Here at The Leelanau School we couldn’t let the month of October – ADHD Awareness Month – go by without sharing some of the valuable strategies we have in place to ensure learning is a successful and joyful experience for students with ADHD.
Like Dr. Hallowell, Best Selling New York Times author and world-renowned ADHD expert, says in his 20 Tips For Helping Kids With ADHD Succeed At School , “Most teachers and adults could benefit from pretending that all kids in their class have ADHD – what is good for kids with ADHD is good for all kids.”
We couldn’t agree more!
Here are five of our favorite strategies to help students, especially with ADHD, to thrive at school.
1 – All students benefit from activities that boost the brain body connection, ahem, enter Morning Energize. We start each school day with this knowledge in mind. Students engage in activities that awaken their bodies and brains which is proven to allow them to increase the capacity to enhance attention during the academic day.
2 – And then there are Small Classes, I mean, how could you go wrong with the individualized attention available with an average class size of 6? Not to mention the personal relationships that are fostered in a setting where people are able to speak to each other and get to know each other.
3 – How about the energy and nutrients that students consume. Healthy food is brain food. Fresh, whole foods, prepared from scratch both nourish the mind and soul. Super healthy and diverse meals and snacks throughout the day help to fuel all of the wonderful learning being done.
4 – And then there is sleep. Sleep you say? Why would a school mention sleep when referring to learning? Well, we know that students who get a good night’s sleep are better equipped to focus. That is focusing on work, listening, interactions – everything. Our Residential Life Faculty creates an environment that encourages the right amount of sleep. In the evening students transition into low lights, with lights dimmed and screens put away.
5 – Lastly, we help our student’s with ADHD be organized. Not everyone does this in the same way, but they do it in some way. And we help them find the way that suits them best. Breaking assignments down, using planners, scheduled check- ins with teachers in the Learning Commons, and with other Academic and Residential Life Faculty assures no one falls through the cracks and things get done.
At The Leelanau School we already have the Awareness that ADHD can be tricky and sometimes down right hard, but we also know it can be a gift – A gift of intelligence, creativity, passion, and exuberance that can be channeled in a multitude of ways to allow for amazing things to be accomplished.
We have always said that the best way to get to know more about our school is by visiting us in person, but that isn’t always practical, which is why we are coming to a town near you! JD Friley, our new Head of School, and members of our admissions team are taking our “show on the road” this fall with Leelanau School Information Sessions in Kalamazoo, MI on Sunday, October 23rd, Hinsdale, IL on Wednesday, November 9th, Glencoe on Thursday, November 10th and Grosse Pointe on Sunday, November 13th. Please click to open the attached flyer for more information on these opportunities to learn more about how The Leelanau School “inspires a passion for learning.”
The Journey of the Megacognitive Learner –
Metacognition is a term that refers to the process of deliberately thinking about one’s own thinking. It means being conscious of not only what you are thinking about, but having awareness of how you are processing the information with the intention of improving your learning. You will no doubt have heard JD say that we focus as much on process as content; metacognitive strategies are a really important element of how we educate our learners.
Really exciting research has shown that metacognition can be improved over time through practice and development. In fact, brain scans show more gray matter in the anterior prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain responsible for metacognition) in people who regularly engage in metacognitive strategies. Our Leelanau Learners come to our community with a variable range of metacognitive experiences. Some have attended schools in which metacognition is built into the culture; others have not encountered such strategies. Without metacognition, students can develop misconceptions about themselves and their abilities as learners. Through practice of these thinking strategies, students recognize that their academic struggles are skill problems, not intelligence problems!
At Leelanau, we expect our Metacognitive Learners to use planning when approaching a task, to monitor their own understanding of the process, and to evaluate their progress toward the end of a task. We help students reflect on their learning, building awareness of their own best strategies.
Here are 5 of the ways we support metacognitive learning at The Leelanau School.
- We explicitly teach students to define metacognition and to practice metacognitive strategies across subject areas. In the Learning Skills classes we observe not only what they do, but how students approach their assignments. It allows us to guide the development of their Learning Toolboxes, filling them with strategies and the judgement about when to use particular strategies.
- During weekly check-ins we ask students to reflect on how they are making progress in both their academic and community living goals. They identify problems and potentials for problems early and make a plan to address them.
- We give choices. Students help design their academic support. All students have access to the academic support from the Learning Commons, but the support is differentiated, tailoring it to their individual styles, needs, and goals. When students are genuinely invested in learning about a topic, they can maintain motivated attention longer term.
- We support social skills development in the moment. When need arises for social skills instruction, our faculty are prepared to work with the students involved to process the situation and offer mediation, support, coaching, and practice in healthy problem solving and conflict resolution strategies.
- We model higher order thinking strategies for our students. When adults make mistakes, it provides wonderful teachable moments as we stop ourselves, recognize our thinking, and talk through our thinking to correct the problem. What student doesn’t love it when a teacher makes a mistake? We highlight that everyone makes mistakes and that mistakes are best seen as opportunities to learn and improve.
Self aware thinking and problem solving has always been present in the Leelanau School’s philosophy, but only recently has the research emerged showing just how important metacognition is for helping students become independent, successful learners. When students become conscious of their thinking, they can make decisions about their own improvement and, often for the first time, have a sense of control over their academic careers.
As a music teacher at the The Leelanau School for 23 years, one of my goals in this very special community is to make music a part of everyone’s life.
Whether as a guitar student in one of my classes, as a songwriter in winter term, or simply as someone who sings at the top of their lungs while walking from class to class – I feel that music lifts each soul.