Classroom Interventions for Students with Attention Deficit Disorders

Karen J. Rooney, Ph.D.
President, Educational Enterprises, Inc.
1899-B Billingsgate Circle
Richmond, VA 23238
(804) 747-1883

Classroom Interventions for Students with Attention Deficit Disorders

Several lessons need to be learned to work effectively with students with attention disorders. Jimmy taught his teacher the first of these lessons. Jimmy was sitting in class listening to a well-planned lesson on farm animals. His reaction to the lesson was to ask his teacher if she had ever been to the Empire State building which certainly gave the impression that Jimmy had not been paying attention. The teacher responded, "Jimmy, why would ask that question now?" Jimmy explained, "You were talking about farm animals and my uncle used to have a farm which I visited every summer. Last year, he sold his farm and moved to New York City so I went there instead of the farm and he took me to the Empire State building." Jimmy taught his teacher that students with attention disorders do not always process information the way their parents or teachers think they should and that behavior is not always what it appears to be.

Sarah taught her teacher the second lesson during a well -intentioned spelling lesson which demonstrates the necessity for on-going monitoring and diagnostic teaching. Sarah's teacher taught her to use small words within words to help her with spelling. Sarah spelled the word brown as "brone." She was asked to identify a small word within brown to enable her to spell the word correctly. She identified the word "ow" in brown and the teacher was quite satisfied until Sarah wrote "brone" on the retest. The teacher asked Sarah if she remembered the small word she had identified and she said, "Yes, the word "ow." The teacher pointed to Sarah's word and queried, "Do you see "o-w" in brown?" Sarah gave the teacher an exasperated look and said, " Well, you didn't tell me that "c (see)-o-w" was in the word so that's why I got it wrong." Sarah taught her teacher that working with students with attention disorders is not always easy and that interventions need to take into account the unique characteristics of the individual as well as the situation. There isn't going to be a program or intervention that magically cures an attention disorder.

In addition to these very basic lessons, an in-depth understanding of the basic descriptors of attention problems needs to be developed.

Descriptors of Attention Disorders

The definition of attention has frequently been described in generic terms as though attention was a singular construct but this approach has not been supported in the literature (Goldstein & Goldstein, 1990; Keitzman, Spring & Rubin,1980; Posner & Snyder, 1975; Rosenthal & Allen, 1978). In contrast, Postle (1988) described attention as "the process through which we construct the world we experience." Thus, a multi-factorial definition of attention is necessary for understanding the construct (Halperin, Newcorn, Sharma, Healey, Wolf, Pascualvaca, & Schwartz, 1990). In spite of this research data, when a child is diagnosed as having an attention deficit, it is unusual to have sufficient attention given to the description of the attention problems involved. Typically, the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder is treated as a definitive, singular construct that will identify the individual's disorder. The use of subtype descriptors can prevent the oversimplification of a complicated construct and make the diagnosis of an attention disorder a more salient description that can be translated into appropriate educational and behavioral interventions.

Attention can be divided into categories that describe specific types of attentional weaknesses. The first category deals with encoding or problems with incoming stimuli and the storage of this stimuli for processing. The second category relates to the selection of stimuli to process further.


Attention Span refers to the length of time an activity is pursued. For example, switching from task to task without completing the task is an example of a weakness in attention span. A child is not able to continue attending long enough to successfully complete the task or process.

Focusing attention refers to the ability to tune out distracting or irrelevant stimuli so that attention is directed toward the appropriate stimuli. This type of attention deficit is exacerbated as the degree of the complexity of the task increases (Keitzman et al, 1980; Zentall, 1983).

Divided attention refers to the ability to split attention between two or more inputs or aspects of a task. Impairment in the ability to "split" or allocate attention results in deterioration in speed and accuracy of attentional processing (Zeitzan, 1980). If a teacher is giving an example of gravity by describing a ride at an amusement park, the attention needs to be focused on the message and distracting, irrelevant conversations or environmental noises need to be ignored. Focused attention requires the elimination of distracting or irrelevant stimuli. For example, if a teacher is demonstrating a math problem and teaching the steps verbally, the student has to divide or allocate attention between the problem being worked and the message being delivered.

Sustained attention is the ability to maintain the focus of attention over time and is related to arousal or activation of the nervous system. Kahnehan (1973) states that arousal is the degree of effort required for attentional processing. If arousal is low, motivation, alertness and processing capacity are diminished and sustained attention is impaired. Many students with ADD exhibit fatigue because of the greater demands on energy when processing information or paying attention.

Intensity of attention has been shown to have an influence on focus as well as memory storage (Pettijohn, 1987). The greater the intensity of the attention from factors such as interest, motivation or novelty, the greater the ability to focus and sustain attention. Weaknesses in intensity would be similar to widespread underarousal which interferes with attentional processing capacity. Research on students with ADD indicates that the students perform better under novel, highly stimulating conditions but not under routine, boring conditions ( Zentall, 1983).

Sequential attention is the ability to focus attention on the stimuli in the order that is necessary for successful task completion or accurate comprehension. For example, if directions are being given, attention must be directed to the stimuli in order for accurate comprehension and execution to take place. Accuracy of sequential attention affects comprehension of behavioral situations as well as academic processing because of the importance of the sequential order for comprehension and generalization.


Selective attention is the ability to choose the appropriate stimuli for processing. After attention is focused and sustained, certain pieces of information or stimuli are chosen for further processing. For example, in a textbook, the terms are put in bold print to help the selection of these pieces of information for processing rather than other words in the text. Students with ADD have more difficulty with the selection process than non-ADD students (Hallahan & Reeve, 1980). The concept of selective attention is very important in terms of educational intervention because of the implications for studying and test-taking.

Involuntary attention is an automatic response to a stimuli. For example, if someone calls a person's name, the attentional response is immediate.

Voluntary attention is conceptually driven and refers to "the allocation of attention to stimuli that are relevant to current plans, expectations and intentions" (Keitzman et al., 1980). This type of attentional processing is intentional, deliberate and conscious. The process of choosing relevant stimuli requires excessive energy, demands extensive practice but can become more automatic over time. For example, driving a car is an example of a task involving voluntary attention that becomes an automatic process. As the car leaves the motor vehicle department, the new driver is thinking of every detail related to the driving process but with experience, the driver can look at scenery, recognize familiar friends and listen to the news while driving without interference in the driving process.

Filtering is the process of weeding out irrelevant stimuli from relevant stimuli. Theories such as the "bottleneck" suggest that information is narrowed to the most critical stimuli. However, this filtering process has also been viewed in terms of "set." "Schema set" (Broadbent, 1971) is a filtering process that targets appropriate stimuli because of the physical properties of the stimuli. A second filtering process called "response set" selects stimuli for further processing based on the similarity between the stimuli and the conceptual expectation. For example, if a child is told to attend to the teacher with the blue dress, the schema set would control the selection. If the child were told to attend to the teacher talking about space, the response set would control the selection. Since ADD students have difficulty with schemas, the filtering process is complicated by the organizational weaknesses as well as the attentional focus.

The use of these descriptors of attention has been well-documented in the literature. Encoding descriptors such as short term/working memory deficits have been reviewed by Baddeley (1986), Torgeson, Kistner & Morgan (1987), and McIntyre, Murray & Blackwell (1981). Selective attention deficits have been analyzed in some of the most interesting studies from an educational perspective (Hallahan & Reeve, 1980; Hallahan, Tarver, Kauffman & Graybeal, 1978; Richards, Samuels, Turnure & Ysseldyke, 1990). A more in-depth understanding of these descriptors of attentional disorders will enable educators to understand the nature of the disorder as manifested within the individual so intervention planning will be more suited to the individual and be more successful.

Intervention Planning

In regard to intervention planning, an in-depth understanding of two techniques for behavioral analysis and two important approaches to intervention needs to be developed. Behavioral observation and behavioral analysis are important techniques to enable a teacher to analyze a student's individual needs as well as environmental dynamics that need to be addressed during intervention planning. In addition, behavior management and organizational training need to be included in the intervention program. First, the tools for analysis will be presented and then the two types of intervention will be discussed.

Behavioral Observation

The use of behavioral observation systems are valuable tools to collect information about a student's behavior. The techniques are simple and depict behavior over a period of time so the practitioner can view the behaviors more objectively than when using less structured approaches. There are many checklists available which can be used for assessment (Goldstein & Goldstein, 1990) but observation is necessary to determine how the disorder manifests itself in the individual student. The observational techniques below represent some simple methods to obtain behavioral information:

Strength/Weakness Chart
A simple chart can be made from teacher perceptions of the individual's strengths and weaknesses which can facilitate educational/behavioral planning. Teacher comments often have less impact because the comments are narrative in nature and are not succinctly organized. The use of charts will clearly convey the perceptions of a teacher or multiple teachers about a student's strengths and weaknesses as well as the concerns of the teacher/teachers. An example of such a chart for a tenth-grader is outlined below:

Strengths Weaknesses
Discussion in class Sustained attention
Leader in cooperative learning Fatigue
Oral responses Written Language
Multiple Choice tests Essay tests
Memorization Integration

Oral test alternatives
Eliminate rote copying tasks
Frequent breaks
Practice essay questions
Use of pictorials/diagrams for concepts
Use graphic organizers that force attention to detail and identification of the concept
Key word notetaking
Preparation of study materials in cooperative learning groups
Use review systems consistently
Use tests that are multiple choice in nature with essays that have been organized in advance

Narrative Cards

November 10
Sue had trouble starting her classwork immediately.
Sue had difficulty finishing her seatwork and had to take classwork home to finish. Sue was involved in a disagreement on the playground. She and Marta fought over their turn on the swing. Both girls were separated and were put in time-out until they could control their behavior.
Did not have papers signed by parents.

November 11
Sue did not finish seatwork again today and had to take work home. She did not have her book for reading so could not complete reading assignment.
Had to borrow a pencil.
Did well on the playground today.

November 12
Had Pair Instruction activity and work was completed.
Did well on playground.

Recommendation: More pair instruction for social as well as academic reasons.

Quantitative Cards

Did Sue finish her work this week? Yes No
Monday   x
Tuesday x  
Wednesday x  
Thursday   x
Friday    x

Was Sue working? November 10
9:00 yes 9:50 yes
9:10 no 10:00 yes
9:20 yes 10:10 yes
9:30 no 10:20 no
9:40 no 10:30 no

Was Sue working? November 11
9:00 yes 9:50 yes
9:10 yes 10:00 no
9:20 yes 10:10 no
9:30 yes 10:20 no
9:40 yes 10:30 no


Was Sue working? November 12
9:00 yes 9:50 yes
9:10 yes 10:00 yes
9:20 yes 10:10 yes
9:30 yes 10:20 no
9:40 yes 10:30 no


Tracking the frequency of the behaviors can sometimes be difficult for teachers actively involved in the teaching process, but easy access to a card with designated spaces representing particular behaviors may enable the teacher to record a quick checkmark as a frequency tally. The use of manipulatives such as moving the pieces of an abacus, moving colored macaroni from one container to another or shifting rubberbands from one wrist to another are examples of creative substitutions for written tallies. The frequency number is then recorded on the daily card and the data from daily cards can be graphed or tabulated to provide a more objective view of the severity of the problem and is very useful for parent or student conferences.

Time Sampling of Attention

Attention has been defined as on-task behavior which can be measured through the use of a time sampling method to identify the occurrence and non-occurrence of on-task behavior representing attention (Hallahan, Lloyd, Kosiewicz, Kauffman & Graves, 1979; Hallahan, Kneedler & Lloyd, 1982; Rooney, Hallahan & Lloyd, 1984). The observation of on-task behavior is particularly useful when looking at student levels of attention in the classroom. The task that will be observed is defined in behavioral terms so the definition of on-task behavior is very clear. If the student is supposed to be reading a book, on-task behavior may be defined as eyes being on the book. If the student should be listening to the teacher, the student's eyes must be on the teacher. If a student should be writing, the pencil should be moving on the paper. The behavioral definitions make the judgements more objective, uniform and accurate.

A sample of students is randomly selected in addition to the target student. Usually, the observational sample consists of five students, including four randomly selected students plus the target student. Each student is given a number and the observational procedure described in the previous section for a time sampling of a single behavior is employed. The observer counts, times or listens to the tape and records the on or off-task behavior of each student. The observer looks at the identified student and places a check in the "yes" column if the student is on-task according to the behavioral criteria established for the task or places a check in the "no" column if the student is not doing one of the behaviors identified as on-task criteria. The recording sheet may look like this:

Was Bob paying attention (eyes on book while reading)?
Bob Sammy Jonah Jonathon Francis
Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No
X   X   X   X   X  
X    X   X   X   X  
X   X     X X   X  
X   X   X   X   X  
X   X   X   X   X  
  X X   X   X   X  
  X X   X   X   X  
X      X X   X   X  
  X X   X   X   X  
  X X   X   X   X  
X   X   X   X   X  


Percentages on-task:
67% 92% 83% 92% 100%

The use of behavioral observation systems are valuable tools to collect information about a student's behavior. The techniques are just a sample of observational techniques that are simple and depict behavior over a period of time so the behaviors can be viewed more objectively and accurately than when using less structured approaches.

Behavioral Analysis

The use of visual organizers can be useful to facilitate the process of behavioral analysis when observing students with attention disorders. The organizers help focus attention on the dynamics of the behavior by forcing consideration of the situation prior to the occurrence of the behavior and after the occurrence of the behavior which can dramatically change the intervention planning. For example, if the behavior of concern is that Bill yelled out in class, the intervention will be geared toward Bill but if the analysis reveals that Steve pinched Bill very hard on the back first, the target of the intervention should be both Steve and Bill. Without sufficient analysis, the target of the intervention can't even be identified accurately. However,, if the analysis discloses that Bill is yelling out and that, after class, Bob and Sarah tell him how funny he was when he yelled and dare him to do it again. The intervention will need to take into account the peer pressure that is causing the behavior to continue. Examples of some visual organizers are the Three, Four and Five Square approaches:

Three Square Approach
Before Target After Jim kicked Bill Bill slaps Jim Bill gets a in the hall. on back when he detention. enters class.

The situation prior to the occurrence of the behavior must be included to put the behavior in the appropriate context. In this situation, Bill has received a negative consequence and is probably going to be mad because Jim started it but got away with the kicking. Bill's anger is likely to affect future interactions with the teacher. Jim is going to continue the behavior because he did not receive any consequence at all and probably enjoyed getting away with the kicking.

Four Square Approach
Before Target After Solutions Jim kicked Bill slaps Jim Bill gets Give Jim a Bill in the on the back a detention. detention. hall. when he enters class. Apologize to Bill for being unfair. Have conference with both boys. Find out what actually happened next time.

Five Square Approach
What Before Target After Solutions Works Jim kicked Bill slaps Jim Bill gets Give Jim a Apology Bill in the on the back detention. detention. hall. when he enters class. Apologize to Bill for being unfair. Have conference with boys. Find out what actually happened next time.

In the Three Square Approach, the behavior is analyzed in its context to arrive at causative factors that are making the behavior occur or dynamics that are making the behavior continue. The fourth square generates solutions and the fifth square tracks effective interventions for the individual student.

Behavior Management

Behavior management depends on the predictability of behavior, on the premise that people learn behavior and on the assumption that programs can be devised to change behavior. There are also general assumptions that must be recognized (Morris, 1985):

1. Behavior is learned.
2. Behavior problems are learned separately.
3. Behavior and learning problems can be changed through behavior modification procedures.
4. The behavior or learning of a specific situation only shows how the child typically behaves in that particular situation.
5. Emphasis is placed on behavior change in the current time frame, not in the past.
6. The goals are specific.
7. Behavior and learning problems are caused by the environment; unconscious motivation has no critical role.
8. Insight is not necessary for changing a child's behavior.
9. Symptom substitution does not occur (new symptoms would be related to the precipitating factors of the new situation).

In the following paragraphs, two typical behavior management formats are exemplified to analyze the effectiveness of behavior management in light of the characteristics used to describe attention disorders. The first format is geared to the individual:

Mrs. Jones, the teacher, would like Jane to volunteer more often in class. She sets up a system that will give Jane a star on a chart taped to her desk each time she volunteers for an answer. When Jane has all the ten squares filled in on the chart, she will earn a special eraser for her pencil.

The second format, called a token economy system, is geared to the group and is often used in classrooms and residential settings. A list of behaviors and reinforcers for the group is compiled so the individual operates within the system set up for the group. A typical classroom list of activities and reinforcers are listed in the chart below:

Activities Points Reinforcers Points On time for class 10 Prize Bag 200 Has materials 20 Computer time (15 min.) 100 Completes work 30 Activity Table (15 min.) 100 Raises hand for Conversation Time (15 min.) 100 question 10 Daily Messenger 200 Test grade A 50 Listen to music 200 Test grade B 40 Library time (15 min.) 100 Test grade C 30 Takes turn 20

The students receive points as the behaviors occur so the tallies result in the number of points the child has to spend. The student is free to spend the points any way he/she wishes.

Though these plans seem simple and straightforward, human behavior and its management are very complex topics. Even when behaviors are learned, generalization of the behaviors has been difficult to achieve without additional intervention such as the technique Swanson and his colleagues (Swanson, Kotkin, Pfiffner & McBurnett, 1992) have successfully developed. The trainer was used as an effective generalization cue by having the trainer actually be present in the new setting to act as a stimulus to generalize the new behavior.

Organizational Strategy Training

Teachers need to tell students with atttention disorders 'how to learn" as well as what to learn without using complicated, step-by-step strategies that do not accommodate the characteristics of students with attention disorders and are not flexible enough to generalize easily to a variety of situations. Appropriate interventions need to:

1. Be systematic so judgement and organizational demands are minimized.
2. Be simple and dependable.
3. Be manipulative (active involvement).
4. Build the necessary base of information (not activate prior knowledge).
5. Identify missing skills.
6. Force conceptual understanding or recognition of instructional needs.
7. Be concrete and visual.
8. Provide advance organization so multiple passes through material is not required.
9. Help break down processes into manageable units.
10. Guide the learning process.
11. Force attention to critical detail.
12. Result in review systems comprised of the critical pieces of information.

If interventions do not meet these criteria, the effectiveness of the approach will be diminished by the interaction of the characteristics of attention disorders and the characteristics of the situation or the academic task. The following strategies taken from the program "Independent Strategies for Efficient Study" (Rooney, 1990) are examples of strategies that support attention, guide information processing and facilitate memory storage/retrieval and were designed to accommodate the cognitive and behavioral characteristics of Attention Deficit Disorder identified in the literature.

Content Area Reading

For students with ADD, certain concerns related to content reading need to be addressed. These students have difficulty with the accuracy of prior knowledge and the compilation of the critical detail that successful students attend to automatically.

In order to do this, strategies that guide the selection of the appropriate detail must be taught as opposed to approaches that define the process after the selection of the important detail has taken place. In order to accomplish this , the student

1. Reads the subtitle and the section under the subtitle. As the student is reading, he or she writes the NAMES of people and places, important NUMBERS and TERMS on separate index cards. One, two or three words will be the most that will be written on a card. Only the word or number by itself should be on a card. For example, if the words Ireland, 2500 B.C. and Urquhart Castle were in a passage, each would appear on a separate card.

2. Returns to the subtitle and turns it into the best test question possible. He or she makes the question as hard as possible and writes the question on one side of an index card and answers the question on the back of the same card so that there is a main idea question and answer in the study system.

3. Repeats steps 1 and 2 on all the sections to be covered so that a set of cards based on all the details and main ideas is produced.

4. Studies the cards by looking at the cards one by one. For the detail cards, the student asks the question "How is this related to the material?" or "What does this have to do with the material?". On the main idea cards, the student tries to answer the question from memory. If the student is not sure of an answer for any of the cards, the card is placed in one pile.

If the student is sure of the answer, the card is placed in a second pile. The cards will be sorted into two piles, one called "not sure" and the other called "sure". The student sets the "sure" pile aside and continues working with the pile called "not sure". For the unknown detail cards, he/she goes back into the material or asks someone for the answer and writes the answer on the back of the card. The student reviews the detail cards as well as the main idea cards (which already have the answer on the back) until all cards are in the "sure" pile.

For a comprehensive review for examinations, all the cards are reviewed since the system has automatically accumulated all the details and main ideas that were presented during the semester. The cumulative process and the card sort manipulative supports the review and study process which is even more problematic for students with ADD if there is a long delay between learning and the evaluation. A student sample is follows:


Over the years, people in all countries have been fascinated by reportings of monsters that seem to date from prehistoric times or the age of the dinosaurs. Sightings of the Abominable Snowman, Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster have intrigued journalists, explorers and scientists for many years. Recently, new scientific equipment has focused renewed interest in the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.


In Scotland lies a very famous lake called Loch Ness. The lake is about 24 miles long, about a mile wide and approximately 650 feet deep. Overlooking the lake are several local castles such as the famous Urquhart Castle and the Aldourie Castle. The presence of the castles adds a mystique to the area which increases interest in the area. However, the main attraction of Loch Ness is the reported presence of a huge, serpent-like monster named "Nessie".


The Loch Ness Monster may be the most famous sea serpent in the world. It is described as being 40 to 60 feet long with a head about the size of a horse's head. Its thin neck is about six feet long and is attached to a fat body with an eight foot long tail. The description is similar to a dinosaur known as the plesiosaurus. Scientists think that Nessie is a plesiosaurus who has survived since prehistoric times.

Insert Figure 1 about here

Visual Organizers for Reading

The strategy called "Wheels for Reading" uses the wheel, which is simply an oval, as the base of organization for tracking main ideas and details in a visual format. The approach is very simple. While reading the material, the student puts the main ideas in the wheel and attaches the details in a spoke-like fashion around the wheel. The details that have to be attached are names of people and places, important numbers and terms. Any other important material can be attached as well. The wheels will always be placed one under the other to produce a linear pattern so that no organizational decisions are required.

The wheels are developed as the student reads so that a visual organizer for efficient review is produced as soon as the reading is completed. For some students with good visualization skills, the visual format of the wheel and spokes makes it easier to recall the information from memory. For example:


In Scotland lies a very famous lake called Loch Ness. The lake is about 24 miles long, a mile wide and approximately 650 feet deep. Overlooking the lake are several local castles including the famous Urquhart Castle and the Aldourie Castle which adds to the mystique of the area. However, the main attraction is the presence of a large, serpent-like monster named "Nessie".

Nessie is a plesiosaurus and is 40-60 feet long, with a 6 foot neck and an 8 foot tail. His head is about the size of a horse's head. It is unknown if there is one Nessie or many monsters in the depth of the lake.

Insert Figure 2 about here

Wheels for Literature

The wheel (oval) described previously under general reading can provide a concise summary of the details and main ideas so that the student knows in advance the type of information to track during the story. The wheel set-up depends on the type of literature being read.

The basic organization of the literature provides the format for the wheels and any additional wheels can be added according to the particular class assignment. For example, a poem may have four ovals representing stanza I, stanza II, stanza III and theme. Details and main ideas are attached to the oval so the result is a short, visual summary of the important information.

Advance visual organizers for literature may also be as simple as putting the assigned topic/question that must be tracked (such as examples of good verses evil) in a wheel while reading a piece of literature and attaching ideas or page numbers that relate to the question. When the reading is done, all the information related to the assigned topic will be readily available for use in discussion or essay answers.

Insert Figure 3 about here

Writing Strategy

Students with ADD find the writing process very difficult because there are so many different components to attend to when writing (divided attention, selective attention, sequential attention, attention to detail and organization). Traditional outlining makes heavy demands on the attentional processing and can be overwhelming for the student with ADD. In order to facilitate the process and bypass excessive demands on memory and sequential processing, advance visual organizers can be used to break the writing process down into manageable units. Furthermore, many prewriting strategies often deplete the student's energy during the pre-writing stage. Then, the process can be very laborious and may not result in an improved product but in increased task avoidance. To avoid this, advance visual organizers can be used very effectively as exemplified by the writing strategy (Rooney, 1990).

This strategy involves the use of wheels but the number of wheels depends on the assignment. The basic strategy is presented below but is adjusted for use with essay questions, paragraphs, compositions and term papers. The student:

1. Places the title at the top of a sheet of paper.

2. Draws 5 oval shapes (wheels) on the first sheet. Marks the first oval with the word START and the last oval with the word END or THEREFORE. Places a word, a phrase or a sentence in the first wheel to identify the idea/ideas that will be used to start the paper (Introduction).

3. Writes one main idea to be developed inside each of the three middle wheels.

4. In the last wheel marked END or THEREFORE, writes a word, phrase or sentence to identify the conclusion.

5. Reproduces each oval on a separate sheet of paper. Around each oval, attaches all possible details, ideas or thoughts that are related to the idea within the wheel in a spoke-like fashion around the wheel.

6. When all the ideas are around the wheels, goes back and numbers the ideas in the order that he/she will write about them.

The strategy results in a set of six pages. The first page has the five wheel overview and the other pages have the individual wheels on them. The wheels can be used to develop an outline or write a rough draft.

The wheels provide structure to brainstorm ideas, organize information and sequence ideas before the student actually produces the written language. Therefore, the student can work on the material section by section without losing the organization. The number of wheels will vary to meet the demands of the assignment:

Test Essay - One wheel with the question in the center and ideas to be developed attached around the wheel.

Paragraph - Three wheels with the topic sentence in the first, the main body with attached numbered ideas in the second and the clincher sentence in the third.

Composition - Five wheels for introduction, three main ideas and conclusion.

Research Paper - Five basic wheels but additional sets of wheels in groups of 3 can be added off the three main topics to be developed to result in a more elaborate organizational structure for a very long paper.

Insert Figure 4 about here


Attentional deficits impact math performance in three basic ways. Students have difficulty attending to the sequential processing demands, have trouble with the specific application of the concept or have a hard time handling the detail (such as sign of operation) involved. To accommodate these weaknesses, the student should make study cards from the math textbook which will use the information at the beginning of the section or chapter to identify the concept that is being explained. The student should takes notes on the instruction in the book and make a record of any facts, rules or statements so that a cumulative system reviewing all the instruction results. An original example of each type of example, concept, rule or fact should then be produced on the card. A teacher or tutor can then check the student's original example for accuracy.

If an error has occurred in the example, the error should be highlighted and corrected so the study cards draw the student's attention to the "careless errors" that have a high possibility of occurrence. The procedure will support conceptual understanding, specific application and attention to detail. The cards can be used for frequent review and repetition to build prior knowledge before new learning occurs as well as to promote automaticity.

Insert Figure 5 about here


Vocabulary weaknesses can result from a lack of conceptual understanding or the absence of visual images behind the words. In order to provide a visual base to a verbal concept, students should write the vocabulary word to be learned on one side of an index card, write the definition on the back of the card and immediately draw a picture of the first association made after reading the word and the definition. For example, belligerent means argumentative and may pull up the image of two children fighting (see example below).

Insert Figure 6 about here


The spelling strategy does not replace spelling instruction but does provide a structured way of processing words using a variety of encoding approaches (multisensory). The strategy should be used to learn spelling words, content area terms or the spelling of vocabulary words. As with the vocabulary strategy, the spelling strategy uses index cards so that a cumulative spelling file can be maintained. On the front of the card, the student:

1. writes the correct spelling of the word,
2. spells the word out loud,
3. spells and writes the word in its parts,
4. marks visual clues such as small words within the word. Turns the card over and
5. writes the word from memory,
6. marks the visual clues again,
7. and writes the word with eyes closed.

Insert Figure 7 about here

The process supports sequential processing as well as attention to detail and provides multisensory processing utilizing global associative strengths. Words misspelled in when writing should be emphasized rather than low frequency words from lists.


Working with students with attention disorders can be challenging but can also be extremely rewarding when interventions enable the students to improve their behavior and academic performance. In order to be successful, adults need to look at the characteristics of the disorder in the individual student and be knowledgeable about the impact of these characteristics on both behavior and performance.

The observation and behavioral analysis will identify who needs to be included in the intervention and what issues need to be addressed. The academic interventions described take into account the characteristics of students with attention disorders and should be utilized when traditional approaches are not successful because there is no "goodness of fit" between the student and the strategy. In order to achieve this "goodness of fit", it is important for teachers to present the models of organizational strategy training but also allow students to adjust the learned models.

The use of techniques such as observation and behavioral analysis will allow the teacher to gain the necessary knowledge base about the student and the tools of behavior management and organizational training will facilitate intervention planning to successfully meet the needs of individual students with attention disorders.


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