Gaining and maintaining attention through an iPad has been very difficult. Now that it is December, my team and I are working harder than we were in August to keep our kids wanting to come to virtual school! Many of our students are used to navigating the iPads while seeing what THEY want to see. Some of our learners are not attending to the iPad at all, while others require frequent reinforcers and reminders. Today I want to go over what I am including in my lesson plans in order to keep my learners engaged and happy to learn!

Adult facilitation

All of our learners require adult support in order to follow the schedule and manage the iPad throughout the day. My learners are lucky to have an adult sitting with each of them! The team and I are able to coach family members and care takers through helping with hand over hand and any other physical assistance that may be needed. The adults that are home with our learners are also able to click on the links and manage the online classroom so our learners get to where they need to be.

Our virtual classroom has consistent routines, just like we would in the classroom. Our online classroom has visuals for each part of the day similar to the large classroom schedule on our whiteboard in the classroom. If a learner also needs an individual schedule, those have been sent home for use during “school time”! It is also important to include breaks from screen time for each of our learners. It is unrealistic to expect our learners to attend to the iPad for the entire day. While working in our 1:1 rotations, each learner uses that time to take a break from the screen. They also have built in break time during gross motor and open centers and they are all encouraged to send pictures and videos during these times. 

Daily Scheduled 1:1 time

During remote learning, the team and I have been doing more large group lessons for exposure with less demands. We want to start our learner’s days off on a positive reinforcing note! We know that some of them have a tough time just seeing the adults bring out the iPad and we want to pair ourselves through the screen as much as we can. That’s where 1:1 time comes in. We work on many different skills in our jam packed sessions. Each 1:1 time is scheduled to be 20 minutes. We have scheduled the learner to have the same 1:1 group each day. Related services and myself rotate to them. For example: Harrison will have 1:1 time Monday-Friday from 9:50am-10:10am. On Monday, he meets with the speech/language pathologist, Tuesday he works with myself and the physical therapist, Wednesday he sees me, Thursday he works with the occupational therapist, and Friday he works with the social worker.  

I use the direct instruction lesson planning tool to plan out my 1:1 times. I have individual boxes set up for each student that includes materials corresponding to the activities I have planned. I use the ideas to the right when planning! I have found that I am more productive and engaging when I am prepared. 

  1. Play
  2. IEP goals
  3. ABLLS
  4. STAR
  5. Parent coaching
  6. Video models for families (reviewing our open center menu and our gross motor menu)

Visually stimulating environment

Unlike the physical classroom, we are keeping a visually rich environment during remote learning! We are pulling out all of the strategies in hopes of keeping the attention of our students when we have them! The following are my favorites:

  1. Boom cards
  2. Green screen
  3. Adapted books 
  4. YouTube
  5. Social games
  6. Get up and move games 


We also have one read aloud to end each day. We keep these interesting by mixing up the readers AND the way the book is delivered. The speech/language pathologist in our room reads on Monday and Wednesday. The English as a New Language teacher reads on Tuesday. I read a story in our general education “peer buddy” classroom on Thursdays, and I read on Fridays. The four different ways we read stories are:

  1. Live (holding the book)
  2. Live (using an iPad as a document camera)
  3. Pre-recorded- we play a video of ourselves reading a book
  4. Recorded read aloud from approved Youtube accounts

Hands on materials 

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, I often talk about how lucky I am to send hands on materials to our learners. My whole team has stepped up this year to get appropriate learning materials in the hands of our learners. We use these materials during the live video calls. We also use the materials when I have an IEP meeting or am out for any reason. I post into the online classroom which activities I want the learner and their families to work on and they send me pictures and updates. Keeping track of what we have sent home, the programs they correlate to, and the rationale for sending each material and resource home is helpful when lesson planning. Once an activity or material is mastered, our learners have gained an independent activity for in the home. It’s all been a pretty big win in this time of unknown and stress!

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