ADHD and exerciseAre there any exercises or movement based activities that can help students with severe ADHD focus better. I teach high school in small classrooms, and I need to focus these...

ADHD and exercise

Are there any exercises or movement based activities that can help students with severe ADHD focus better. I teach high school in small classrooms, and I need to focus these students.

Expert Answers
whoa-nelly eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've had several training sessions with Spencer Kagan's Cooperative Learning that encourages movement.  I've also read about newest technological brain research on how the brain learns & what effects learning.

Students who get that glazed look in their eyes are lacking oxygen to the brain. Moving creates glucose & oxygen and gives our students another few minutes of productivity.

Kagan's "brain breaks" are simple and should be a part of every classroom.  My kids ask for them! I sometimes make it academic & sometimes nonsensical.  Play four corners or two sides and get the students up &moving to the corners of the room. There is a book called Coke or Pepsi which offers silly scenerios that my classes love. For example, "Would you rather eat dinner with the President of the US or eat dinner with a popular movie star?"  The class divides according to their thoughts & then I give them a moment to talk about it!

Kagan has talking chips & dice which help the kids move.  These breaks do not have to be invasive to the curriculum but quick movement that physically help the brain to learn.  You might have the kids get up & move around the class & when you call freeze, roll the dice & ask the partners to discuss the authors voice in the story.

Don't be afraid to simply get up & do the hokey pokey! Your kids' brains will thank you!

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Speaking of Kagan structures and strategies, I've found that some are more useful than others. A lot of their teambuilders, for instance, seem to just put the kids into a chaotic frenzy rather than actually serving to reinforce positive relationships. Plus, if you're doing Kagan the way that they prescribe, rather than picking and choosing what works best in your individual situation, you'll find that a great deal of productive classroom time is devoured by some of their "mandatory" activities.

Kagan has a lot of good ideas, but schools can really go overboard with it. I once worked in an environment where every teacher HAD to do Kagan by the numbers (i.e. certain # of teambuilders, classbuilders, brain breaks, etc.), and it was awful. The teachers grew resentful of the program, even its good ideas, because the administration was so dictatorial about it. That said, I still use a lot of the structures and activities in my classroom, just not quite so rigidly. 

cburr eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Look into Brain Gym.  There are a number of movements that might be useful to you.  I have had success using these exercises with ADD and ADHD students.  

You can get more info at

Another thing that can make a huge difference is changing things up regularly during your lessons.  One of the most consistent findings with ADHD is that novelty draws attention.  So, find different angles and activities every few minutes to hold their attention.  The activites can all relate to the same subject matter.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I use Brain Gym exercises, but you have to be careful as some are calming and some are alerting--the wrong exercises are counter-productive. If you have an Occupational Therapist on staff, he or she can point you to the correct ones. I find Brain Gym to be effective with kids who have various disabilities, especially ADHD and autism.

ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When I start to "lose" my resource students I clap my hands and have everyone stand up.  We create a few moments of rhythm on the desk tops with our hands, stretch, and then sit down and begin again.  Often they don't need a lot of movement, just a minute or two in the middle of class.

mkueberth | Student

I have used Brain Breaks as well and our PE teacher ordered all classroom teachers a set of soft dice. On one die are numbers on the other die are exercises - we roll the dice and then do the exercise the number of times rolled. It's fun break to help transition from one activity to another or from one subject area into the next.... I find that when I do this, my boys are better focused. We also do figure eights with our hands/arms. This is a great exercise because it helps activate both sides of the brain...

mjfish | Student

I have used Brain Breaks in the classroom and find them very beneficial.  I try to incorporate brain breaks into an academic "game".  We play a math game similar to rocks, scissors, paper which provides reinforcement in addition to a brain break!

kristenthernandez | Student

I LOVE KAGAN!! I also love the Brain Breaks. My kids love Kagan as well. I teach 6th graders at an inner city school. It is so great for them.

oakley01 | Student

I use Energizers in my class.  They are short and quick, but a lot of fun.  I agree with lynn30k, that some are more calming then others.  It also has many ideas that are related to standards and health, so it mixes movement in with some review of past topics in a fun way.  You can search and download the document online.   

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