Tips: ADHD & unstructured environments

Tips: ADHD & unstructured environments

The most challenging times for a student with ADHD at school are typically when they are in an unstructured environment. Teachers can outline their expectations of a student in the classroom they will know when they have done something wrong or did not follow a direction as intended. These situations are more straight forward to control because supervision is higher and the teacher can set an agenda for what the students will be learning.

It is the times when the student sets foot outside of the classroom where there are more distractions and behavioural problems may arise. Lunch time, play time, or even going to the toilet give the student a chance to break free from the structured framework of the classroom. Here the student can roam through the school with less supervision and this is where their behavioural issues can act out.

Here are some was to manage transitioning from the classroom to the playground…

  • Give the student specific time frames. Outline when playtime will start and when it will finish. Do this prior to playtime so that the student is aware of their responsibilities.
  • Give clear instructions as to how the students are to switch from activities. For example, “Okay students before the bell goes you need to pack away your pens and pencils. Put your belongings into your bag then line up at the door and wait till I can say that you can go to lunch. Lunch will start in five minutes at 1pm and will end at 1:40pm. When you hear the first bell at 1:40pm you need to start to walk back to the classroom. When you hear the second bell you need to be inside the classroom. The second bell goes at 1:45pm.”
  • Show and model what your expectations are from the student. Be clear and rehearse these with the student. Before a semester starts you can run the students through how you would like them to enter the room and sit down at the start of the day. Explain that the reason that you want to do it this way (e.g., to ensure that the roll gets marked correctly).
  • Reward the students that are transitioning well. This could be done by rewarding individuals or tables of students. They can then become an example for the rest of the class.

Some tips to manage the transition back from the playground to the classroom…

  • Set goals for the students. Say that the class needs to be ready to go by a certain time. If they are already then you can reward them.
  • Relax the students back into the class by using imagery activities or even mindfulness.

And finally, some tips for when they are outside of the classroom environment…

  • Give students an individual report card for their behaviour outside of the schoolyard. For example, if the student has been misbehaving on the school bus on the way home then you could obtain information from the bus driver or school teachers. Make it a collaborative effort and have the student take responsibility for their actions. When they start to show improvement, it is important to reward and encourage them.
  • Model appropriate behaviours that you would like to see in the student. Show them different contexts that they are likely to encounter (for example the playground or lining up at the canteen).
  • Start a school wide program where good behaviour is rewarded. Issue ‘Good behaviour stickers’ when appropriate and reward the entire school with a special event at the end of the term if they reach a certain level.

Rief, S. F. (2003). The ADHD Book of Lists. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass


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