Use Visuals To Modify & Support Lessons and Tasks · Mrs. P’s Specialties


Visuals can be used in many different ways throughout the school day. Both special education & general education use visuals to help with organization and behavior, but visual supports are a great way to modify lessons and tasks as well.

Use visuals to support and modify lessons and tasks blog post featured image

One of the most common ways to use visuals in the classroom is to address behavior. Students have visual reminders on their desks to help them remember to sit quietly, for the zones of regulation, to request breaks, to answer yes/no questions, etc. The staff use visuals to replace verbal prompts for things like “quiet voice, calm body”, “safe hands”, “sit down”, “3,2,1, done”, a pause button, etc. While these types of visuals can help lessons and instruction go more smoothly, we are missing out on the power of visuals for instruction.

visuals to modify and support lessons

Visual supports are a great way to help students with comprehension during a lesson. For example, during a science lesson, we have visuals for each of the items and concepts we will be using and covering during the lesson. We start the lesson by reviewing each item and the visuals before we begin. We then model using the visuals during instruction to help students understand the lesson and learn how to use the visuals to support language and comprehension. As we complete the lesson, visuals are used to help students answer questions. At the end of the lesson, We then use the visuals at the end of the lesson to review to check for understanding.

We also use visuals to help students read and demonstrate comprehension. Many times our students learn to identify words and read, but they aren’t able to apply or act on what they’ve read. This lack of comprehension is a barrier to functional skills.

In order to promote comprehension and functional skills, we added visuals to our reading program. In this Reading Comprehension Of Written Directions- Functional Literacy, we pair written text and visuals to help students learn how to act on the text.

Use visuals to modify support lessons on functional literacy and reading comprehension with this literacy resource.

Fade visual supports as students progress to avoid prompt dependency.

visuals to support & introduce lessons

Visuals are ideal when you are introducing new concepts in a lesson. For example, visuals can be added to a lesson introducing the addition concept. I use a hands mat to help students understand that adding means combining 2 groups of items or sets.

example of a visual hands mat to introduce the addition concept to students

We continue adapting and reducing the visual supports as students progress. Use visual supports to modify and support lessons, but be sure to fade the supports to build independence. Click here or the photo below for a free worksheet version of the hands-on mat.

example of how to fade the hands mat into a worksheet format

These visual supports help limit verbal prompting but give students the support they need to learn the concept of addition.

using visuals to complete tasks

We have visuals around the classroom to help students complete tasks during lessons, centers, and tasks. Visuals are a great way to teach and support students during multi-step tasks. For example, we have this visual schedule next to the sink for washing dishes.

Example of visual for how to wash dishes

We display this visual next to our plant with the steps for watering the plant.

example of visual for watering a plan

Grab both visuals for free in the free resource library. Sign-up is free!

visuals to teach students to build on skills

As our students progress in lessons and tasks, we want to keep modifying and using visuals to help students build on skills. Schedule a time weekly or a few times a month to evaluate which skills are ready to be increased. Then decide on the visual supports needed for that task.

For example, in our social skills group, students work on saying hello to a peer and asking them a question. Here are 3 ways we use visuals to support these lessons:

  • We have visuals that help the students remember to look at their friend, say hello and then ask the question.
  • There are “yes/no” visuals to help students answer yes/no questions during a group
  • Visual choices to help students answer teacher or peer questions.

We also have visuals posted in key areas of the room for students who are working on expressing their wants and needs. For example, for a student who would only use 1 to 2 words to get help zipping his coat, we hung up a visual cue for him that said “help zip coat” next to his hook.

Staff began teaching him to use the visual supports by gesturing to the visual cue. Those prompts were faded, but the visual was left up. Once he was consistently using the visual strip to use more words in his request for help, we faded the visual support. Now the student is independently requesting and no longer needs the visual reminder.

example of sentences hung up for students to expand language

This type of visuals to support tasks has worked so well, we have continued to use similar visuals to increase requesting in other ways.

how to use visuals to modify and support lessons blog post pin image

more resources on using visuals

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