Before Sitting Down with a Student

Otterman on Fundamental Skills Pt 2

Who Is Struggling?

Using Fundamental Skills, I look for a specific response. I use them to set expectations and to help students through difficult situations. Fundamental Skills show students the "bigger picture" - the outcome. Often the student does not have the expressive vocabulary or cannot see the end result necessary to provide a correct (successful) response.

Speech Kingdom's Fundamental Skills can easily be used with individual students, in a small group (or one-on-one), or with an entire class.

I typically ask myself, "Will I use this lesson to begin a discussion about why the student in the story was successful or will I focus on teaching a specific response?" I might use the lesson to encourage a student(s) to attempt a new strategy. Since these lessons are brief, they lend themselves to re-use and lots of language interaction.

Fundamental Skills are brief and designed to be repeated for lots of language interaction.

Knowing my target audience is key. I have had remarkable success when using Fundamental Skills to reinforce a PBIS skill and as an effective conflict resolution tool. Primarily, I use Fundamental Skills with my ASD students, those who struggle with similar behaviors, and those who have not been diagnosed.

My success in this area has been nothing short of absolutely dramatic.

Create a List of Behaviors

I begin with a list of the behaviors I want to address with a student. This helps me track the behaviors as my students become more and more successful. I want to remember exactly where we started. This list helps all parties involved agree upon the behaviors we will address. It also helps us celebrate how far we have come!

This list is very useful when working with students who have IEP's because it helps the team track progress towards goals. A simple frequency chart tracks reductions in behaviors as the student learns new skills. Tracking also helps guide my teaching of skills.

Speech Kingdom offers very useful scoring and reporting features, including a Student History IEP report.

What Skill will be Most Beneficial to My Students?

Most students struggle in more than one area. They may need to learn to not shout out, to sit in their seat, and to stay on task. If I attempt to teach all of these skills at the same time I will likely fail. I always prioritize each child's needs. I want every child to become successful while I maintain a teachable classroom atmosphere. I prioritize and always have the utmost patience — especially involving skills which are not yet learned.

I refer to the behavior I am currently addressing as my target behavior.

My Target Behavior

In this example, my first priority is teaching the skill of staying seated. Staying seated is my target behavior. Once the student has improved or has mastered this target behavior, I work on the next behavior, perhaps not shouting out. This process continues as I address each new target behavior.

As I work on one target behavior, I don't ignore others, but I realize that my focus is on one behavior at a time. The other behaviors have less focus. I have enjoyed tremendous success using this strategy. I spend most of my time and energy on my target behavior and give only reminders for other behaviors.

This does not mean that I allow a student to increase the intensity of other behaviors. I strongly believe in accountability when it is needed. I just don't spend my energy on attempts to correct all of the behaviors at the same time. Some students may not yet have the skill set to be successful in all areas where they may be struggling.

Important! Fundamental Skills are short and should be repeated often, as students learn the skills and behaviors that they model and teach. Speech Kingdom suggests that students repeat their current mini-story or story at least twice each week until mastery is achieved.