listed for this purpose.

Post office.
Establish a post office in the classroom, and provide students with opportunities to write, mail, and receive letters to and from their classmates and teacher.

Visualize compositions.
Ask the child to close his or her eyes and visualize a paragraph that the teacher reads aloud. Another variation of this technique is to ask a student to describe a recent event while the other students close their eyes and visualize what is being said as a written paragraph.

Proofread compositions.
Require that the child proofread his or her work before turning in written assignments. Provide the child with a list of items to check when proofreading his or her own work.

Tape recorders.
Ask the student to dictate writing assignments into a tape recorder, as an alternative to writing them.

Dictate writing assignments.
Have the teacher or another student write down a story told by a child with ADHD.


To help children with ADHD who are poor spellers, the following techniques have been found to be helpful:

Everyday examples of hard-to-spell words.
Take advantage of everyday events to teach difficult spelling words in context. For example, ask a child eating a cheese sandwich to spell "sandwich."

Frequently used words.
Assign spelling words that the child routinely uses in his or her speech each day.

Dictionary of misspelled words.
Ask the child to keep a personal dictionary of frequently misspelled words.

Partner spelling activities.
Pair the child with another student. Ask the partners to quiz each other on the spelling of new words. Encourage both students to guess the correct spelling.

Use cutout letters or other manipulatives to spell out hard-to-learn words.

Color-coded letters.
Color code different letters in hard-to-spell words (e.g., "receipt").

Movement activities.
Combine movement activities with spelling lessons (e.g., jump rope while spelling words out loud).

Word banks.
Use 3" x 5" index cards of frequently misspelled words sorted alphabetically.


Students with ADHD who have difficulty with manuscript or cursive writing may well benefit from their teacher's use of the following instructional practices:

Individual chalkboards.
Ask the child to practice copying and erasing the target words on a small, individual chalkboard. Two children can be paired to practice their target words together.

Quiet places for handwriting.
Provide the child with a special "quiet place" (e.g., a table outside the classroom) to complete his or her handwriting assignments.

Spacing words on a page.
Teach the child to use his or her finger to measure how much space to leave between each word in a written assignment.

Special writing paper.
Ask the child to use special paper with vertical lines to learn to space letters and words on a page.

Structured programs for handwriting.
Teach handwriting skills through a structured program, such as Jan Olsen's Handwriting Without Tears program (Olsen, 2003).

Go to
Part 7:
Successful Instruction for Students With ADHD: Individualizing Instructional Practices -- Mathematics


Teaching Children

This ten-part series explores the three components of a successful strategy for educating children with ADHD: academic instruction, behavioral interventions, and classroom accommodations. Use the handy index below to find the specific information for which you are looking.

Publication posted to Education World 06/25/2009
Source: U.S. Department of Education; last accessed on 06/25/2009 at