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Teaching Hyperactive Children

by Ron Kurtus (revised 10 January 2014)

Hyperactive children can be difficult to teach, as well as disruptive to the class. Some such students have serious problems such as ADD or ADHD.

However, there are strategies that can help the teaching process for many of these students.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Characteristics of a hyperactive student

Some students have difficulty paying attention in class, act hyperactive or impulsive. They exhibit various characteristics that can be bothersome to teachers, other students and even themselves.

Have short attention span

Students who have problems paying attention are easily distracted. They may often look about the classroom instead of at the teacher or chalkboard. Such students may not read directions or follow instructions and then make silly mistakes. Some are forgetful and often lose things necessary for doing tasks. Others are very disorganized.

When in a conversation, such a student may not pay attention to what the other person is saying and seem rude or uncaring. It takes a lot of self-discipline for such a person to be able to maintain attention.

Are hyperactive

Hyperactive students often get restless sitting in class and may fidget with their hands or feet or squirm in their seats. They may have difficulty engaging in activities quietly and even act as if they are driven by a motor. They also may talk excessively.

This type of excess energy needs to be managed and harnessed into something productive.

Are impulsive

Some students are impulsive, blurting out answers before questions have been completed. Such students may even have difficulty waiting for their turn and often interrupt or intrude upon others. They also may dominate activities, interfere in what others are doing, or quit a game or activity before it’s done.

Such students are also often disorganized and fail to plan ahead. They need to learn to control their impulsive nature and make it useful.

Reasons for active behavior

There are a number of reasons that some children or students have short attention spans, may seem hyperactive, or are impulsive. In extreme cases, such a child is labeled as having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Being aware of these reasons is important is establishing teaching strategies to deal with the situation.

Normal cases

In normal cases, teacher and student strategies can provide a solution. Situations include the nature of boys, influence of television, caffeine intake, and home atmosphere.

Nature of some boys

Boys in general seem to be more physically active than girls are. Many of them would rather be outside playing than sitting in school. This is true from grade school through college.


Television has contributed to the short attention span of everybody in today's society. The medium provides information and entertainment in bits and pieces, and often people are doing something else while watching TV.

Caffeine and sugar

Caffeine and sugar will cause a student to become "wired" and overactive. Some students drink cola and caffeine-laced drinks before coming to school. Older students may have strong coffee.

Home atmosphere 

Sometimes the home atmosphere results in a child being impulsive or disruptive. Either it is a learned behavior from home or it is emotional compensation for problems at home.

Severe cases

ADD and ADHD are considered severe disorders that can disrupt a person's life, as well as those around him or her. It is often a result of a chemical imbalance. Physicians will often prescribe medication to control the disorder.

Unfortunately, some parents and even teachers will claim the child has ADD or ADHD and demand medication for the child, when he or she may be overactive for other reasons or may be a borderline case. It seems to be a popular panacea for other behavioral problems.

Teacher strategies

Teachers can use some strategies to cope with overly active students, as well as those who have ADD or ADHD.

Classroom characteristics

Classroom characteristics that promote success for many hyperactive children include:

Teacher attitudes

Research literature suggests a number of useful teacher attitudes, including:


Student responsibility for his or her behavior is often effective. Usually students realize they have a problem and want to correct it. Self-monitoring techniques can be effective in the school setting.

Teachers can help self-monitoring of attention by giving the student cues, so that he can determine how well he is attending to the task at hand. One method is to use an audio tone such as a random beep. Self-monitoring techniques are effective when tied to rewards and accuracy checks.

Good practice, in general

The classroom characteristics that promote success, positive teacher attitudes, and monitoring behavior is not only effective with hyperactive, ADD and ADHD students, but they are a good practice to follow for ALL students.


Although hyperactive children can be difficult to teach, knowing the reasons for their behavior can be helpful in establishing strategies to deal with the situation. Providing structured classroom activities, personal attention, as well as positive expectations and warmth, are good strategies to follow for hyperactive children, as well as for all students.

Visualize your students as successful

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


ADHD Online Community for Parents

Attention Deficit Disorders FAQ

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

ADHD News and Information to Help Your Child

Carol's Teaching Tips for ADHD

Using Music in Therapy: The Power of Music as a Coping Skill

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