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Developing Strong Concepts Of Letters

Students need a strong understanding of letters, their forms and the associated sounds. A strong understanding of letters and sounds will help your students develop higher level reading skills.

Students need a strong understanding of letters, their forms and the associated sounds. A strong understanding of letters and sounds will help your students develop higher level reading skills.

To develop this strong understanding of letters and sounds, these are the skills I focus most on:

Upper case letters

Lower case letters

Features of letters

Letter sounds

Initial letter sounds

Writing/forming letters


Many students with disabilities require direct teaching and high repetitions in order to learn and master their skills. Letters and sounds are no different! Here are some ideas to give students help students learn quicker and more completely.

Direct Instruction


Before beginning direct instruction, I assess my students to see which letters and sounds they already know. The assessment materials I use come in a variety of layouts, so I can easily customize it to fit my students. 


Once I know which letters my students still need instruction on, I choose a small set (usually 3 to 4 letters) to focus on. We begin by introducing the letters and using guided practice to notice the features of the letters, the sounds it makes, etc.

We use letter posters to introduce the letter. We trace the letter, practice writing it in the air and practice matching the letter in different sizes.


We also add a sensory and movement component to the introduction to help students remain engaged and learning.

Ideas for adding sensory into the lessons:

Hide the letter cards in a sensory bin

Add texture to the letter cards with sand paper, textured fabric or attaching gems

Pipe cleaners in the shape of the letters you are working on

Magnetic letters in a bag or box

One of our favorite ways to add movement into the lesson is to hide the letter cards (Upper & lower case) all over the room. Students take turns having to find a given letter. Not only does this build in movement, but it makes students discriminate between other letters or forms that doesn't match the letter they are matching. 


Practice, Practice and more Practice

Our students require lots and lots and lots of practice in order to truly master skills. It is also important that students don't become rigid in their thinking of letters. 

Ways to help students become flexible thinkers with letters:


Varied practice formats

Practice identifying letters across fonts & handwriting

Practice across different places, times of the day and people


If students only know it is the letter B when their teacher holds up a certain flash card at the reading centers, they don't actually KNOW the letter. All they have done is memorized this one flash card that their teacher uses. This is especially common with students with autism. We need to be practicing and assessing across all of the different settings that students will be in. They need to read at their desks, centers, library, home, cafeteria, etc. If your students don't naturally generalize their skills, then they will need to practice in all of the settings they need to use the skills in. 

Some of the tasks we use for varied practice across settings:







Research supports using an alphabet tracing book daily with students who are still working on learning their letters. We make 2 copies of this book for each student who is working on letters. We send one book home for parents to do with their child. The other copy stays in school for students to practice every day they are in school . Students have to trace the letters while labeling the letter. 



Don't forget to practice forming the letters, too! Here are the writing task cards we use in the writing center:


Other ways we practice writing letters:

Chalkboard with chalk

Erasing chalk letters with Q-tips dipped in water

Write letters with fingers in sand or salt trays

Write letters with fingers in shaving cream

Tracing with highlighters or markers




*All of these tasks are available in the Letters and Sounds Unit. *


Students need a strong understanding of letters, their forms and the associated sounds. A strong understanding of letters and sounds will help your students develop higher level reading skills.



Integrating Movement Into Math Lessons For Better Learning

Research is clear...learning through movement is an effective way to get students to attend, engage and learn. Movement can be added to most any lesson. In my class math is the subject dreaded the most, so I try to add movement to most of our math lessons. Here is a SIMPLE way to add movement that doesn't require extra materials or prep.

Research is clear...learning through movement is an effective way to get students to attend, engage and learn.  Click here for a good article on how movement effects the brain.

Movement can be added to most any lesson. In my class math is the subject dreaded the most, so I try to add movement to most of our math lessons. Here is a SIMPLE way to add movement that doesn't require extra materials or prep. Win!!

Research is clear...learning through movement is an effective way to get students to attend, engage and learn. Movement can be added to most any lesson. In my class math is the subject dreaded the most, so I try to add movement to most of our math lessons. Here is a SIMPLE way to add movement that doesn't require extra materials or prep.


For this simple activity, all I needed was a variety of math visuals that I already have (tens frames, numbers, etc.) To begin, we all stood on one side of the classroom. Next, I placed a few numbers on the floor on the other side of the room. One at a time students were given a number or a tens frame card. 

Once they identified the number associated with the card, they were told a motor activity to do all the way across the classroom. In the picture above one student is doing the bear walk and the other is jumping with 2 feet together. Both motor movements give students good proprioceptive input as well as creating another opportunity to practice bilateral movements. 

More than one student can take a turn at the same time which decreases wait time. You choose the movement for each student so it is easy to individualize based on student's motor abilities and needs. Ask the physical therapist that that works with your program for suggestions tailored to yours students. 

Here are some of the movements we do:

*Bear walk

*Jumping with 2 feet together

*Crab walk

*Duck walk

*Skip

*Giant steps

*Side step

*Frog jump



Once the student gets to the other side of the room, we worked on sequencing numbers and matching tens frames to numbers.

Research is clear...learning through movement is an effective way to get students to attend, engage and learn. Movement can be added to most any lesson. In my class math is the subject dreaded the most, so I try to add movement to most of our math lessons. Here is a SIMPLE way to add movement that doesn't require extra materials or prep.


Not only does the movement help students engage, it is also FUN! These are the perfect lessons for students who dislike math or have trouble with more traditional math lessons. 

Research is clear...learning through movement is an effective way to get students to attend, engage and learn. Movement can be added to most any lesson. In my class math is the subject dreaded the most, so I try to add movement to most of our math lessons. Here is a SIMPLE way to add movement that doesn't require extra materials or prep.



Low Prep Book Extension Ideas

Students need to practice comprehension of a text in multiple ways. Here are some low-prep ideas for books you already have and use in your classroom. These ideas can be used regardless if the students read the texts themselves or listened to the texts.

Students need to practice comprehension of a text in multiple ways. Here are some low-prep ideas for books you already have and use in your classroom. These ideas can be used regardless if the students read the texts themselves or listened to the texts.


After reading a book, have students demonstrate what they learned with a picture sort. In the picture below, we read a dental health interactive book about what you would see at the dentist. Afterwards, students had to create a yes or no sorting board on construction paper, cut out given pictures and then sort the pictures accordingly. This SUPER easy to prep lesson targeted all of these skills:

Attending to a text

Reading or listening to a text

Cutting skills

Writing skills

Comprehension skills

Language skills: yes or no

Interactive books can be used to target reading and listening comprehension just like any other text!




Word Webs are great for many different book extensions. Vocabulary or concepts go in the middle shape. Students then write what they learned in the text in the other blank shapes. Not only is this a great way for students to demonstrate what they learned from reading or listening to a text, it is also a fantastic way to build language skills.

Students need to practice comprehension of a text in multiple ways. Here are some low-prep ideas for books you already have and use in your classroom. These ideas can be used regardless if the students read the texts themselves or listened to the texts.


Another idea is to make a very simple sheet for students to complete after reading or listening to a text. Here, we read a book about having a pet rabbit. The book talked about what a pet rabbit needs in order to live a healthy and long life. After reading the book, students had to recall the color of the rabbit in the book and color the picture accordingly, Next, students had to cut out pictures containing something the rabbit in the book needed. This is the perfect way for non-writers to demonstrate comprehension!

Students need to practice comprehension of a text in multiple ways. Here are some low-prep ideas for books you already have and use in your classroom. These ideas can be used regardless if the students read the texts themselves or listened to the texts.


A no prep idea is to have students write in journals or notebooks after reading or listening to a text. Students can write (or draw) about many different things to demonstrate comprehension of the text. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Favorite character

How the book began or ended

The part you liked best

Where the book took place

What happened when....

Want to read more about comprehension? Check out these blog posts:




Students need to practice comprehension of a text in multiple ways. Here are some low-prep ideas for books you already have and use in your classroom. These ideas can be used regardless if the students read the texts themselves or listened to the texts.



Teaching About Community Signs

One of the life skills we need to work on with students is community signs. It's important that students not only know how to read the signs, but they also need to know what they mean. Here are some of the ways that we target the skills.

One of the life skills we need to work on with students is community signs. It's important that students not only know how to read the signs, but they also need to know what they mean. Here are some of the ways that we target the skills.
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We begin by looking for and noticing the signs around us. We take a walk around our school neighborhood to find signs. We also make a list of the signs we see on the bus. Then we read this book, I Read Signs, Tana Hoban. If you don't have this book, I highly recommend it. It's great for community signs and language development. 



This book, I Read Signs, is a wordless book, but the pictures are fantastic for discussions about the community. On the pages below, we talked about what the signs means, where you see the sign, etc. 
Students were able to make connections between the text, signs and their experiences. 



Practice safety skills by talking about what these signs mean, where you see them, why it is important to follow them and dangerous not to. SOOOO many ways to practice language, comprehension, life skills and safety!!!



Next, we start working on generalized practice with different pictures and different types of practice. We use the file folders and clip cards from the Community Signs Skill Pack. Different levels are included in the pack, so all of my students can practice at their level. 

Students who are still working on identifying the signs work on this file folder (below). To complete this file folder, student match picture to picture. 



Students match meaning of signs to the picture in the other file folder. Great way to add in reading comprehension skills!



Since we are still trying to relate this info to their life outside of school, I usually ask students questions after they have completed these tasks. For example:

Which of these signs do you see on your way to school?

Have you ever seen this sign? Where?

Can I use this bathroom? How come?


I also use these leveled community signs clip cards in work task boxes.



Additionally, we also teach about community signs during our direct instruction work centers. Read more about our work centers HERE

No matter how you teach community signs, they are a vital component of life skills training!

One of the life skills we need to work on with students is community signs. It's important that students not only know how to read the signs, but they also need to know what they mean. Here are some of the ways that we target the skills.



More blog posts about life skills training:

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