Adolescents: Web-based Resources

21st Century Skills

Alliance for Excellent Education

Alliance for Excellence in Education

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Center on Instruction

Classroom Modeling with Anita Archer

Dylan Wiliam and Formative Assessment

The Education Alliance at Brown University

The Education Trust

Marzano’s Instructional Strategies

International Reading Association

International Reading Association’s Position Statement on Adolescent Literacy



Learning First Alliance

Literacy Matters

National Center on RTI

National Staff Development Center

NCTE Adolescent Literacy\

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

PA Standards Aligned System

Reading Next

RTI Action Network

Scholastic Adolescent Literacy Resource Center

SEDL: Building Reading Proficiency at the Secondary Level

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory


Challenging Behavior

Behavior and Lagging Skills

All kids with ADHD have some executive dysfunction, but not everyone with an executive-function deficit has ADHD (Russell Barkley, “ADHD: Executive Funtioning, Life Course Outcomes & Management”). However, almost every student with an executive-function deficit will exhibit some oppositional or defiant behaviors (Barkley).

When you think about it, it’s totally normal: humans are highly adaptive, and we’re going to try lots of ways to avoid doing things that are hard and frustrating. Ross Greene (Lost at School) describes this as:

“. . . demands being placed on a kid exceed his capacity to respond adaptively. Of course, that’s when all of us exhibit maladaptive behavior. The problem for kids with behavioral challenges (and those around them) is that they’re responding much more maladaptively than the rest of us, and much more often. You see, there’s a spectrum of things kids do when life’s demands exceed their capacity to respond adaptively. Some cry, or sulk, or pout, or whine, or withdraw—that would be the milder end of the spectrum. As we move toward the more difficult end of the spectrum, we find screaming, swearing, spitting, hitting, kicking, destroying property, lying, and truancy.”

  “Challenging” Behavior  (from Greene, Ross W. Lost at School. Scribner, 2008.)

    • Difficulty handling transitions, shifting from one mind-set or task to another (shifting cognitive set)
    • Difficulty mustering the energy to persist on tasks that are challenging, effortful, or tedious
    • Difficulty doing things in a logical sequence or prescribed order
    • Poor sense of time
    • Difficulty reflecting on multiple thoughts or ideas simultaneously
    • Difficulty maintaining focus for goal-directed problem-solving
    • Difficulty considering the likely outcomes or consequences of actions (impulsive)
    • Difficulty considering a range of solutions to a problem Difficulty expressing concerns, needs, or thoughts in words
    • Difficulty understanding what is being said
    • Difficulty managing emotional response to frustration so as to think rationally (separation of affect)
    • Chronic irritability and/or anxiety significantly impede capacity for problem-solving
    • Difficulty seeing the “grays”/concrete, literal, black-and-white thinking Difficulty deviating from rules, routine, original plan
  • Difficulty handling unpredictability, ambiguity, uncertainty, novelty
  • Difficulty shifting from original idea or solution/difficulty adapting to changes in plan or new rules/possibly perseverative or obsessive
  • Difficulty taking into account situational factors that would require adjusting one’s plan of action
  • Inflexible, inaccurate interpretations/cognitive distortions or biases (e.g., “Everyone’s out to get me,” “Nobody likes me,” “You always blame me,” “It’s not fair,” “I’m stupid,” “Things will never work out for me”)
  • Difficulty attending to and/or accurately interpreting social cues/poor perception of social nuances Difficulty starting a conversation, entering groups, connecting with people/lacking other basic social skills
  • Difficulty seeking attention in appropriate ways
  • Difficulty appreciating how one’s behavior is affecting other people; often surprised by others’ responses to his/her behavior
  • Difficulty empathizing with others, appreciating another person’s perspective or point of view
  • Difficulty appreciating how one is coming across or being perceived by others

Kids do Well if They Can

“If you know what thinking skills a kid is lacking, you’ll be in a much better position to teach those skills. You’ll also be in a better position to anticipate the situations in which challenging behavior is most likely to occur. If you don’t know what skills a kid is lacking, they probably won’t get taught, it will be much harder to anticipate his worst moments, the kid’s challenges will linger (or get worse), and he will become increasingly frustrated, hopeless, and alienated, just as most of us would if we had a problem no one seemed able to understand and were being treated in a way that made the problem worse.” (Ross Greene, Lost at School)

Treated in a way that made the problem worse? Here Greene is referring to the common adult mis-perception that kids will do well “if they want to.” An assumption made by most teachers, parents and administrators at one time or another. In other words, he is not doing well because he “doesn’t want to.”

This common assumption (usually wrong) causes adults to believe that their strategy needs to be to make the kid want to do well. We then try to motivate him, give him incentives to do well, reward for good behavior and punish bad behavior.

By contrast, the “kids do well if they can” approach assumes our student knows right from wrong, is already motivated, and has had enough punishment. Instead he/she is lacking “thinking” or executive function skills, and our job becomes figuring out what skills he is lacking and teaching those skills.

Now go back up to the list of “challenging behaviors.” Those are the lagging skills we need to teach.