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10 Functional Reading Activities For Special Education

Functional reading activities are a must in special education programs. We need to focus on various activities that students will need lifelong. These skills will help our students be more independent and improve their communication skills. Here are 10 MORE reading activities to use in your classroom to build functional literacy skills. Click HERE to read the first list.

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  1. Reading and understanding community signs: It’s not enough for students to be able to read the signs… they also need to know what they mean. Students need to practice this in a variety of ways because signs don’t always look exactly the same. We work on this with clip art versions in file folders and clip cards. We also work on it with real photos and graphics in our community sign of the week sets
  1. Directional signs and posters: For example, when a person walks into the doctor’s office, there is a sign telling the person where to go, where to sign in, etc. Students need to be able to not only read these signs, but they need to be able to understand and ACT on what it says to do. We use these directional signs interactive books to work on reading these types of signs. 
  1. Recipes: A great functional reading activity is to teach students how to follow recipes in order to cook or complete a dish. Depending on your students, you could use visual recipes and build up to a more traditional recipe. We practice both food and nonedible visual recipes. A class favorite is the Cloud Dough Visual Recipe.
  1. Directions for set-up: For example, follow directions on how to build a toy, Lego set, furniture, etc. You could start with directions with visual supports like this interactive book on setting the table and then build to following directions without visual supports as students progress. 
  1. Schedules: Students need to be able to read and understand a variety of schedules— for example, bus schedules, work schedules, movie schedules, etc. Click here to read about using schedules in your classroom. 
  1. Coupons: While reading the newspaper may never be a thrill for your students, there are functional reading activities that include the flyers that come in newspapers. Students need to be able to read coupons and know what products they apply to, when it expires, how much it is worth, etc. We start with activities like this Boom Deck with coupons.
  1. Forms: Students need to be able to read forms and know which information the form is looking for. You can create a mock form that targets this skill while also generalizing other skills. For example, if a student is working on knowing and sharing personal info, create a form that asks for that information in a variety of ways. 
  1. Medical labels: Students need to be able to read medicine bottles (prescription and over-the-counter) in order to know how and when to take the medicine. Use worksheet based labels or empty bottles students find in the store or pharmacy. The goal would be for students to be able to read and understand both versions. 
  2. Menus: Students need to be able to read a variety of menus. For example, the menu board at a fast food restaurant looks different than a hand help menu you get at a fancier restaurant. Students need to know how to read menus and how to find the info they need on the menu. Practice reading menus in a variety of settings: school cafes, ice cream shops, fast food restaurants, a sit down restaurant menu, a drive-thru menu, etc. Exposing and teaching about a variety of menus will help students be able to read and understand menus wherever they are. 
  1. General labels: when you look around your house and community, you find there are a variety of labels. Students need to be able to read and follow the label on their clothes to clean and care for them. They also need to know how to use the household cleaners and the parking meter. They all look different, but students need to be able to read and understand all of them.
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Don’t forget, reading and writing often go hand in hand and both are needed for functional life skills. Click here or the button below to read 10 activities that target functional writing skills. 

resources to target reading comprehension

Reading comprehension books with visuals

Read and Do Playdough set

Following directions: build a house set

Identifying Feelings In Pictures To Support Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension Worksheets Bundle

Context clues clip cards

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