The ASD Nest Egg

strategies to support kids on the autism spectrum

Month: May 2016

Simply Magical Post-its

I have a theory:


Office referrals for both behavior problems and academic difficulties would decrease exponentially if teachers were armed with post-its.


Yes, just post-its.7iaLrp9iA


We use them all of the time to remind us to make copies, to jot down ideas, and to flag important pages in teachers’ guides, but it often stops there.  Post-its stay in drawers, on desks, and at the bottom of bags.  


Let’s get them OUT! What if every teacher kept a pad of post-its in his or her pocket all day, every day?  


Simple post-it strategies can offer concrete, visual supports to help students understand expectations, remember directions, monitor progress towards a goal, and celebrate successes. I want teachers to see the simple magic of post-its–what a quick jot can do to help students succeed.




  • In a collaborative teaching classroom, you see one teacher write down the three verbal directions that were given at the end of the mini-lesson on a post-it , and that post-its is then placed on the desk of the student who always had trouble getting started. Just a few boxes next to each numbered step, and this post-it is now a visual checklist for a student to easily reference and use. Maybe this time the student can start his work, when he would otherwise wait for the teacher to help. Maybe this time this student shows more focus to the assignment, as he checks off each step when they are completed. Maybe he gets to be the one to helps his classmate who forgets what she’s supposed to do next, rather than always being the one who needs the reminders.


  • In a general education classroom, a teacher notices that a student keeps getting up to get water, sharpen her pencil, and chat with a neighbor. The teacher takes a post-it and says, “Let’s set a goal: 4 sentences or 6 sentences?” The student chooses the smaller goal, and the teacher draws 4 quick circles on a post-it and then adds “= a break” at the bottom.  The teacher then explains, “After each sentence you write, put a star in the circle. After 4 stars, you can take a break.” This post-it visual provides clear goals, student choice, as well as an opportunity for self-monitoring and reinforcement, not to mention a movement break. Maybe this time this student is more motivated with this more concrete goal of 4 sentences, rather than the open-ended “write for the rest of the period.” Maybe this student feels more successful with each star she draws. Maybe she takes a break to celebrate a job well-done, rather than to avoid a task that feels impossible.


  • In a self-contained classroom there is a student who started his day frustrated. Each period brings mounting expectations, demands, and feelings of failure. In this room, the teacher does not use post-its to list expectations, set goals, or monitor progress. Instead, he might jot down a quote from the student’s favorite movie or draw a sketch of the student’s favorite Minecraft character. This post-it is placed on the student’s seat so that it’s the first thing he sees when he comes back to his desk from a challenging lesson. After lunch, his teacher jots on a post-it, “Can’t wait for you to hear the read aloud this afternoon!” and just passes it to the student with a smile.  Our work as educators is sometimes to put aside the demands of the curriculum, and to first meet the needs of the child. A quick post-it can provide reassurance, comfort, and maybe even a laugh. Maybe this time this student is able to smile and take a breath in the middle of this difficult day. Maybe he’ll be able to make one comment during the class read aloud. And maybe he’ll go through his day knowing that his teacher knows him a little better than he had thought, and maybe he sees that his teacher cares about more than just the schoolwork.


Try it. See what you find. Carry that one pad of post-its and a pen. Create a simple checklist, goal sheet, or personalized note. And don’t stop there- get creative.  Does your student need a reminder about ways she can get help if she is confused? A list of prompts to help him with his reading jots? What about a graphic organizer to help him organize his thinking before jumping into that essay? What about just…



Catch ’em Being Good

Most people are wired to notice things that don’t match our expectations.  We notice the person facing the wrong way in line or the person speaking loudly when everyone else is whispering.  In the same way our attention is drawn to student’s who are not meeting our behavioral expectations.  We notice the child who is running when their peers are walking or the child who is chatting when they are meant to be working.  We correct or redirect that child.  They receive our attention for nonproductive behavior.  We tend to overlook the child who is meeting our expectations, the child who is walking calmly or working steadily.  


When we consistently give attention for nonproductive behavior we can (inadvertently) diminish the motivation and enthusiasm of the child who is on task.  To support or increase student motivation we must train ourselves to catch students being good.  This does not mean we have to ignore behavior that needs redirections, but that we have to push ourselves to give more attention to positive and productive behavior.


Try this:

  • Keep a running tally of how many times you redirect- you can do this on a post-it, or the back of your hand- no one needs to see this but you
  • Ask yourself if there are any discernable patterns- is most of this redirection aimed at one student?  Or related to one type of behavior?  What could you do/plan ahead of time to reduce this behavior- rearrange seats, change partners, etc.?
  • Set a goal and push yourself– for every piece of redirection, give two pieces of positive reinforcement.  It doesn’t need to be (and probably shouldn’t be) directed at the same child.  Compliment students who are working, sharing, organized, on time, ask questions, applaud effort, are brave enough to attempt to answer questions, etc. Staying-Positive


Catching student being good is hard at first!  Stick with it- it can change the tone of your classroom and increase student motivation!


For more information click here.

Directions: Say it in three

Teachers like to talk! When we lead a lesson, support a student, and give class directions, we tend to use lots and lots of language.

say it in three

Seriously. Lots of language.

The irony is, much of what we are saying in the classroom is not truly being heard! Due to language processing challenges, many students with ASD cannot fully hear, process or completely understand all the verbal information we bombard them with. Dr. Ken Rowe explains the problem of too much teacher language this way:


“There is too much information going through the students’ auditory gate. Either nothing goes through or what goes through is garbled.” (in Doherty 2004)


But everything we have to say is so important! How can we possibly reduce our verbal language?


There are many ways to reduce the amount of language we use in the classroom. One way is to say it in three. Replace your long list of directions with a total of three words. Yes, just 3!


Try this: When giving directions, start by giving your long list of steps as you usually would. Then, repeat your directions, but slightly shorter. Finally, repeat your directions using only the three most important words. For example:


OK, class. Please hang up your coats and put away anything you had at lunch. Then get your writer’s notebook and meet the me at the rug.

(That’s you giving the full directions)


That’s: coats away, writer’s notebook, go to the rug.

(That’s slightly shorter)


Coats – notebook – rug

(That’s it! Three words!)


Think about a funnel: our verbal rich directions get slowly more and more concise until we end by just giving a three-word direction.


Try it out! Look to see if your students follow directions more easily, more quickly, or more completely.


For more information, check out: The Power of Our Words, a terrific book on classroom language from Responsive Classroom.



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