Maintaining attention of distracted students

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by Backroads, Sep 30, 2019.

  1. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Sep 30, 2019

    My school use the Heggerty phonemic awareness program. Last year, my class loved it. This year, it's pulling teeth. I have two students with ADHD who struggle through it like nothing else. And they happen to severely need phonemic awareness. But I spend most of the time trying to bring them back to attention, I don't think they're learning much at all. Fidgets, movement options just make it worse.

    I don't know if I want to go to the instructional coach about it. She's pretty old school and I know the suggestion will be keep them in from recess and bribe them with candy. I'm against taking away recess especially in cases of ADHD and I'm just not a treat giver, but even if I did these I believe they'd be avoiding the actual question of strategies.

    So... Strategy ideas?
     
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  3. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    I wish I had some great strategies but, alas, I have the same issues. The ones who are behind are often behind because they can't (or won't) pay attention. A loud voice, hand or body movements (for example, if you're teaching the short a sound, teach them the sign for "a" and keep having them do that as you're speaking or as they're repeating after you), and lots and lots of praise seem to help.

    Frequent reminders and very explicit directions help too, but then you lose the students who are following along and don't need multiple reminders, so it's a constant balancing act.
     
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  4. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Oct 1, 2019

    Most likely the information is too challenging for them in the group size they are in. If they don't understand it or struggle their attention will wane.

    Otter had a great idea about making sure body movement is in the activity. But I bet what these ADHD kiddos need is some more very, very small group work on the same material. They probably would benefit from one-on-one, at least until they really understand what is going on.
     
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  5. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Is this during whole class instruction or individual? Can you describe a typical interaction?
     
  6. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    So, to briefly describe Heggerty, it's a scripted program that usually takes about ten minutes if it's going reasonably well. We run through various repeat-after-me phonemic awareness drills and there is actually a whole bunch of hand/body motion.

    It is whole group. These kids are in fact receiving small group instruction in phonemic awareness at another time of day, but the district says this program must be done whole group.

    An example of what is happening with these two kids:

    Me: "Let's clap out the sounds in spin!"

    2 Kids: clap out the "s", then start tugging at their shirts, standing up, rolling over, staring into space, etc.

    Me: "2 kids!"

    2 Kids: Clap out "i" or whatever we're on. Repeat distracted behavior.

    I did a very heavy dose of not moving on till everyone was ready. It was a few weeks of very heavy, onerous, 30-40 minute lessons that may be the reason the rest of the class isn't caring for it and 2 Kids who still don't know what is going on. The rest of the class does much better if we move briskly without stopping to wait for 2 Kids.

    Even when we wait for 2 Kids, you can observe from the example they're still missing a lot of the instruction. It's very difficult to get them through a session.
     
  7. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Are you allowed to send them to their seats or to time out if they're not participating? It would say least help keep the other students from getting distracted.
     
  8. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    No, as that removes them from much-needed instruction.
     
  9. otterpop

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    Oct 1, 2019

    Even if they can still hear you and see you?

    They might even get better instruction if they are sitting alone not by neighbors but can still see you and hear your words, such as in the back of the classroom or at a desk while others are on the carpet. Neighbors are distracting! It sounds like they can't self manage very well when with the whole group.
     
  10. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    So true. This whole group tables, group time on the carpet, group projects, etc can be horrible for SOME adhd students. It depends on how their ADHD impacts them.
     
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  11. Tired Teacher

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    Sorry! No strategy ideas, but the above made me laugh and realize I am getting old! lol When you said, "Old school" my 1st thought was do they still use rulers? :) Candy and loss of recess came after that!
     
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  12. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    I agree that candy is not the way to go. That's like encouraging the students to change their brain chemistry in order to receive a stimulus that will negatively change their brain chemistry. It also alters their impetus for cooperation. Instead of participating to learn they would be participating to get candy. The optimal reward should be to gain mastery over a needed procedure, in this case, learning and applying the phonics rule. This feeling of success has been described as one of the highest levels of reward. Especially at an elementary age, the students become excited about their new accomplishments in reading and writing.

    It sounds like you are addressing the situation well, since the actions can't be ignored and the curriculum must be followed. That is a problem with scripted curricula, the students, themselves, are not scripted. Not that you are doing this, but the situation reminded me of my own interactions with elementary teachers especially when I was in 3rd and 4th grade. There was no such common diagnosis when I was that age, but I do have ADD. They tended to discourage rather than encourage me, especially when they'd shame me in front of the entire class and one teacher even encouraged the other students to shame me. (Again, I don't mean to imply that you are doing so; just relating my personal experiences).

    I know I'm probably in the minority, but I agree with the school of thought that ADD and ADHD are normal brain functions, even to the point of being an advantage. The disadvantage occurs when these students don't fit the prescribed methods of teaching. (I also agree with medication for these students, but that's another story). If possible, I'd recommend keeping the lesson going so that it doesn't drag out or shorten other lessons; give these 2 students' brains time to adjust to the procedures. To stop the distraction from the rest of the class, one possible intervention is to move near the students with a friendly encouraging expression. If you need to be pointing at something on the board, perhaps calling on a student to play teacher while you stand near the students would help. Another plus in keeping the lesson going is the establishment of routine, but unfortunately, these 2 students have developed their own routine. Perhaps, if the curriculum allows, sneak in some humorous breaks in the routine now and then. It's November, perhaps the kids could pretend to be turkeys while they clap the phonemes.

    When they are in their small groups, I'd ask these 2 for ideas on how to remember what was learned during the lesson. Their ideas will probably sound off the wall, of course, since they are trying to connect in their brains with previous learning that might not exist as fluently as we'd hope for at this point. Then I would also make some suggestions. It might help to relate the sound to high potency ideas, such as /ie/ for ice cream, icy sidewalks, bikes, etc.

    Some ideas might be for several students to spell out the words by standing in a line, each student representing a phoneme, and some students pairing to represent one phoneme. Each student could hold a letter card (I'd have the students create their own card. I'd also use 3x5 index cards, or construction paper, some type of pleasant shape or color that would further intrigue the brain).

    A hospital tub makes a great sandbox (with safe playground sand) for writing phonograms. Play-Doh is another option, especially since the word, such as ice cream, can then be formed into an ice cream cone. Another small group option is the use of a "big book", or I've also used Powerpoint on a PC. Powerpoint's plus is that the students and teacher can create a personalized story to practice reading with. Store bought phonics stories are great, but student made phonics stories dig even deeper into the brain.

    Captain Kangaroo
    had a teaching method (in his 1960's shows) that might also be applied, which is finding ways to incorporate music into the lesson. Personally, I'd recommend standard types of songs or even classical music, or perhaps pop songs from the 40's or 50's. Modern rock might be too distracting. Anyway, perhaps the students could manipulate something in the lesson while music is playing, or perhaps sing a song and treasure hunt the phonograms within the lyrics, or even act out the lyrics to a song that connects with the prescribed phonogram. Another idea would be to pretend to be a phoneme, and the student kind of dances out what that phoneme does while the music is playing. (I'd keep the pieces of music short, if possible, of course).

    The key, in my opinion, is to find ways to make use of the advantages of being ADD/ADHD. Every student's brain is different with its own advantages, but ADD and ADHD students' brains tend to stick out among the crowd when they don't engage with a prescribed situation. But as Sara Nickerson pointed out in her book Martin, the Cavebine, we need each others special abilities, including the special brain functioning of ADD/ADHD.
     
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  13. Tired Teacher

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    Yeah, I should have thought of this. :) I see ADD on a continuum and believe I was on the lower end of it too. Backroads, I would not bring it to the IC's attention. When I know someone is going to give me an answer I don't want to do, I keep my mouth shut! :)
     
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  14. Tired Teacher

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    I know whole group tables are a fad here now. They are a nightmare w/ some kids who are not ADD too. I'm glad they didn't use them when I was in school because I'd have been so distracted I'd never have been able to concentrate or get anything done.
     
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  15. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I agree. Group tables are terrible for many.
     
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  16. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Sit them in a chair or have them stand to the side. Flexible seating (and allowing for movement), can help. I wouldn't turn into a 40-minute lesson for 2 kids. If that doesn't work, then you tell them they can participate correctly, or practice during recess. I'm not talking about taking away their whole recess, but having them practice following instructions, or even just sitting correctly for 5 minutes. 5 minutes feel like an eternity to them, and they typically don't want to have to "practice" again. I think students need to be accountable and there should be consequences (especially if you're accommodating for their needs).
     
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  17. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Ugh, I may just have to start from scratch on this. Maybe take a few days' off.

    The kids all officially hate the lesson. Yet it is district mandated, so I'm going to have to still do it.

    It's full of kids pleading to go to the bathroom, presumably to get out of it, kids actually crying, distraction and fidgeting to the extreme. I've tried doing it both on the carpet and the desks, but it has turned into pure negativity for everyone.
     
  18. otterpop

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    Have you tried upping the positive reinforcement? Maybe giving a note each day to a stellar student that says "___ was an outstanding student during phonics instruction today!"

    It would be a positive way to wrap up a lesson and could help end the lesson on a good note.

    I tried this with my very distracted group to'day and the two students who got notes were so happy.
     
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  19. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I'm definitely trying to think of ways to go positive. I like your note idea,and also am considering sticking such as a point option on the Bloomz behavior tracker.

    I think I also will take a break from it for a day or so to maybe let the class detox, then start it up again at a different time of day (maybe mornings before specials) with renewed energy and positivity. We have been doing it after lunch per team scheduling plans out of schedule necessity, but with wiggle room approaching, I might be able to justify a change. After lunch is admittedly terrible for it, and I've been slogging on with the hope they will just learn to deal. But I've think I've already got the definition of insanity.
     
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  20. Tired Teacher

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    Over the yrs, district mandated programs have done so much damage to public schools here. If the teacher is allowed to be flexible w/ the program, it will probably work for some kids/ classes....like your last yr's class.
    Definitely, detox if it is not working and regroup. Whenever "new mandated programs" come out, there seems to be a mindless chant of : Fidelity to the program!" I really hate those words...lol
    It always took me awhile, but I'd figure out a crack in the system to tweak it....lol
    Except for PBIS- everyone celebrated, no matter what they just did or said 5 minutes before...I could not tweak that!
    If you have no choice now, you could pick just 1 behavior you want to see during the clapping experience. Focus on it, drowned everything else out, That way more kids could be positively reinforced ( verbally or w/ a written note) ,and you could save your sanity.
     
  21. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I don't. I've seen lack of fidelity take out important skills from programs. I've seen teachers remove the exercises in a program that actually taught students how to spell and left just the vocabulary building exercises and wondered why students spelled so poorly even though they did the homework.
     
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  22. Tired Teacher

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    What I have seen from it mostly is teachers trying to teach all kids the same way. Kids learn in different ways. I think most of us would agree on that. Trying to make 1 program fit all kids is insanity in my mind.
    Teachers who know what they are doing should be able to pull from a bucket of resources. I have seen teachers and even had to do it myself 1 yr of going through the motions of a program that did not work for most of the kids. It had parts that worked. When you use the parts from different programs, you can often reach certain kids who never would have "gotten it" the fidelity to the program way.
     
  23. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I'm sure some people will do that well. Others will only think they do it well. Then they blame everything but what they did.
     
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  24. Tired Teacher

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    I think we may see this differently because I work with mostly teachers who have big buckets and know what they are doing. There is a reason for why we are in the school we are. ( A newbie would not have much of a chance to be successful. It is an unusual population and you are thrown to the wolves in a way. ( Not much support available). :) The only kids we have( for the most part) below grade level are in resource or have moved from another area. Even though we work w/ a unique population, we still end up w/ high test scores and kids on or above level usually. Actually, about 1/2 of our kids are above grade level if you don't count the sped children. We have some rough kids w/ ED's that moved to our area over the last few yrs too,)
    I have worked though many years in a school where we got a mix of experience in teachers along w/ me being a newbie at 1st. I do remember being happy when I got some teacher's classes the next yr. Then I'd be thinking, Oh, crap when I'd see a heavy dose of kids coming from another teacher's room. She was nice, but not only skipped important areas, she actually taught kids some things wrong. Every yr I got her kids, I had to break them from the habit of writing stories a certain way. All stories from her kids started with : One nice day...….They just got worse from there....lol. :) 4th grade
    I am sure some people dreaded getting my kids too when I was a newbie, but we all have to learn over the yrs. :) Maybe new teachers need to learn using 1 way and branch out as programs change and find different things that work. Then if a program does not work for certain kids they have more ideas of ways to help them.
    I am just guessing most schools are more balanced like the 1st school I worked. Academics are pretty high priority to all, but maybe 1 of our teachers. They were for her too for a time, but something changed in her. I think she kind of gave up because she craved recognition too much and you don't get much where I work other than satisfaction knowing you got through to the kids.
     
  25. EdEd

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    Nov 11, 2019

    Haven't read all the responses (apologies), but first question would be if the lack of attention happens across instructional programs/settings, or just this particular one? If it's a broader issue, I'd suggest problem-solving on that level. Given the specificity of your initial post, though, it seems like this may be an isolated issue?
     

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