I had to laugh when a teacher who attended one of my sessions at the SDE conference told me she wanted to be more like me and only give directions once! Ha! If they only knew the truth!! I really wanted to only give directions for an activity once, but it never failed that a student always asked me to repeat the directions. But implementing one simple solution was earth shattering!

Are you ready for the just simple science solution? When I went over the directions, before moving on to the activity, I had one student in the class repeat back to me what I had just said. As the student repeated my directions, I drew pictures tried my best to draw pictures of what was said (my kids loved my lack of drawing ability!). Once finished, I had another student read the directions from what I created.

I have to say I was shocked how this one simply step changed the dynamic in my classroom. Suddenly students were using my chart to remind each other of the directions!

Why did this one simply step make such a difference? My simple charts provided students with a visual support. Visual supports are simply tools used to increase the understanding of language. They become the structure and support to help students understand the expectations of an activity or situation. Research has shown visual supports are very helpful for students with autism, but in all reality, they are good for all students. Roa and Gagie (2006) listed several reasons why these visual supports are useful to support learning and success within the inclusive classroom. According to Roa and Gagie’s research, visual supports

  • are part of all communication systems,
  • help to attract and hold a student’s attention,
  • enable students to focus on the task at hand while reducing anxiety, and
  • make abstract concepts more concrete for the student.

Not only did I use visual supports with directions, but I also created a visual support for class discussions. Those of you that are Common Core states know one of the goals of the standards found in the Language Arts Common Core deals with students engaging in discussions. If we think about discussions, how did we learn how to have one? We engaged in them! But students need to understand there are rules that apply to discussions! Thus the LEARN tool was created!

LEARN stands for:

  • Listen to each other.
  • Encourage each other.
  • Ask questions.
  • Respect each other.
  • No interrupting.

To understand a person’s point of view, we have to listen to them. Good discussions are also not always about agreeing with a person but are about encouraging each other. Teaching children to say things like, I respectfully disagree with you because… is a great life skill. I also want my students to ask lots of questions during discussions. This allows students to learn how to say things like: Are you saying…?

Discussions are also about respecting and allow everyone to have the opportunity to speak. Interrupting does nothing to encourage discussions. Our students need to learn we must treat others they way we would like to be treated. It never failed my classroom always had many more external processors(you know them-they start talking even before you finish the question) than internal processors (those students who need quiet think time). This made it really important to allow that precious think time for all.

Teaching students is not just about the content we want them to learn, but also the skills they need in order to be successful in life! If you are interested, you can find my LEARN poster here.


Rao, S. M., & Gagie, B. (2006). Learning through seeing and doing: Visual supports for children with autism. TEACHING Exceptional Children38(6), 26-33.

Published by Jenny Sue