Today’s guest post comes from one of the amazing teachers from our Professional Development Membership. Heather Hoeft teaches in a special education preschool setting and can’t wait to share how she sets up her Discrete Trial Training area in her classroom:

Managing all of your students’ individual daily schedules can be tricky! Especially when they have VERY different needs and skill sets. Finding time to work 1:1 is essential. In today’s blog post I share with you how I have moved my area around the classroom and organized the shelves over the last few years in order to attain a comfortable and safe spot to get the most out of my 1:1 time with my students.

Get Comfortable

If you don’t already have a space, you’ll need to establish a 1:1 area in your classroom. If you do already have a designated spot, take a minute to re-evaluate its functionality. First, you’ll want to make sure you have a comfortable table and chairs. Your students will need something that is not too tall for them, but you will need to be able to quickly scoot around as well. Work with your building admin and custodian to make sure you have a table that will work. I have found that a trapezoid table works best for us.

Also, you need to be conscious of the area and any possible distractions for your students. In order to combat distractions, I have my table facing a wall. There are shelves on my left side, with the materials I need, and a divider (purchased from Lakehsore) to the right of the student. While working 1:1, my students use a cube chair to help keep more of a defined space. Additionally, our classroom OT has provided us with a swiss ball so that students can sit and bounce and get their bodies moving, if needed.

 Even though school days can get chaotic, it is important to keep the table clear of any unnecessary items. This allows the students to focus on the task at hand. You do not want them to get distracted by other materials that may not be included in their specific program. You also want to be sure that you are setting them up for success! I do keep a token board on the table as a frequent reminder of what the student is working toward. But if it becomes too distracting, I move it out of their immediate eyeline. Now you are ready to start distraction free 1:1 time with your students!


The shelves to the left of me (away from the student) contain our curriculum materials, The Autism Helper materials, and other academic resources, and are right at my fingertips. I have found that covering the shelf with a white cloth allows my students to focus better on their task. I have been using the STAR program for a few years, so I know which materials I will need more often than others. If you are a newer teacher or are starting a new curriculum, you may need to familiarize yourself with the curriculum, and which lessons you want to run in DT, before organizing this shelf space. Start with what materials you need for each child’s different program. As you continue utilizing this 1:1 space, you can adjust the materials that you keep on these shelves.

Additionally, I keep a binder for each student in my class on these shelves, full of their DT data sheets. I keep their learning profile in the front of the binder as a quick reminder. This is followed by a tracking sheet for when programs were run, skill acquisition graphs, DT daily data sheets, and lastly their mastered program’s data sheets. When a student comes to me, I grab their binder and I know exactly where to start and what materials I will need.

As you use the space, you will become more comfortable, and you will start to have a feel for what material you need to keep on the shelf and what you can put away in another area. Pay attention what you use most and which programs you need to run each day. All of my frequently used materials and resources are organized on the shelf and ready to go at a moment’s notice. I not only have data sheets for each lesson, but I will also periodically check already mastered skills, so I also keep a red binder full of blank data sheets on my shelf. I copy these at the beginning of the year so that they are all ready to go when I need them.

My Must Have Materials

Along with curriculum materials, here is my must have list for my DT area! I use these materials to practice and asses continually throughout the year. These materials are also easily moved around the classroom to work on generalization, checking for mastery, and maintenance.

  • dry erase board, dry erase marker, and dry erase eraser
  • Learning Resources’ Ruff’s House
  • Zipper bag with white math chips inside. This helps students work on their skills in opening containers.
  • The Autism Helper’s “yes/no sorting”
  • The Autism Helper’s “emotion sorting”
  • Numerical dog match with 10 marbles
  • Analog clock
  • A mirror
  • Number cards
  • Dominos (in a plastic container)
  • Color cards
  • Crayons
  • The Autism Helper Homework packets
  • Adapted scissors and notecards with lines on them
  • Student and teacher pictures (in a zipper pouch)
  • Uppercase and lowercase letter pages
  • Shapes and colors file folder games
  • The Autism Helper’s food group sort
  • Lakeshore’s Math Sequencing Puzzle
  • Shape sorting chart
  • Number file folders


Finally, I keep two bins full of reinforcers in this area. I have found that reinforcers can change quickly, sometimes on a day to day or even minute to minute basis, so I stack those bins full! Having access to so many different types of reinforcers also gives me the ability to do preference assessments each week while I am working with each student. Also, in the bin of reinforcers are PECS pictures to match. This way when things are new, I always have a picture to practice requesting with PECS, I can add them to their book, and I can use the picture as fringe on their coreboards.

Now let’s get practicing!

The most important thing is to organize your space and keep it organized! Have the curriculum and program materials ready to grab. Keep your data binders organized in a way that you can easily grab and get started. You don’t want to start your DT time by wasting time finding out which program or lesson you left off on last time, or how the child did last time you ran the program, or what they might want to work to earn. While some students may sit, wait for direction, and work for no external reinforcers, others will not. Having everything organized and ready to go is essential for the success of your center, as well as the success of each of your students.

Sasha Long
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