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Teaching Strategies

Praise what you like to see and teach what you want to see

  • Reinforcement:  Be specific when praising your students. Tell them specifically what behavior you are happy to see them use. (“Great, you started working all by yourself!” “Good keeping your hands to your sides!”)
  • Shaping:  Accept approximations of the student’s attempts to perform a behavior and gradually shape the behavior with reinforcement and support to meet the entire goal.
  • Interest and Motivation:  Use reinforcement items that are of value to the student. Perform a reinforcement survey to find out which items, activities or interests are specific to each student. Ask parents, ask previous teachers and observe the student during leisure activities to develop a list of possible reinforcers.

Prevent challenging behaviors during work time by matching the student’s ability level to the materials or activities.

  • Task Analysis:  Gradually increase the level of difficulty by scaffolding and breaking down specific skills.
  • Schedule of Reinforcement:  Use a high rate of reinforcement when introducing new skills to the student.
  • Differentiated Instruction:  Accept alternate methods of responding to increase motivation to attend. Allow student to point to answers, match answers on cards to prompt, etc.

Provide choice-making opportunities throughout the day.

  • Choice Making:  “Get control by giving control.” This popular statement comes in handy in the classroom. Students can feel empowered when given the opportunity to make a choice among provided options. (“Do you want to use your pencil or pen to complete this activity.”)
  • Direct Instruction:  You may have to use direct teaching to help the student learn to make appropriate choices. Provide the student with information regarding the effects of their choices.
  • Prompting by reducing choices:  Limit the choices to two if the student is easily overwhelmed by many options.

Establish and promote independence during the instructional day.

  • Graduated Guidance:  Teachers will provide the minimum amount of support to encourage the student to complete the work on his own.  Adequate “wait time” for students to demonstrate the skill also needs to be allowed.
  • Visual Work Systems:  Work systems structure the work the student is expected to complete during a work session.  They visually tell a student what work to complete, how much work needs to be done, how that student will know he is finished, and what activity follows.  This minimizes the need for verbal directions and other forms of prompting.
  • Fade Prompting:  Follow the hierarchy of prompting from least to most and begin fading those prompts immediately.  Prompts need to be faded as quickly as possible to promote independence and self reliance

Provide support for transitions throughout the instructional day.

  • Transition Cues:  Using a consistent visual cue to indicate when it is time to transition or change activities is beneficial.  This cue can reduce confusion and provide the student with a visual support for each transition.
  • Visual Countdowns:  Students need a visible method for seeing how much time remains in an activity and predicting when an activity will conclude.  This also allows students to begin preparing for the activity that follows.
  • Visual Schedules:  Visual schedules provide individuals a way to view an upcoming activity, have a better understanding of the sequence of activities that will occur, and increase overall predictability of their day.

Implement communication training.

  • Maximize Opportunities:  Provide multiple opportunities for students to practice requesting (manding), labeling (tacting), etc. during the instructional day and across activities.  Students need to learn to communicate for more general concepts as well such as “help”, “break”, etc.
  • Augment Communication:  For students that have limited verbal communication or are non-verbal, teachers need to augment their communication by using low tech options:  communication board, topic board, PECS, written conversation starters, written conversation prompts: assistive technology: IPad, IPod, IPhone, etc. 
  • Shaping:  Reinforce approximations to words during the initial instruction.  As instruction continues, expectations increase and reinforcement occurs after closer approximations by the student.  i.e. (“m”, “mi”, “mik”, “milk”)