Get their attention before speaking. Eye contact, gestures, touch or verbal prompts can be used to get students’ attention before giving instructions or speaking to them.
Speak clearly. Clear and direct instructions about the task, the behaviour expected, and how much time students have to work in may be helpful. These instructions may need to be repeated at the start of each new task.
Simplify instructions and learning. Consider breaking down big tasks into smaller ones. For example, give step-by-step instructions or visual instructions (i.e. pictures). It may be helpful to check their understanding before moving on to the next step or activity. For example, ask them to repeat instructions or answer questions.
Vary teaching formats. Consider using pictures, videos, PowerPoint presentation, objects, or demonstrations to explain concepts and tasks. Hands-on lessons can be very engaging!
Use computer software. Multimedia educational software on the computer or tablet may help some students focus on complex lessons, such as mathematics or reading. Interactive software where students can answer questions and receive immediate feedback are good for practising these skills. Some software can help improve memory and attention. Minimise potential distractions. It may be helpful to sit students with their backs facing windows, doors, corridors or other busy areas of the classroom. Distractions could be removed when not in use. Let students who are easily disrupted by sounds wear ear plugs or headphones while they work on individual tasks.
Select seating. Consider sitting students near friends who can model positive behaviours, or close to you so you can interact with them. Short seat breaks (e.g. run an errand, touch their toes), stability balls, cushions or study carrels may improve focus and restlessness. Similarly, holding blu-tack or a stress ball may help. Create a consistent daily routine. Rules and routines help a student know what is planned for the day. Consider using a timer/clock to help teens learn to manage their time and routines. This can be useful if teens are learning to self-monitor their behaviours too. Match teaching to interests and abilities. Consider what students like and can do to keep things interesting or relevant and manageable for them. As they become more capable, the workload or difficulty can be slowly increased.
Help them. Some students may need help (e.g. prompts, demonstrations, encouragement) from teachers or other students when learning new skills. This help can be gradually reduced as they become more capable. They may need to be taught how to ask for help (e.g. raising hands, waiting for their turn to speak).
Work collaboratively in groups or with buddies. This will reduce distractions, making it easier for them to focus. Students can practise new skills, make friends, and learn by watching others. Buddies are also great for redirecting a distracted student.Give encouragement and correction immediately. Students may respond well when their own and others’ efforts and achievements are encouraged frequently. Brief and direct correction may be more successful than repeating instructions lots of times or paying attention to disruptive behaviour.
Redirect rather than reprimand. Consider asking a student to check displayed rules or redirecting a student who is distracted without causing embarrassment. Teach students how to self-monitor. Consider giving students a checklist of behaviours that they would like to work on (e.g. raise hand to ask question). Prompt them to check off the list throughout the day. Access AllPlay Learn’s Self-monitoring form under relevant resources.
Teach self-instruction skills. Consider guiding students to problem solve so they can persist with school work instead of getting frustrated. For example, they can follow these steps mentally or think out loud: “What is the problem?”, “What are my options?”, “I think this is the best option”, “Am I following my plan?” and “How did I do it?”
Guide students to self-evaluate. Students can be taught to rate their choices and outcomes, and write down what has helped or stopped them from achieving their goals. Teachers can help students be more accurate in their evaluations by recording their own observations. Teach organisation strategies. Tools such as colour-coded folders, planners or checklists can be used to help students keep track of notes, books, homework, assignments and key dates.
Teach note-taking skills. Students can be taught note-taking and summarising skills during a lesson through simple and direct instructions. Prompts and redirection may help students to take accurate notes. This support can be reduced when they can record information and write notes clearly and concisely without help.