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Target IEP Goals In Functional Lessons


Finding a way to integrate life skills, academic skills, and IEP goals into one functional lesson is like hitting the lottery. It can feel impossible at times. There is so much we want to teach our students and so little time to make it all happen. 

We are required to work towards specific academic standards, but they don’t always allow for instruction in the functional areas our students need to learn. Read on for tips on how to integrate everything into one lesson.

Create Functional Lessons That Target IEP Goals Part 1 featured image

Components of a functional lesson

When you think about what you want to include in your lesson or unit, reflect to make sure you have these components included.

  1. Includes a skill that students will need outside of the structured school day. For example, using measuring cups in a lesson is a great skill that students will need across all settings: school, home, and community life.
  2. Includes skills that can be built upon to make the student more independent beyond school. For example, being able to read and understand community signs. Not only will this understanding help in social studies lessons, but it will also help the student know how to find and access the restroom, bus stop, and first aid when in the community.
  3. Varied practice of the skill is crucial. Many of our students struggle with generalizing or applying the skill to any situation they need to. Building time into the lesson for practicing and using the skill in a variety of ways helps students create meaningful & functional skills. For example, if you are working on following written directions, you could practice with visual recipes, read and do activities, assemble Legos by direction, etc.

Creating a functional lesson

Using a life skills based theme unit is step one. This helps give your lesson the needed functional base that we can build off of…. and saves you SO MUCH TIME!! For this post, we will use the hygiene life skills unit in all the examples.

Life Skills Units Provide A Functional Base To Lessons

Reading & Speech IEP Goals in Functional Lessons

We begin introducing the unit using word wall cards to highlight the vocabulary. In a small or large group go through the cards and talk about each one. Focus on labeling the picture and discuss what the students already know about the item or concept. 

Be sure to think about your students beforehand. Using all of the word wall cards may be too much for your class. Adjust the number of vocabulary words you are working with to allow your students to be successful. 

With this simple activity you are building functional vocabulary your students will need life-long. You are also targeting these IEP goals topics:

  • Labeling objects
  • Learning and using new vocabulary
  • Describing vocabulary and concepts
  • Reading theme-based words/vocabulary
  • Feature, function, and classification

After teaching these new vocabulary words you can also use the word wall cards in activities such as:

  • Compare and contrast 2 of the words (ex: soap versus shampoo)
  • Putting the words into alphabetical order
  • Come up with a sentence for a given word and dictate or write the sentence out
  • Pick a word and define it (verbally or in writing)

Varied & repeated practice

Repeated practice is key for our students to learn, master, and generalize skills. Once you have introduced the unit, then it’s time to sprinkle the practice in across the school day. Using the materials in different ways and at different times helps students learn to apply the skill to different situations.

My functional lessons aren’t one specific time block. These lessons are often extended across 3 to 4 times of our school day. Here’s what it might look like:

First, we begin by reading one of the hygiene unit books during our morning read aloud time. While reading, we review the vocabulary and core words we are targeting.

Photo of the hygiene unit books that we use in our functional lesson: Brushing your teeth, handwashing and hygiene.

Later in the morning, during reading centers, we read the book in small groups. This unit includes 2 levels of booklets. Here we would review the vocabulary, practice labeling the items we need to do the hygiene related activities, etc.

Photo of the leveled book pages

In the afternoon, at independent work centers or task box time, we would use the hands on practice tasks that come with the unit. For example, here are 3 different tasks students would work on in the afternoon. Each task practices the concepts in slightly different ways…. which makes the functional lesson powerful and effective.

Sprinkling in the practice this way immerses students in the concepts and vocabulary. This high level of exposure and practice leads to better integrated and functional skills.

ideas for functional lessons

Check out these 3 blog posts that include lists of activities to include in your functional lessons that all of our students need to work on:

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