Differentiating Work with Teacher Time in Early Childhood

As a special education teacher, I feel like I am an octopus of teaching multi leveled curriculum and basic learning skills to students.  I love finding ways to use a resource in multiple ways to meet the needs of my kiddos.  Chances are you, or a colleague will have materials to help you expand skill acquisition.  You do not need to constantly go to the Dollar Spot at your local store or exhaust yourself trying to build a toolbox of materials all at once.  It can take years to build a library of resources and materials to match and there’s nothing worse than wasting time on something your students did not truly need.  Find a resource that matches an overarching skill (ie: visual discrimination) and then after mapping out your students’ different skills, find ways to reach the needs of all but switching up a few things or adding in some simple materials! Check out what I mean below!

Put-in Themed Tasks

In your classroom or at home you may have students/children who are working on foundational leveled skills like “put in” type tasks.  With these activities, children are learning to put an item into something else (ie: above, we are putting the animals IN the container).  This activity works on many important skills such as attending to a task, completing a task (work endurance), fine motor, and is the foundation to independent work! Since I was working with the theme of animals, I added in a kinetic sand sensory box for extra engagement.  It is amazing how adding a small component such as this or a paper bag can increase engagement levels! Depending on the current language level of the student will also change this activity.  As the teacher/parent/provider maybe you are expressively labeling while your student takes out one of the animals or maybe you are working on animal noises.  If a student has a dedicated device and uses (for example) Proloquo 2 Go, you can practice finding the animal category and expressively labeling together.  You could also work on receptive language and say, “find the pig and put it IN”, or “find the animal that says, Mooooo and put it IN”.  If you have a student who tends to grab all materials, take control of the sensory bin or the bag where the objects are and put one in at a time.  Put in type tasks can also be a great way to build behavior momentum before beginning a more difficult task.  If you want to learn more about “put in” type activities check out this post HERE.

Errorless & Matching Themed Activity Book

Next up are these easy matching and errorless weekly activity books.  These books are incredible and can be used for students learning foundational basic learner skills such as errorless learning and basic matching.  Each workbook contains 7 easy matching activities such as matching out of a field of 6, errorless matching, or match by color.  Of course, I chose the animal themed books for this lesson!  It is amazing to see how engaging these books can be when you have students who are not yet attending to traditional literature. Students learn to work left to right, scan and manipulate materials all while practicing vocabulary and core language. You can find these books in all different themes HERE!

Matching Objects to Non-Identical Picture

I love expanding resources so when I saw these Matching Task Cards, I knew I had some objects in my materials closet that would pair perfectly!  Your students can still use these matching task cards by matching non-identical objects to the pictures.  We want students to generalize vocabulary with objects meaning that an apple can look like the one on the card and the plastic play pretend one.  Again, for a group of students I add in a sensory box just to add some extra engagement.  You could also make this errorless by only providing the correct animal that matches the card and show them how to match.  Sometimes our kiddos have not yet learned the skill of matching!  The food set that is pictured above is such a fun activity as after the student matches the object to the picture, they can pretend to cut the food apart (they are Velcrod together).

Discrimination Skills

Finally, we have the actual matching task cards just on their own!  These task cards work on basic matching out of a field of 3. Build the skills of discrimination while work on independence and fine motor skills. You can use a dry erase marker or even clothes pins to mark the correct match!  As always you can expand this skill by making the animal noises or asking the student to make the noise for you or act out how the animal moves! Check out my video below to see them all in action and Happy Differentiating!


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