Systematically Generalizing Skills

As we have already discussed, fading prompts is crucial if we expect students to be functional in life and their community. There is one more step, though. We need to ensure that our students are able to use their skills anywhere they are needed. In other words, we need to plan for generalization of skills. So many of our students struggle with transferring their skills across people, items, settings, etc. Here are some ways we systematically target generalizing.

In order for students to be functional in life and their community, we need to ensure that they are able to use their skills across the day, setting, people and materials. Here are some ideas on how to target generalization in the special education classroom.


To help students generalize their skills, we need to purposefully plan to use skills in different ways across the day, settings, people and materials. Once you start brainstorming you will find it is easy to come up with different ways to practice those skills we work so hard to teach students. However, it isn't always easy for our students to LEARN to generalize their skills. Here are some examples of how we help students learn to become functional with their skills.

Counting is something we practice every day in multiple ways. Think of all of the ways and times you need to count in your day. You count the kids in your class, you count papers to make sure you have enough copies, you count out the number of plates you need when setting the dinner table, etc. It's a skill our students need to be able to do accurately and in different ways. Here is how we practice using that skill in different ways with different materials and for different reasons.

In order for students to be functional in life and their community, we need to ensure that they are able to use their skills across the day, setting, people and materials. Here are some ideas on how to target generalization in the special education classroom.

We practice counting the the days of school daily. With this chart we practice counting by ones and tens. We also count out tens frames sets in a variety of ways. We do it as a group with magnet counters (above) and on our own tens frames like in our Native American Tens Frames (below).

In order for students to be functional in life and their community, we need to ensure that they are able to use their skills across the day, setting, people and materials. Here are some ideas on how to target generalization in the special education classroom.

Spread the counting practice out across your school day. Students need to be able to use the skills when they are at the table, at snack, at their desks, doing task boxes, etc. We are working on our Thanksgiving Clip Cards in task boxes this month to practice more counting. 

In order for students to be functional in life and their community, we need to ensure that they are able to use their skills across the day, setting, people and materials. Here are some ideas on how to target generalization in the special education classroom.

There are so many ways to practice counting, but my class' favorite is count the room. We do it for EVERY THEME because they love it so!! Some of my students have to count the pictures they find and write the number on their sheets while others (see below) have to count and choose the correct number from a choice of 2. 

In order for students to be functional in life and their community, we need to ensure that they are able to use their skills across the day, setting, people and materials. Here are some ideas on how to target generalization in the special education classroom.

As you can see, finding ways to practice using skills across settings, activities, materials and people is easy once you get started. The most important thing is that you start doing it. I would bet that you are already doing some of it. Now, just look for more ways to do it. Take data if you have students struggling with it. See what is tripping them up... is it the type of activitiy, materials, setting, people, etc. Once you have identified what they are having trouble with, I would recommend finding more ways to practice that. 


Troubleshooting

I have a student who is able to make sets during math centers with one of my paras and bear manipulatives. However, he can't make sets with me at a table 4 feet away with the same number cards during math centers. Generalizing is difficult for him. Once we changed the table, person and manipulatives, his skills were gone. Let me tell you, it is frustrating for both you and your student! The good news is.... you can fix it! Systematically teach the student to use the skills no matter what changes. Changing 3 things (people, materials and table) was too much for him. Instead, we needed to take baby steps. We targeted generalizing across people first. I worked at the math table with him during math centers using the bear counters until he was able to make sets with me. Then, we took those materials with us and the student and I worked on sets at my table. Eventually we worked up to the student making sets across people and materials. Go at whatever pace your student needs.

Every student is different, sometimes a student will pick up generalizing quickly while other kiddos need baby steps. The most important thing is that teachers are targeting generalization. 


In order for students to be functional in life and their community, we need to ensure that they are able to use their skills across the day, setting, people and materials. Here are some ideas on how to target generalization in the special education classroom.



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