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Direct, Explicit Instruction Makes The Difference!

IDEA states that its purpose is to “ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. “  (20 U.S.C. 1400(d) )

Meeting the Academic and Functional Goal of IDEA

It is imperative that all teachers, related service providers, and paraprofessionals provide direct instruction that is finely scaffolded and carefully planned.  Students with low incidence disabilities must be held to high standards and given the opportunity to learn as much as possible in both academic and functional skill areas.

Capabilities for Life, LLC can equip your school district to meet the instruction requirements of IDEA for your students with low incidence disabilities by providing evidence-based professional development training and ongoing coaching that prepares your staff to:

  1. Create an environment of high expectations for all students, regardless of the type or severity of the students disability.  All students are capable of learning given properly leveled and scaffolded instruction. We can teach your staff how to identify where to begin instruction and how to instruct students efficiently and effectively.
  2. Begin instruction where the student's skill set is. All skills must be learned in a systematic manner.  When we begin instruction above a students level, frustration will occur for the student and the instructor, so teachers must be very careful to identify the students skill set and begin instruction where the student is.
  3. Identify scattered skill sets.  Students with significant disabilities can frequently do part of a skill but not the complete skill.  Task analysis and careful baseline data collection are very important for determining where to begin instruction. We can work with your teachers and related service providers to design instruction that meets the needs of every student.
  4. Design careful and ongoing progress monitoring in order to adjust instruction as needed and to provide the most effective and efficient instruction. We teach staff how to create useful data collection tools and learning how to analyze that data.
  5. Teach reading and math skills.  Given explicit and direct instruction at the students level in reading and math, all students can learn pre-cursor skills and specific reading and math skills. We can assist staff with placing students in the proper reading or math program, identifying skill sets, and teaching direct instruction programs with fidelity.
Explicit Instruction is...
"...effective and explicit instruction can be viewed as providing a
series of instructional supports or scaffolds—first through the logical selection and
sequencing of content, and then by breaking down that content into manageable
instructional units based on students’ cognitive capabilities (e.g., working memory

capacity, attention, and prior knowledge)." (Archer, Hughs, p.3)

Elements of Explicit Instruction

(Excerpt from Explicit Instruction Effective and Efficient Teaching, Archer, Anita L., Hughs, Charles A., 2011, Guilford Press, 2-3)

Educational researchers (e.g., Brophy & Good, 1986; Christenson, Ysseldyke, & Thurlow, 1989; Gersten, Schiller, & Vaughn, 2000; Hughes, 1998; Marchand-Martella, Slocum, & Martella, 2004; Rosenshine, 1997; Rosenshine & Stevens, 1986;

Simmons, Fuchs, Fuchs, Mathes, & Hodge, 1995; Swanson, 2001) have identified a range of instructional behaviors and elements characteristic of an explicit approach to teaching.
1.1. Sixteen elements of explicit instruction (Archer, Hughs, 2-3)


1. Focus instruction on critical content. Teach skills, strategies, vocabulary terms, concepts, and rules that will empower students in the future and match the students’ instructional needs.

2. Sequence skills logically. Consider several curricular variables, such as teaching easier skills before harder skills, teaching high-frequency skills before skills that are less frequent in usage, ensuring mastery of prerequisites to a skill before teaching the skill itself, and separating skills and strategies that are similar and thus may be confusing to students.

3. Break down complex skills and strategies into smaller instructional units. Teach in small steps. Segmenting complex skills into smaller instructional units of new material addresses concerns about cognitive overloading, processing demands, and the capacity of students’ working memory. Once mastered, units are synthesized (i.e., practiced as a whole).

4.  Design organized and focused lessons.  Make sure lessons are organized and focused, in order to make optimal use of instructional time. Organized lessons are on topic, well sequenced, and contain no irrelevant digressions.

5. Begin lessons with a clear statement of the lesson’s goals and your expectations. Tell learners clearly what is to be learned and why it is important. Students achieve better if they understand the instructional goals and outcomes expected, as well as how the information or skills presented will help them.

6. Review prior skills and knowledge before beginning instruction. Provide a review of relevant information. Verify that students have the prerequisite skills and knowledge to learn the skill being taught in the lesson. This element also provides an opportunity to link the new skill with other related skills.

7. Provide step-by-step demonstrations. Model the skill and clarify the decision-making processes needed to complete a task or procedure by thinking aloud as you perform the skill. Clearly demonstrate the target skill or strategy, in order to show the students a model of proficient performance.

8. Use clear and concise language. Use consistent, unambiguous wording and terminology. The complexity of your speech (e.g., vocabulary, sentence structure) should depend on students’ receptive vocabulary, to reduce possible confusion.

9. Provide an adequate range of examples and non-examples. In order to establish the boundaries of when and when not to apply a skill, strategy, concept, or rule, provide a wide range of examples and non-examples. A wide range of examples illustrating situations when the skill will be used or applied is necessary so that students do not under use it. Conversely, presenting a wide range of non-examples reduces the possibility that students will use the skill inappropriately.

10. Provide guided and supported practice. In order to promote initial success and build confidence, regulate the difficulty of practice opportunities during the lesson, and provide students with guidance in skill performance. When students demonstrate success, you can gradually increase task difficulty as you decrease the level of guidance.

11. Require frequent responses. Plan for a high level of student–teacher interaction via the use of questioning. Having the students respond frequently (i.e., oral responses, written responses, or action responses) helps them focus on the lesson content, provides opportunities for student elaboration, assists you in checking understanding, and keeps students active and attentive.

12. Monitor student performance closely.  Carefully watch and listen to students’ responses, so that you can verify student mastery as well as make timely adjustments in instruction if students are making errors. Close monitoring also allows you to provide feedback to students about how well they are doing.

13. Provide immediate affirmative and corrective feedback. Follow up on students’ responses as quickly as you can. Immediate feedback to students about the accuracy of their responses helps ensure high rates of success and reduces the likelihood of practicing errors.

14. Deliver the lesson at a brisk pace. Deliver instruction at an appropriate pace to optimize instructional time, the amount of content that can be presented, and on-task behavior. Use a rate of presentation that is brisk but includes a reasonable amount of time for students’ thinking/processing, especially when they are learning new material. The desired pace is neither so slow that students get bored nor so quick that they can’t keep up.

15. Help students organize knowledge. Because many students have difficulty seeing how some skills and concepts fit together, it is important to use teaching techniques that make these connections more apparent or explicit. Well-organized and connected information makes it easier for students to retrieve information and facilitate its integration with new material.

16.  Provide distributed and cumulative practice.  Distributed (vs. massed) practice refers to multiple opportunities to practice a skill over time. Cumulative practice is a method for providing distributed practice by including practice opportunities that address both previously and newly acquired skills. Provide students with multiple practice attempts, in order to address issues of retention as well as automaticity.
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