Boosting Focus Through Doodling
LD Online tells us, “Associated with this disorder’s core symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are a variety of disruptive classroom behaviors (e.g., calling out, leaving seat, interrupting activities, etc.). Consequently, it is not surprising that these students are at risk for school failure.”
Use Multiple Research-based Teaching Strategies
There are a ton of resources out there on supporting your students with ADHD, and you most likely learned some of this in your college education (if you graduated in the last 10 years or so), but as a reminder, here are a few:
● Allow students to have an “Idea Paper” out, where they can doodle and jot down ideas that pop into their heads
(maybe this can help with any blurting issues!)
● Incorporate movement into learning
● Set up a small goal with a timer
● Set firm and clear expectations for the entire class
● Give them breaks from sitting and learning
● Show them how you stay organized (Teach them how to use a checklist and planner)
● Don’t take it personally. Any negative behavior is not an insult directed at you; it is a symptom of what is going on for the student. Work to eliminate the behavior, but remain supportive of the student. Keep that perfect blend of high expectations, low tolerance for what should not be tolerated, and loving support.
Another simple, but effective tip: I’ve had success with just walking over and resting my hand gently on a student’s desk when I notice that his/her attention is just not with me. This way, without having to say anything or call attention to the student, I give a subtle reminder and my proximity helps that student to “zone back in” (at least temporarily).
A Multitasking Option
Because of the way that kids’ brains process information, it turns out that doodle notes can have a powerful effect on the learning in your classroom. But, the positive effect this method can be even more powerful for your students with ADHD.
Here’s why Doodle Notes are a no-brainer when you want to support your students with ADHD:
Provide a More Mindful Version of “Fidgeting”
(an intentional distraction with a purpose)
According to ADDitude Mag, Sydney Zentall, Ph.D., of Purdue University, studied the factors that help children with ADHD succeed in the classroom. ADHD and Education notes that attention “deficit” increases with the length, familiarity, and repetitiveness of a task.”
In other words, students tune you out when tasks get boring or when there is a lack of variety. Shocking news, I know!
According to Zentall, an activity that uses a sense other than that required for the primary task — like listening to music while reading a social studies textbook — can enhance performance in children with ADHD.
Doing two things at once, or multitasking, focuses the brain on the primary task. **as long as the second task does not require enough attention to become a distraction!! -- (This is key)**
Doodling is the perfect task for accomplishing this!
One of the research-based benefits of doodle notes is that it helps students to focus on the material. Doodling takes just enough focus to keep students from completely zoning out, but without requiring enough brain activity to distract from the learning.
Doodling even made #6 on Edutopia’s list of 17 Ways to Help Students with ADHD Concentrate; this list is teacher-tested!
With the trademarked doodle note method, the doodling has a purpose. Students blend graphics and text to boost the brain's ability to convert information into long-term memory. The integration of the two brain hemispheres with this creative approach increases focus!
Build Stronger Mental Connections
Our goal as teachers should be to integrate the left brain and the right brain and encourage communication across the corpus callosum. Whenever you achieve a crossover between the two hemispheres of the brain, student learning is enhanced.
When a student with ADHD engages in coloring, doodling, or artistic embellishment of their lesson material, the two sides of the brain work together. This collaboration across the corpus callosum has numerous benefits for the student learning process, including boosting focus, strengthening memory, and building stronger connections.
Since students with ADHD have so much going on in their heads at any given moment, it’s essential that they build stronger connections to the material, so that it is easier to recall in the future.
Bring Creativity into the Class to ENGAGE!
Lastly, doodling brings creativity into the classroom.
According to Brain Balance Achievement Centers, “Students with ADHD can be creative and innovative. And while some children with ADHD may miss the details, they can be big picture thinkers who are imaginative in their approach to problems. The creative energy that comes with these students can be directed in a way that encourages academic success and fosters the imagination.”
Creativity utilizes different networks of your brain; there is a Math Giraffe post on Teaching Math with Creativity here, if you’d like to read more about the neuroscience.
If you’re looking to bring creativity into the classroom, doodle notes are really a no-brainer!
Try Doodle Notes for Free
There are a few different options if you’re interested in trying out doodle notes, but don’t want to pay until you give it a try with your own class and their specific needs. Download this free “Engage Your Brain” Doodle Notes. This set teaches your students the powerful impact doodling has on their learning!
It’s a perfect way to introduce your class to a new strategy and show them how their brain works! They can learn a little about the way the brain reacts when you integrate the left and the right hemispheres.
They discover the benefits of this and give concrete examples of activities they do daily that are associated with each hemisphere. Then, they can practice combining these to cross the corpus callosum and activate their brain for learning!
Later, they'll notice that extra focus and increased retention kicking in once they try it!
Additional free materials for getting started are available at doodlenotes.org
Whether you choose to implement multiple research-based strategies, or simply implement doodle notes to cover all your bases, it’s important to be patient. ADHD can be a challenge and frustration (for all involved) in your classroom.
What strategies have you found helpful in teaching your students with ADHD?
If Doodle Notes have had a positive effect on your student(s) with ADHD, tell us about it in a comment below! We would love to hear additional thoughts from teachers using these to help students with a variety of different needs. Some have been noticing the difference already:
"Perfect for students with Dyslexia, ADHD, or other learning disabilities.“
“My students loved this! The coloring helped relax the students while they took notes.”
“MY special education students love these. Color coding and decorating the notes gives them more time to interact with the notes without just reading them 10 times or extracting information. This makes it much more interesting for them, and my spatially-inclined students LOVE the chance to draw and doodle.”
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