How to Increase Independence in Large Group

I have had experience teaching in a public-school setting, a therapeutic day school setting, and now I am in an ABA clinic setting. In all these settings, I have seen many skills within small and large groups needed for all of my learners. The skill of being able to sit next to a peer, pass items to the next person, get materials instructed by the teacher, attend to the speaker, or sit for a duration of time is not a skill that is learned easily for my learners. I have been able to experience many different types of learners and abilities and have been able to modify my large group activities and the environment in order to help my learners succeed. In this post, I will share what can be used during large group activities in order to encourage independence as well as skills that can be broken down and taught to a learner in smaller steps.

Accommodations to the environment

There are many different ways and areas of a classroom or a clinic that large group activities may be taking place. Below are some that I have seen:


  • A large carpet with letters, shapes, or numbers on it where each learner sits on a certain symbol with the teacher/leader seated in the front
  • A large plain colored carpet and the learners sit on carpet squares with the teacher/leader seated in the front
  • A large group carpet and some learners sit in a cube chair or adapted seating with the teacher/leader seated in the front
  • A U-shaped table with learners seated in cube chairs or crate seats around the table


Other accommodations to keep in mind and discuss with your team that can be individualized per learner may be:


  • Light covers
  • Headphones
  • Chew
  • Fidgets
  • Wiggle cushion
  • Seating close to a teacher
  • Seating away from a certain peer
  • A paraprofessional seated behind a specific learner
  • A visual schedule for large group
  • Individual schedule
  • Decreased amount of time expected to stay at group
  • Hands on materials per activity
  • Visuals for behavior expectations
  • Sensory motor break
  • Color coding

Modifications to the lessons

Although there may be a time limit or certain amount of minutes that are allotted for large group times in a school setting, I was able to work with administration and advocate for our learners that a 20-30 minute circle time was not appropriate for all of my learners. My team and I took data on our learner’s functional abilities to participate with all environment factors included. Some leaners benefited from large group later in the day, some benefited from a decreased number of peers in a certain vicinity during large group, some learners needed dividers or boards up to decrease visual distractions in order to attend. The data on what benefits our learners is most important especially when advocating for them and meeting with team members. When we modify lessons for our learners, they will learn to be more independent in following the routine, tolerating peers, engaging in sharing and taking turns, use and follow a schedule, and increase independence during groups, and most importantly, moving away from 1:1 instruction from a paraprofessional, teacher, clinician or related service team member.

Skills that can be taught and practiced in large group settings

Within my experiences, my learners have not come onto my caseload ready and independent for full participation in a large group setting. When a learner is struggling and full time large group may not be appropriate, we look at pre-requisite skills to teach as well. These skills are below (in no sequential order):


  • Manding
  • Multi-step directions
  • Waiting before touching materials/stimuli
  • Referencing teacher
  • Respond to requests from peers
  • Engages in early play with or next to peers and adults
  • Makes spontaneous comment to peers
  • Manding to peers
  • Is able to engage in group activities independently for at least 5 minutes
  • Fine motor imitation
  • Gross motor imitation
  • Imitation with an object
  • On task behavior
  • Follows a first/then contingency
  • Receptive/Expressive labeling
  • Independent (TEACCH)
  • Sits in large group for 10 minutes without disruptive behavior or attempting to leave
  • Responds to questions
  • Raises hand
  • Transitions without disruptive behavior from one activity to the next with no prompts
  • Initiates and responds to greetings to peers independently

1 Comment

  1. Do you have more pictures of your fringe boards? I am wanting to try to make some but not sure where to start. Thanks


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