Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What is an Attention Deficit Problem?

An attention deficit problem is defined as a significant difficulty in focusing and maintaining attention in the classroom. The main symptoms are lack of concentration, difficulty paying attention, unable to focus, difficulty remaining on task, and impulsivity; all behaviors that lead to learning problems, and may lead also to behavior problems in the classroom. There are predominantly two types: the inattentive type or ADD and the hyperactive-impulsive type or ADHD.  Children vary in the range of symptoms they show, and some exhibit a combination of both inattentive types. Attention deficits are more common in boys than in girls.

 Generally, ADD children are easily distracted, and they show difficulty listening and following directions, focusing, sustaining attention, and remaining on task, among others. These children are described by teachers and parents as “spacey” and disorganized, with a strong tendency to misplace their school materials. However, in the classroom, the inattentive type rarely shows behavior problems. The ADHD type, on the other hand, shows a high activity level and impulsive behaviors. This is the child in “constant motion,” often fidgeting with his hands or feet, and struggling to remain seated (constantly roaming around the classroom). ADHD children are easily over stimulated and, on many occasions, socially immature. Because of their struggles in the classroom, children with attention deficits may show also low self-esteem and low frustration tolerance. We need to keep in mind that children have different personalities, skills, talents, and weaknesses. When a child is exhibiting a high number of these problem behaviors, compared with his age-peers, it may be appropriate to test the child for attention deficits.

Techniques for Children with Attention Difficulties

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Monday, September 19, 2011

We are Having a Linky Party!

Lesson Plan Diva is hosting a Linky Party to give direct links to our Facebook Fan pages. Linking our fan pages is a good way to get the latest news in the blog world because the links to the posts pop right up on your newsfeed. All my blog posts go immediately to my Facebook page, and I post direct links to my 50+ articles and eBooks in psycho-education and in alternative teaching techniques for children with low academic skills. In addition, I post regularly articles from fellow teacher authors. So, head on over to ThePsycho-Educational Teacher’s Facebook Page and LIKE it, to get all the latest articles and discussions. In addition, check out Lesson Plan Diva’s Linky Party to find other teaching fan pages that may interest you. The fan pages are sorted out by grade level and special interests to make it even easier to find.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Turning Your Classroom Rules Into Individualized Action Goals

Turning our classroom rules into individualized action goals is a classroom discipline strategy that we can use to manage troubled, anger-prone, and acting-out students. The individualized action goal should be stated in a way that guides the student in taking smaller, manageable steps toward a target behavior, ensuring that the child experiences success in reaching smaller milestones and/or in smaller increments. To individualize a classroom rule, first, select a classroom rule that matches the child’s behavior, and then, translate the rule into an individualized action goal. For example, you can translate a general classroom rule from “Keep your voices low” to the individualized goal, “I keep a low tone of voice.” Make the goal as specific as possible, and write an action plan with steps outlining:

• What the child will do

• How the child will do it (sub-steps and strategies)

• Where the child will do it

• When the plan will start, how often, and for how long

• Consequences for compliance and noncompliance

• How progress toward the goal will be measured

If you want, you can combine the individualized action goal with a behavior contract that both the child and you sign and follow. It is important that you specify in the plan what you will do to help the child reach success (for example, you will use a hand signal to remind the child to lower the volume), and that you discuss strategies that the child can use as reminders (e.g. keeping a note card on his desk with the rule visibly posted). Examples of classroom rules that we can turn into individualized action goals are (from Rief, 1993):

• I pay attention

• I control my temper

• I listen to my teacher

• I keep my hands and my feet to myself

• I raise my hand before talking

• I do my best work

• I sit appropriately on my chair

• I speak politely to others

• I lower my tone of voice

Additional guidelines for setting individualized rules and goals are

1. Give the child a mini-goal for the next (24 hours, two days, or a week). For example, “For the next two days, I will raise my hand before talking. The following consequences for reaching my goal will be in place: (a) penalty: loss of computer time, and (b) reward: three tokens.”

2. If the student does not succeed in reaching the goal, try: (a) modify the goal and try a new path or (b) select a partial goal and work on a smaller, discrete behavior at a time.

3. Set up proximal goals, that is, a target behavior that is challenging but it is not beyond the child’s current capabilities.


Reif, S.F. (1993). How to reach and teach ADD/ADHD children: Practical techniques, strategies, and interventions for helping children with attention problems and hyperactivity. West Nyack, NY: Center for Applied Research.

Of Interest to Teachers...
Watch Your Language! Ways of Talking and Interacting with Students that Crack the Behavior Code. To preview this book on Amazon, click here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Anger Management for Children- Part One: Models

This is the first of three articles.

Definition of Anger

We can define anger as an emotional state triggered when we feel frustrated. Most specifically, being frustrated means that we want something that we do not have. Anger is a normal feeling that everyone experiences. Together with happiness, fear, and sadness, anger is one of our four basic emotions. Anger levels range from mild (frustration), to moderate (mad), and to severe (rage). We experience anger physiologically (e.g. breathing rate increases, muscles tense), emotionally (as a feeling), and cognitively (i.e. aggressive and/or negative thoughts). We can express anger in an overt way (e.g. cursing, hitting, kicking, or throwing a temper tantrum), a covert way (e.g. resistance and noncompliance), or by turning the feeling inward (e.g. depression). Our angry feelings and actions can target specific individuals, the world in general, or just us. Anger is always a feeling and it is not the same as aggression. Aggression is a behavior, and is only one of the ways in which we can express anger.

 Models of Anger

Although anger is a basic emotion, some children are so engulfed by their intense and recurrent feelings of anger that dealing with these feelings become difficult for them. Children with anger problems have difficulty keeping their anger under control. For a troubled and anger-prone child, anger becomes repetitive and chronic, rather than an isolated event. Anger-prone children show greater frequency, intensity, and/or duration of angry feelings and behaviors. To explain these behaviors, we can use several models. Those models most commonly applied to school age children follow.

• The constitutional model explains anger in terms of the child’s temperament.

• The affective model considers anger a dysfunctional emotion.

• The reinforcement or learning model suggests that other people are reinforcing the child’s anger by giving attention to him/her when he or she is acting-out. Even when it is negative attention, this attention from other individuals strengthens in the anger-prone child the perception that he or she is the one in charge; through anger, children learn to control and manipulate both other people and the environment.

• The social learning model maintains that children learn to react with angry feelings and aggressive behaviors when they observe anger and aggression in others, in particular, when they see the consequences of aggressive behaviors in others. For example, a child who sees another child get what she wants by using direct force (e.g. pushing in line), and without receiving a negative consequence or a reprimand, will be more likely to exhibit an aggressive behavior in similar circumstances. This model of anger derives from Bandura’s more comprehensive social learning model.

• The functional model maintains that anger has a purpose and a goal, that is, anger aims at achieving the goal of removing frustration. According to the functional model, to remove frustration, an angry individual needs to understand what his/her goal is, or what he/she expects to get from the anger. Specifically, an angry person must understand what he wants, whom they want to get it from, and how they intend to get it. According to Fein (1993), anger becomes a problem when its goal is not clear to the angry person.

• The social skills deficit model suggests a deficiency in the child’s ability to solve social problems coupled with limited skills in the number of alternative solutions the student can generate to handle successfully social or interactional problems. For example, the aggressive adolescent generates more physically aggressive solutions, like hitting and fighting, as opposed to verbal assertion solutions such as talking about the conflict. In addition, aggressive children often generate fewer bargaining and compromise solutions, because they are less capable of accurately perceiving the true intention of others (Robinson, Smith, and Miller, 2002).

• The self-management deficit model explains anger as a deficit in the child’s ability to sustain effort to reach a long-term goal, and to find solutions, in particular, when the solution requires focused effort and the circumstances seem adverse to reach the goal.

• The cognitive model maintains that anger is due to distortions in thinking, or misattributions (negative and/or irrational attributions) of the situation. The troubled and anger-prone student has a pattern of thinking similar to the following:

1) The child selectively attends to and maximizes the negative cues, minimizing the positive cues.

2) The child automatically assumes intentionality and blames the other child.

3) The child labels the event as an angry event.

4) The child reacts to the label (angry event) rather than to the real event.

I will elaborate on the cognitive model of anger in the next article (part two).


Fein, M. L. (1993). I.A.M.: A Common sense guide to coping with anger. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Robinson, T. R., Smith, S. W., & Miller, M. D. (2002). Effect of a cognitive-behavioral intervention on responses to anger by middle school students with chronic behavior problems. Behavioral Disorders, 27(3), pp. 256-271.

For More on this Topic…

Handling Angry Students: Psycho-Educational Strategies that Work

Child Guidance Skills for Teachers: Relaxation Techniques for Angry and Troubled Students

Coping Strategies for Students with Anger Problem

Anger Management for Children: Using Self-Talking to Defuse Angry Feelings

The Therapeutic Classroom: Guided Imagery and Visualizations for Students with Anger Problems

Of Interest to Teachers...
Essentials of Emotional Communication for Reaching the Unreachable Student: Where Do I Start? What Do I Say? How Do I Do It? To preview this book on Amazon, click here.