Girl sitting in wheelchair in front of a position boardActive Learning is more than equipment or materials.  It is an approach that can be used to implement instruction in general curriculum and expanded core curriculum, and also to support therapies such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, music therapy, and speech therapy.  These ideas can also be used in the home or community.

Some things to keep in mind when using an Active Learning approach in any type of instruction, therapy, or play activity:

  • Match your pace to the learner when you interact.
  • Follow the learner's lead in any activity.
  • Don't over-react or over praise the learner - if the child becomes upset, simply move on or if the child demonstrates a skill simply comment on what he/she has done.
  • Be aware of the type of skills the learner is working on in the activity or environment, e.g., in the Little Room the focus is on tactile/motor/auditory not visual skills.
  • Select materials that are based on the child's sensory preferences and developmental level.
  • Arrange materials so the learner has physical access to explore independently.
  • Position the learner so he/she can move optimally.
  • Remain silent during the child's exploration - share simple feedback when the learner takes a break or at the end of the activity.
  • Allow plenty of time for the learner to respond - for some learners this may be minutes rather than seconds.
  • Recognize that the child needs to work at their current skill level and will attempt higher level skills when the learning cycle has been completed (see Dynamic Learning Circle).
  • Observe the child and your own interactions - videotape the child and/or the adult during instruction periodically.
  • Use a wide variety of materials with differing properties.
  • Change only one feature at a time in the materials or environment.

You may want to use this Active Learning Planning Sheet form to help your team get started planning for your student.

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Rylan Before & After

Description:  Two clips illustrate how important adult expectations are and what a difference the environment makes in encouraging learning and active engagement.

In the first clip a young boy lies on a swing in a supine position. His lower body is covered with a blanket.  In the second clip, just a few minutes later, the blanket has been removed and Active Learning materials have been placed all around the boy.  A bead clamp is suspended above his legs, an elastic board under his right arm, and a door stop board under his left arm. There is silver metallic crinkle paper under his head.

rylan after
Downloads: Transcript (txt) Audio (mp3)

 Pinterest collage of implementation strategies