How To Move Past Simple Matching To Higher Level Instruction

Matching and imitation are great beginning skills, but as special educators we need to make sure that we don't let our students get stuck at that level. Here are some tips on getting started on instruction that will lead to higher level skills.

Matching and imitation are great beginning skills, but as special educators we need to make sure that we don't let our students get stuck at that level. Here are some tips on getting started on instruction that will lead to higher level skills.
             photo credit: Worth A Thousand Words

There is a place and time to work on matching with students, BUT it can't end there. Students with disabilities need MORE instruction, not less. It doesn't matter what level your students are at (even moderate to severely disabled) or what their disability is, they still need instruction that helps them move past matching.


Start Slow & Build Up

Students who are at the early learning stage will most likely need their instruction to be on a one to one basis (at least to begin with). It can also be a very short time. For example, 3 to 7 minutes of direct instruction on letters before the student moves on to another activity or reinforcement. As the student shows the ability to attend and learns more skills, increase the amount of instruction time. Make sure that you are starting slow so that the student is successful.


Plan For Barrier Behaviors

Many of our students have had negative experiences during instructional times. Make sure you have a plan on how to keep the student's attention and to help the student feel successful. I highly recommend making sure that you have paired or established a bond with the student prior to setting up direct instructional times. This relationship is essential in establishing instructional control with students. 




Have Powerful Reinforcers

When you begin stretching students' skills past simple matching, you are going to want to have really strong reinforcers in place. Powerful reinforcers will help students work past their dislike or disinterest in what you are trying to teach them.





Have A Variety Of Instructional Materials

Our students learn at a much slower rate than their typically developing peers. They need more repetition and need hands on tasks in order to learn. My students need new information presented to them in a way that breaks down abstract concepts into more manageable and understandable segments. I then take the first segment and teach that small part to mastery. Once students have mastered that small segment, I add in the next small segment. This process builds in the review my students need of the first segment and keeps most of the practice be with known materials.... that leads students to be and FEEL successful. When my students feel successful, they stay on task better and have less behaviors during instruction. WIN!!!

My students need more practice and repetition than traditional curriculum offer. They need more visuals, hands on tasks and extra materials targeting the same skill in different ways in order to learn, master and generalize the skill. I tend to use theme units and hands on math materials in my instruction. These already have the visuals I need to introduce and teach a concept as we as the tasks my students need in order to practice and generalize the skills. Win!!




When gathering the materials you are going to use in your instruction, make sure that the practice tasks truly target the same skill you have been targeting during instruction. Also keep in mind how your student does with generalizing. If your student has a hard time generalizing skills, then only change one thing at a time in practice tasks. For example, use the materials from instruction in a different color.


Don't limit Instruction To Core Subjects

Students who need instruction broken down to this extent in order to learn, will also need skills outside of core subjects broken down as well. For example, life skills and language skills will often need to be systematically targeted. 




Don't forget to plan for review of mastered skills. Here is a blog post with more info on how to do that. Just click on the picture to read more about the topic.




Have a plan for instruction and review of skills and your students WILL progress. Just keep in mind that our students tend to progress slowly... be sure to celebrate every gain!!


Matching and imitation are great beginning skills, but as special educators we need to make sure that we don't let our students get stuck at that level. Here are some tips on getting started on instruction that will lead to higher level skills.




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