Visuals can be used in many different ways throughout the school day. Both special education & general education use visuals to help with organization and behavior, but visual supports are a great way to modify lessons and tasks as well.
visuals to modify and support lessons
Visual supports are a great way to help students with comprehension during a lesson. For example, during a science lesson, we have visuals for each of the items and concepts we will be using and covering during the lesson. We start the lesson by reviewing each item and the visuals before we begin. We then model using the visuals during instruction to help students understand the lesson and learn how to use the visuals to support language and comprehension. As we complete the lesson, visuals are used to help students answer questions. At the end of the lesson, We then use the visuals at the end of the lesson to review to check for understanding.
We also use visuals to help students read and demonstrate comprehension. Many times our students learn to identify words and read, but they aren’t able to apply or act on what they’ve read. This lack of comprehension is a barrier to functional skills.
In order to promote comprehension and functional skills, we added visuals to our reading program. In this Reading Comprehension Of Written Directions- Functional Literacy, we pair written text and visuals to help students learn how to act on the text.
Fade visual supports as students progress to avoid prompt dependency.
visuals to support & introduce lessons
Visuals are ideal when you are introducing new concepts in a lesson. For example, visuals can be added to a lesson introducing the addition concept. I use a hands mat to help students understand that adding means combining 2 groups of items or sets.
We continue adapting and reducing the visual supports as students progress. Use visual supports to modify and support lessons, but be sure to fade the supports to build independence. Click here or the photo below for a free worksheet version of the hands-on mat.
These visual supports help limit verbal prompting but give students the support they need to learn the concept of addition.
using visuals to complete tasks
We have visuals around the classroom to help students complete tasks during lessons, centers, and tasks. Visuals are a great way to teach and support students during multi-step tasks. For example, we have this visual schedule next to the sink for washing dishes.
We display this visual next to our plant with the steps for watering the plant.
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visuals to teach students to build on skills
As our students progress in lessons and tasks, we want to keep modifying and using visuals to help students build on skills. Schedule a time weekly or a few times a month to evaluate which skills are ready to be increased. Then decide on the visual supports needed for that task.
For example, in our social skills group, students work on saying hello to a peer and asking them a question. Here are 3 ways we use visuals to support these lessons:
- We have visuals that help the students remember to look at their friend, say hello and then ask the question.
- There are “yes/no” visuals to help students answer yes/no questions during a group
- Visual choices to help students answer teacher or peer questions.
We also have visuals posted in key areas of the room for students who are working on expressing their wants and needs. For example, for a student who would only use 1 to 2 words to get help zipping his coat, we hung up a visual cue for him that said “help zip coat” next to his hook.
Staff began teaching him to use the visual supports by gesturing to the visual cue. Those prompts were faded, but the visual was left up. Once he was consistently using the visual strip to use more words in his request for help, we faded the visual support. Now the student is independently requesting and no longer needs the visual reminder.
This type of visuals to support tasks has worked so well, we have continued to use similar visuals to increase requesting in other ways.