Motivating Students with ADHD

At any given moment in my classroom, you could find 1-2 students off in corners playing with legos, using the iPad, or sitting with a pillow to take a break. Although it may seem like these students were being defiant and refusing to work with the rest of the class, they were actually completing a task built within their schedule, which I call rewards. I use the word rewards cautiously because they weren’t just getting any extrinsic reward. They weren’t getting a piece of candy, picking something from the treasure box, or gaining anything physically. They were also not “getting out” of any classwork. The rewards they received were meticulously planned out and had several agreements attached to them. Yes I said agreements, not rules, because these were discussed and created with the child. The power of choice goes farther than you might think.

Here were those agreements in a nutshell:

  1. Rewards can occur up to 3 times per day.*
  2. Rewards can not last longer than 10 minutes. 
  3. Rewards can be chosen from the reward book, or can be made up as long as it’s realistic and doable in the classroom.**
  4. Everything on the schedule prior to the reward must be completed to earn a reward.
  5. Rewards must be done quietly and can not involve/distract other students in the classroom.***

*Before each day started, I let students choose when they wanted to have their 3 rewards. Kids pick up on how the schedule works very quickly, so they would automatically do this when they came in. I also had actual conversations with students about why rewards at certain times may benefit them. For example, taking a reward break after our 60 min math block as opposed to having a reward after a less critically-thinking subject such as lunch.

**You can see what my “reward book” looks like below and (grab it for free from my Resource Library!) Many of these rewards were thought of by previous students and created into a book. You want your students to choose the reward they earn. 

***I also have class discussions about fairness (I could write a whole blog post on this topic alone). These types of rewards cannot be implemented without having a conversation with the whole class about why some kids are allowed to play with legos after math and some are not. Fair is not always fair in kindergarten. Sorry friends. 

So for some children, having a visual and interactive daily schedule WITH MOTIVATORS BUILT IN is all they might need to stay focused.