Tales of the Unintentional Prompter: 3 Mistakes You Are Making When Prompting Your Students

3 Mistakes you are making when prompting your students ...and how to fix them!
I admit it. I've done it. I have provided prompts to students in my classroom without even realizing it. Prompting is essential to teaching our special learners. Over the past few years I've become aware a few ways I am unintentionally prompting my students and wanted to share those with you.

**NOTE: Sometimes students do require these prompts, but occasionally we include these prompts without even knowing it. My point in this post is to show you the common errors we make when we are prompting and point out what you can do instead.**

1) Velcro Dots
I'm the number one fan of Velcro dots, don't get me wrong, but there are a couple times when Velcro dots provide unwanted prompts to students. Imagine you're presenting a task for students to count out objects and you have exactly that many Velcro dots. That's a lot of extra information for your students. Imagine you're working on a spelling task with your students and provided a Velcro dot for each letter. You're giving your students more information. It shows your students exactly how many pieces they need to place to complete the task!

What you can do instead: If you're as in love with velcro dots as me, here's an idea, put more velcro dots than your students will need. You could also put a strip of velcro for students to count or place letter times. This provides no extra visual information.

Using velcro dots can add extra information for special education students. Use a strip of velcro instead to increase independence.

2) Counting tasks in number order
Yep. I'm type a. I like things in order. It makes me a little weird to put pages in books out of order, but it's going to make my students use a lot more thinking skills if they have to differentiate between stimulus. If you set up counting tasks in order your students are going to be able to quickly predict what is coming next and we may not be challenging them as much as you could be.

What you can do instead: Mix it up! Literally. Mix up the order of the pages in the counting tasks. When you think your students have mastered the task, mix up the numbers again so students are not memorizing number order.
Mixing up the order in which stimulus is presented helps students to gain independence.

3) Facial Expressions
Even though a lot of our students are not proficient in reading social cues they can quickly figure out how to look at us for feedback on their tasks.

I remember working with a student and presenting a new stimulus. The student was unsure of the answer and began touching stimulus and looking at my face for a reaction. I caught myself smiling when he was touching the correct stimulus. I knew I was giving feedback and had to train myself to wait until the task has been completed to provide any sort of feedback. This was not easy.

What you can do instead: Train yourself to wait to give feedback until the trial or task is completed. I use a blank stare while my students are completing their trials. While my students completed their responses, I would just keep my face neutral to avoid providing input on their response. I know at times I looked like I was grumpy or upset, but I knew my students were gaining independence. And after they completed the trial or task they were certainly reinforced.
Facial expressions can give students a lot of information that we don't intend to give. A slight smile or raised eyebrow can give students a lot of information.

Check back soon for more ways to fix subtle mistakes in prompting!

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