Following Directions Activities for ADHD Students

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Following directions can be a very hard task for some students. This lesson offers fun activities to help students practice concentrating on given instructions.

Following Directions

Why is it so hard for some students to follow instructions? Shouldn't it be easy to just do what they are told to do?

Imagine that you are at a race track and there are over one hundred cars zooming by every second. Now, imagine that you are told to watch (follow) only one of those cars. If there were only one car, watching that one car would be simple. If there were only two or three cars, still, no problem to watch just one. But it's not an easy task with so many cars screaming past each other and blurring as they go.

A child with ADHD has a race track for a brain. There are so many cars racing through his or her consciousness at any given moment that watching one of them (in other words, paying attention to and following a single instruction) can be almost impossible. However, as with most skills, practice can help improve a child's (or adult's) ability to focus and carry out instructions.

These activities are designed to allow your students to have fun while they practice following instructions.

Active Games

These games all require students to be up moving around.

Find the Treasure

Hide a treasure (like a sticker) somewhere in the classroom. Give the student a list of instructions to find the treasure. For fun, make it read like a pirate map. If the student follows the instructions correctly, he/she will find the treasure.

To alter the difficulty of this activity, give the instructions orally. Start with one instruction at a time (e.g. ''Take two steps forward.'') and add more instructions one by one to increase the difficulty level. When the student reaches his limit (two, three or more instructions at once) document the threshold and allow the student to acclimate before increasing the number of instructions given at once. By building the student up slowly, you will help him or her learn to hold multiple instructions in active memory.

Trust Me

Before the activity, mark out a simple path in tape on the floor of the classroom. Divide your students into pairs. In turns, blindfold a student (or ask them to hold their hands over their eyes if they are uncomfortable with a blindfold) and ask their partner to carefully instruct them through the tape-path (for example: ''Take two steps forward. Turn to your left.'').

Have students switch places and go again. This activity is similar to trust building exercises done with groups. The point of this activity is to have students practice following simple instructions precisely, as well as have students practice giving simple instructions.

Simon Says

Yes, the old faithful childhood game of ''Simon Says'' is a perfect activity to help students practice following instructions. It is fun, active and engaging, but also requires very strict listening and following instruction skills to play. Alter the difficulty to best fit your students' abilities. You can increase the difficulty by giving complex instructions (Simon says ''Stand on your left leg and touch your head with your right hand'') or by giving instructions faster.

For the easiest version of this game, do not use an 'out' option in which you do not say ''Simon Says''. In this way, students can focus on following the instructions instead of listening for the cue.

Passive Activities

Sometimes it is important to keep students in their seats. These activities help students practice following instructions while staying in their seats.

Page Turner

For this activity, you will need to create a 26 page alphabet book. Each page should include the page number and one letter of the alphabet (in alphabetical order). This book is the main tool for the activity.

Think of common phrases your students say, like ''cool man'' or ''awesome.'' Create worksheets that give instructions for students to build these words.

Here is an example of a 'Page Turner' worksheet:

  • Turn to page 3 and write the letter you see.
  • Turn to page 15 and write the letter you see twice.
  • Turn to page 12 and write the letter you see.
  • What word have you written?

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