Task Orientation, Organization & Preparation, Time Management, Study Skills and Compensatory Considerations
Staying on target when completing a task may be difficult for attention deficit students. The following suggestions may help students remain task oriented. Students may apply the strategies themselves or enlist the assistance of a facilitator.
Make the task definite
- Determine what must be done to complete the task.
- Make sure the directions and expectations for the task are fully understood.
- Seek clarification of instructions from the instructor rather than from other students.
Divide and Conquer
- Break the task into smaller, more manageable parts.
- Develop some sort of structure that makes sense to the student.
- Develop a time schedule for completing each part.
- Work on one part at a time, switching to another part when boredom rears its ugly head.
- Organize each part of the task into separate folders.
- Reward yourself after completing each part of the task.
- Refer to the Time Management page and the Organization page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack for scheduling and organizational strategies.
Feel strongly the urge to do the task
- Relate completion of the task to one's academic goals.
- Relate completion of the task to one's short-term goals, long-term goals, and ambitions.
Get started at all costs
- Try to ignore difficulties you anticipate.
- Don't think of things you would rather be doing, or just budget time to do them and get them out of the way.
- If other commitments are fogging your concentration, make a list of things to do later; this will get them off your mind temporarily.
- See the Concentration section of this page for more information.
Prepare an effective study area
- For tips, see the Eliminating External Distractions and Organization and Preparation Considerations sections of this page.
- Work on concentration strategies to help you stay focused.
- See the Concentration section of this page for specific suggestions.
- Face personal problems and sources of stress directly.
- See the Eliminating External Distractions section this page for more information.
- Constantly, objectively and realistically evaluate progress toward completing the task.
- If necessary, enlist the assistance of an outside party (instructor, advisor, tutor, counselor, parent, trusted friend) for evaluating progress.
Organization and Preparation Considerations
Being organized and prepared to learn eliminates one strong distraction that may inhibit attending and listening. If you are organized and prepared, it is one less thing to worry about! Being organized and prepared for class and study sessions can enhance attending and listening. Additional strategies are described in the Organization page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack.
Organization and Preparation for Class
- Think about the subject matter before class; those five minutes spent walking to class are the perfect time for this.
- Arrive early to class so you can select a seat in the least distracting part of the room (see the section on Eliminating External Distractions of this page).
- While waiting for class to begin, review previous day's notes to get in the frame of mind of the subject.
- Take the appropriate materials to class: note books, books, pens, pencils, calculator, etc.
- Complete assignments in a timely manner.
- Do assigned readings before they are to be covered in class (even for math courses). You have to read them some time, so best to do it before class. If you don't have time to read the assignments thoroughly, at least skim over them to get the main points.
- Take an outline of the readings or a summary of the main points with you to class.
- Prepare a list of questions over readings and previous notes; you will be ready to ask intelligent questions when you feel your attention slipping.
- Organize course papers into three-ring notebooks or folders.
Organization and Preparation for Study Sessions
- Have a specific place to study, or a place that can come to be associated with studying.
- Organize your workspace (desk, books, notes, school supplies) and have everything you will need close at hand. Tips are given in the Spatial Organization section of the Organization page in the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack.
- Work in a distraction-free area (see the Eliminating External Distractions section of this page).
- Develop a regular routine of eating, studying, relaxing, and exercising.
- Develop daily activity schedules and weekly planners, and stick to them. Specific strategies are given in the Time Management page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack.
- Make reminders to yourself about assignments and display them in prominent places in your room.
- Break down large projects into more manageable tasks, then set deadlines for completing the smaller tasks. See the Time Management page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack for strategies.
- Buy your own books and supplies rather than borrowing them.
Time Management Considerations
While time management is covered in more detail in the Time Management page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack, some basic points are relevant to a discussion of attention and listening.
- The number of classes as well as their content should be carefully considered when scheduling courses.
- A student who has difficulty paying attention might choose not to enroll in classes longer than 50 minutes if possible, especially lecture courses in which little student action occurs.
- A student who has difficulty paying attention might choose not to enroll in back-to-back courses without a break.
- Daily, weekly, monthly and semester schedules should be organized to assist in time management.
- Time should be allocated in the schedules for adequate study time as well as leisure time.
- It is very important for students to periodically evaluate how they planned to spend time and how it was actually spent. This helps to develop an awareness of time management practices.
- Students should make class preparation part of their everyday routines.
- Different subjects and activities should always be interspersed during short study periods to avoid boredom.
The following strategies can make tutoring (and other intensive academic) sessions more productive for attention deficit students.
- Divide each session into different tasks, spending 15-20 minutes on each.
- Provide a review at the beginning and end of each session and/or each new activity.
- Consider rescheduling sessions to find the optimal time that is appropriate for the student's interest or activity level.
- Divide assignments into realistic time frames in consultation with daily, weekly, monthly or semester planners.
The following strategies can make group sessions more productive for attention deficit students.
- The goals and expectations of the study group should be clearly outlined.
- The group should meet for short periods of time, or should divide the session into smaller tasks, spending 15-20 minutes on each task.
- The group should meet in a distraction-free area (see the Eliminating External Distractions section of this page).
- If the attention deficit student has poor social skills or impulse control, he/she should be introduced gradually to group learning situations; in addition, supervision by a mediator may be helpful until the student becomes accustomed to the situation.
Study Skills Considerations
Study skills, as discussed in other pages of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack, may aid in sustaining student attention.
The Monitoring page provides strategies for assessing one's study skills.
Strategies such as SQ3R, described in the Reading Comprehension page, help students attend while reading.
Color coding and highlighters help the student pay attention to more important information.
Visual aids such as charts, graphs, flashcards, and timelines may help students to focus. These are covered in detail in the Information Organization section of the Organization page.
Time management strategies, such as spacing reviews and time planners, help students to maintain their attention on the task at hand.
Compensatory equipment is often useful to the attention deficit student.
Textbooks and reading assignments on tape help the student to focus while reading.
Taping lectures provides a fairly complete, permanent, auditory record of lectures. Students may use tapes to improve the quality of notes if they trouble paying attention for the entire class. See the Note taking page for more information.
Use computers or word processors to keep students active, which in turn aids in sustaining attention.