Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July 2017 Task of the Month

Our task for this month addresses the need for us to be sure that our students are generalizing all information.  Because a student knows what a cow looks like when he sees the real thing does not mean that he knows a drawing of a cow represents the same animal. So we design tasks to be layered. For example, we may begin by having a child match one toy cow to another toy cow. This may progress to matching a toy cow to a photo of a cow, then an illustration of a cow, then a drawing and so on. Once these skills are mastered through practice and role play we may choose to add words. Many of our students love to read but at the same time may not be comprehending the words. Again, because they know how to read the word cow does not mean that they understand it represents the real thing. Therefore, we have the students match objects to words, photos, pictures, and actions to word etc.

This is a simple yet very well done task which requires the students to match an illustration to its photo as well as the corresponding word.

For more information on classroom literacy and task-making please visit our website and take a look at our Literature-BasedThematic Units book. This book, the fifth in our series, takes a single book and develops multiple units of study. From these studies we demonstrate creating developmentally appropriate, hands on activities for ALL young learners in a variety of curriculum areas.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Groups: The art of teaching students with special needs how to play well with others!

To negotiate the world independently, we need to function in situations where there are others. We take our turn in the grocery line, share space in the elevator, sit near others in the theater, wait to use the gym equipment, and so our day goes. By the time we enter kindergarten, we have already learned many of the rules that govern group interactions. We are ready to be group learners. Playing and working with others have become satisfying parts of our lives.

What if we are asked to participate without knowing the purpose, would we be willing to sit still, remain near others and be quiet?

And, thus, the text of our book Tasks Galore Making Groups Meaningful begins. Based on our experiences with 100’s of students with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs, we describe the strategies and tasks in words and pictures that have helped our students find group settings and interactions more meaningful.

Including group times for students with special needs is essential. If the students know their role within the group and that role is understandable and meaningful to them, they adopt the appropriate group behaviors. They begin to find groups enjoyable and realize being with others is fun. Learning to be part of a group enables our students to become more integrated into school and the community and even their own families.

  • Chapter 1: Structured Teaching Strategies Give Meaning to Group Learning
  • Chapter 2: Visually Structured Routines Make Group Expectations Understandable
  • Chapter 3: Integrating Students’ Individualized Goals Makes Groups Meaningful
  • Chapter 4: Circle Time
  • Chapter 5: Project Groups
  • Chapter 6: Movement Groups
  • Chapter 7: Music Groups
  • Chapter 8: Parties

Multiple examples of visual strategies for group times are included in Tasks Galore Making Groups Meaningful. Here are a few helpful ideas for creating work systems, communication cues and making smooth transitions during a circle time. 

Individualized work systems for circle times, let students know what is to happen.

Word + picture list tells one students what will happen in group while actual objects tell another. Keeping track of when the activities are finished (by placing an X on the list or putting away the object) and knowing what happens next encourages attention and participation.

Rings indicate how many laps to run in P.E.

Teacher-made book for circle time has a page for each teacher whose class students attend. This helps students learn names of their teachers. For non-readers, the ball is an object that represents P.E. class.

When students go to P.E., Coach B, wearing the same picture as in the book, greets them. Beside the picture is a written + picture reminder to say “Hello, Coach B.”

Students place instruments under their chairs when done. This routine helps ease their transition to a new activity.

You can currently find a great sale on Tasks Galore Making Groups Meaningful by checking out our Amazon listings. As the saying goes “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”. The books on Amazon have slight cover defects but are, otherwise in excellent condition. They are being sold at $19.95 due to printer error and we are passing on the savings of $30 to you! As always, proceeds go to support organizations that provide services for people with autism spectrum disorders and their families. Please take advantage of this offer while the copies last and enrich the groups experiences for your students.

Monday, June 5, 2017

June 2017 Task of the Month

While students with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs are learning new academic skills, it is essential not to forget to teach them practical, everyday skills. Not only does learning such skills help them become more independent in life but also gives them a sense of accomplishment as they contribute to classroom or home routines.

This nice visually structured task enhances students’ ability to set a table without help. Their teacher or caregiver places placemats on the table and the designated number of pieces in the bin to give them information about how many settings. The jig attached to the basket gives cues in case they forget where each piece belongs on the placemat.

For other students who know how to count, the task can be easily changed so that they place the correct number of items in the basket instead of having this step done ahead of time. A written or picture list can direct them to how many of each item is needed.

Following directions by using a jig, a written or picture list, etc. generalizes to all sorts of academic and daily living tasks.

For more information about designing tasks and structured teaching please visit our website.

*NEW* We are now offering a new grouping of ALL 6 Tasks Galore books at a highly discounted rate when you purchase the set. Find it here!

Monday, May 15, 2017

It Doesn't Have To Be Perfect To Be Beautiful

Tasks Galore Publishing believes in delivering only the very best quality in everything that we do. At times we receive books that have a minor imperfection, a scratched cover or a bent page, but that doesn't make it less beautiful. It only makes it less expensive!

You can generally find our "scratch and dent" books being sold at discount rates on Amazon. Be sure to look for us (Tasks Galore) as the "seller". Simply go to Amazon books and type in the title of the book you are interested in.

Because of guidelines set forth by Amazon we must list the books as used, however they are NOT used, they are just slightly marred or irregular. Check them out and you may just save enough money to purchase two! Email us with any questions regarding these books at .

Monday, May 1, 2017

May 2017 Task of the Month

A Look at Heavy Lifting Activities

Including a sensory diet into our classroom day is so helpful to many of our students. These activities may help the student to be calmer and more focused or organized. For those students who have difficulty with modulating their behavior it is often helpful to incorporate a heavy lifting activity into their schedule or routine. There are many great and varied ways to create these activities but we found this one to be simple and fun and a great beginning step. This task was designed for a student who was clearly demonstrating her mastery and interest in matching colors.

Two-liter bottles were filled with colored sand and stored in a tray donated by a bottling company.  A second tray is lined with coordinating colors. The student moves a bottle from the tray on the left and fits it into to the tray on the right. When the tray on the left is empty she knows that she is finished and may check her schedule.

When first teaching this the trays are placed in very close proximity within the sensory motor room. As she becomes comfortable with the task the trays are placed further apart where she will have to travel independently a bit further. Just the simple act of walking a few feet may be overstimulating for some students.

Eventually the trays are taken out of the sensory motor room and placed into the classroom where she may practice this task at scheduled times throughout the day. By doing this we begin to generalize the task into different settings.

Now that she has mastered this skill, the bottles can change! They may be filled with different materials or labeled with photos or patterns or words etc.  The concepts are endless. A fun idea is to allow the student if capable to decorate the bottle to look like they do. The student may then carry their “Bottle Buddy” with them to each center, giving some needed input during each transition. Students will even begin to recognize and associate their peers by the way their bottle looks.  Brown hair, blue eyes, big bow, etc.  This can turn to a social activity…”give Johnny his bottle please” and the student will have to look at and search for his/her peer.

We always strive to start simple and teach the concept of the task until mastery and then add steps to take the task to the next level. No need to reinvent the wheel just give it a whole new look!

One final reminder is to always have a visual reminder of the place to put the bottle or bottles when the student arrives in his area.

Here are a few good sites for more information on Heavy Lifting Activities.  You will also find more task ideas incorporating heavy lifting and alternative sensory activities in the Task Galore Series of Books.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Begining Activities for the Early Years

During our work with children and families and as teachers, we often worked with students who were just beginning in a structured learning environment.

To determine first goals and objectives for them, we considered what the children could already accomplish as well as their emerging skills. We thought about the developmental or curriculum areas that were important to address.

We hope the following example of goals and objectives for one such beginning child will add to your knowledge about “where to start.”

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Imitation/One way children learn is by copying what they see others do.
·       Objectives: Have your child copy your actions with objects – plays musical instrument as you do, activates toys as you demonstrate, pretends to feed, give a drink, bathe, brush teeth of stuffed animal or doll

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Fine Motor/Maneuvers hands or fingers for some desired result
·       Objectives:
1.     Uses 1 finger to poke a hole in a ball of playdoh or uses 1 finger to push object through opening in lid of a container.
2.     Uses 2 hands together to pull apart pop beads or Legos or play cymbals or roll a ball or make a ball of playdoh.
3.     Squeezes to pull clothespins or clips off can rim.
4.     Scoops beads or water with shovel or scoops and empties into larger container.
5.     Turns wrist to empty container with a small opening to get treat.
6.     Scribbles with a crayon or marker.
·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Thinking/Young children work on problem solving skills with different types of play.
·       Objective:  Explores a variety of cause and effect toys figuring out how to operate them.

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area:  Matching/Sorting/Children organize all the sights and sounds they see and hear by grouping them into categories.
·       Objectives:
1.     Matches and sorts 2 dissimilar objects that are identical sets (spoons versus blocks, for example).
2.     In everyday life, practices putting away socks vs. underwear.
3.     Matches pairs of socks.

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Number Skills/First children learn the concept of 1-to-1 correspondence.
·       Objectives: 
1.     Places 1 object in each section of a muffin tin, egg carton, etc.; at first using objects that completely fill the opening.
2.     Once successful with this task, next places objects that are smaller so that more than 1 could fit into the opening.  Label each section with the numeral 1.
3.     When the student child puts in the object, point to the 1 and say, “1”.
4.     After much practice with this 1-to-1 correspondence task, next mark another egg carton, with the numeral 2, and see if he can place 2 objects in each section.
5.     After practicing with 2, then introduce 1 and 2 at the same time and see if the student can then make this discrimination between counting 1 or 2.

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Eye-Hand Integration/This involves a child’s coordinating his motor movements with what his eyes see.
·       Objectives:  Types of tasks include simple puzzles, shape boxes, placing pegs in pegboard, placing beads on a spindle, pipe cleaner, or string.

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area:  Understanding Language/How a child listens and responds to nonverbal cues and spoken words.
·       Objectives:
1.     Responds to nonverbal gestures, such as a point which shows where to place an object, outstretched hand which tells to give, or a gesture that means come here.
2.     Follows 1-step directions as part of a daily routine; for example, GET _________.
3.     Touches facial body parts when named (eye, ear, nose, mouth, hair).   You can draw pictures of the body parts and show him the picture as you help the students touch the correct body part.  Or have them look in the mirror as they respond.

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Expressing needs and wants/Children express what they want in a variety of verbal and nonverbal ways.
·       Objectives:
Gives an object to represent what he wants (bubbles, candy wrapper, cup). When he gives the object, give him what he wants and say the one word labeling the object.

In addition to these beginning skills, remember how important it will be to teach your students the meaning of first-next sequences. These can easily be incorporated into daily routines. Some examples include first, work—then bubbles; first, shoes – then outside; first brush teeth – then bath.

Also important is designing learning situations so that the students know when the end of the work will be. For example, if a student is working on identifying body parts, there might be 5 pictures of different body parts that represent how long the activity will last. As each is touched, the card for that body part is put into a finished container. Teaching the concept of finished within the work routines is equally valuable to the student. Knowing when some activity will be completed and what will be next enhances the students’ attention.

Our Tasks Galore books provide multiple visual tasks that can address the objectives in this example and many, many others.  
Tasks Galore Books offer many task ideas to assist you in addressing your educational objectives.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April 2017 Task of the Month

With this task, students match erasers that represent coins to amounts written on stickers and attached to individual sections of a tray.

Although best practice states that children with developmental delays should use real coins when learning money concepts, we often must start out with items that are larger and easier to grasp. These erasers overly exaggerate the details that distinguish one coin from another. They enable students to see the differences among the coins (size, color, wording) more easily.

Once students are successful matching coin amounts using these erasers as the “coins,” we then substitute these with real coins.

After students learn the concept of coin amounts and know a penny equals 1 cent; a nickel equals 5 cents, etc., we might set up a classroom snack menu with associated prices and have students practice which coins to use to buy their snacks.

We continually think how students can generalize their newly found knowledge to the real world. Using their skills in “real life” settings makes the skills more meaningful.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Teaching the Tasks (part 7)

This Tasks Galore Publishing blog entry completes addressing the questions we ask when designing tasks:

•          Does the task address the student’s educational goals?
•          Is the task multi-modal?
•          Does the task incorporate student’s interests and strengths?
•          Is the task created using visual cues that will be meaningful to the individual student?
•          Are pieces of the task organized systematically?
•          Is the task designed so that the student can manage it independently?
•          Has the student mastered the task?

We addressed the first question in the blog entry on July 13, 2016, the second question in the blog entry on August 9, 2016, the third in the entry on September 18, 2016, the fourth in the entry on October 23, 2016 , the fifth on January 15, 2017, and the sixth on February 19, 2017. This entry will discuss the final question:

Has the Student Mastered the Task?

It is imperative to assess when our students master a task.  When they have, it is time to decide what is next for them to learn.

Once they demonstrate knowledge of a skill independently, we think about ways to generalize that skill across people or settings and teach a next step based on that skill. It is time to make new tasks.

For example, one of our students has mastered sorting different objects when these also differ by color. Next, we might provide a task, such as this one illustrated, that requires the student to sort objects that are all the same color and differ only by shape.

Another student has mastered the goal of putting away his belongings. He puts away completed tasks when at his desk and lunch materials after eating. We, next, design a task so he can generalize this skill in a new setting. A finish bin, similar to the one used at his work desk, is placed in the library. He places books left on library tables into this container. His doing this job helps the librarian who does not need to collect the books when she is ready to reshelf them.

After learning to match words to pictures and read some words, a next step is for the student to generalize these skills to reading text in a book.  To help the student accomplish this new goal while reading Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, we provide a picture dictionary as a reference to use independently.

Each time we make a task for a student, we

•          address the student’s educational goals;
•          make the task multi-modal and, hence, more engaging;
•          incorporate student’s interests and strengths;
•          use meaningful visual cues;
•          organize pieces of the task systematically; and
•          design the task so that the student can manage it independently.

We watch carefully as the students work on a task to determine when they master it. Not being satisfied with mastery, we further determine how to advance or generalize the skill. We are often amazed and thrilled with what our students can achieve when we follow these guidelines. More importantly, our students are pleased with their newly found competencies.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March 2017 Task of the Month

We often address the skills our students need to learn by thinking of task designs that are quick to make. These squiggly worms were easy to make as were the written word labels that we affixed to plastic bags. If a student is not yet reading written words, we change the labels by adding the numerals and pictures as cues to accompany the words.

Using worms for counting can support themes about what we see in the spring, what birds eat, what is in the garden, etc.

We advocate using themed storybooks to teach concepts. Then we use the vocabulary from the story to address other skills. This task could be used to reinforce the vocabulary from a story, such as Wiggly the Worm by Arnie Lightning.

To learn more about literacy-based instruction, check out our set Tasks Galore Literature-Based Thematic Units. This set includes a storybook with a colorful character, Triggy, and a theme about foods and a resource book filled with hundreds of teaching activities in a variety of early learning curriculum areas, all of which are designed in a multi-modal task format.

Storybook included in Tasks Galore Literature-Based Thematic Units

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Teaching the Tasks (part 6)

This Tasks Galore Publishing blog entry continues addressing the questions we ask when designing tasks:

•          Does the task address the student’s educational goals?
•          Is the task multi-modal?
•          Does the task incorporate student’s interests and strengths?
•          Is the task created using visual cues that will be meaningful to the individual student?
•          Are pieces of the task organized systematically?
•          Is the task designed so that the student can manage it independently?
•          Has the student mastered the task?

We addressed the first question in the blog entry on July 13, 2016, the second question in the blog entry on August 9, 2016, the third in the entry on September 18, 2016, the fourth in the entry on October 23, 2016 and the fifth on January 15, 2017. This entry will discuss the fifth question: 

We spend time assessing skills and, then, adapting tasks because we want our students to complete assignments independently. They feel proud when they can do something all by themselves. After designing structured tasks, watch your students and see whether they can complete these without help. If not, think about new or prerequisite skills to teach or ways to restructure the task so they can manage both the skills and the task independently.

One of this student’s goals was to learn to measure.

Here, he is to match the measuring cup to the appropriately labeled container, fill the cup with the proper amount, pour into the container, and replace the matching lid. His teacher observed, however, that the step with which he was not yet independent was filling the containers with the correct amount.

He needed to level the amount in the cup to get the proper measurement. The teacher’s physical assistance and verbal cues were not helping him learn this step. She, therefore, decided to design a task to teach the concept of a level portion in a measuring cup.

In the new task, he looked at pictures of measuring cups and decided whether the amounts were leveled off or rounded. This teaching step helped him return to the measuring job, fill the cup, and level off the amount. His teacher’s taking the time to teach this concept enabled the student to become independent in using measuring cups.

During writing assignments, another student needed continual reminders about putting spaces between his words. His teacher made a spacer out of a tongue depressor with a favorite character sticker attached. The student then independently used this visual tool to monitor his word spacing in writing assignments. Eventually, his teacher realized that he learned the routine of spacing his words and no longer needed this visual cue.

This is a clever task design that allows students to work independently without their teacher’s overseeing the work. After students finish this independent work, their teacher checks whether the spiders they sorted by color fell into the correct cups mounted under each slot.

Continually assessing students’ performance, the teacher notes if any student makes multiple errors. If that is the case, the task is redesigned so, perhaps, only two colors are used or objects are used instead of pictures.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 2017 Task of the Month

This Valentine task is a favorite of ours. It addresses the simple academic goal of halves to wholes but more importantly it helps our students to recognize their classmates and learn their names.

Our students with autism often do not recognize faces of those around them. This can be for many reasons. One reason being that our students may see the details in the world around them but fail to pull these details together to create the whole picture. This inability not only affects their academic world but their social world as well. Failing to see the face as a “whole picture” may also interfere with the student’s ability to read emotions. They may be so focused on one detail of someone’s face that they fail to see that the person is happy, angry, or sad. If I don’t recognize you nor understand your actions, then why should I interact with you?

If we are to build facial recognition and social skills, we may begin with simple tasks like this one. Here the student is presented the task using container organization. The student takes a card from the left, studies the face, finds the matching face from the next container and when assembled places it into the “all done” container. As an added step once this is mastered the teacher may wish to add the students’ names. After mastering this task, a next step may be to pass out the valentines to the friend whose photo is on the card.