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Lesson Planning for 1:1 Virtual Sessions with Nonverbal Students

Making sure nonverbal students have access and success during virtual sessions is critical.

So, how can you plan for those 1:1 sessions to make sure your students are able to demonstrate their understanding and communicate effectively? It takes a little bit of creativity and patience!

We have compiled some easy ways to ensure your students are given the opportunities they need to succeed. Choose the methods that will work best for them and you during these unusual teaching circumstances.

In the end, remember that you know your students best.


Communicating with Non-verbal Students During Virtual Sessions

Provide Students with Visual Cue Cards

Depending on the grade you teach and your students’ ability levels, cue cards can be an easy and effective way to help them communicate during an online session. Cards can range from picture cards to yes or no cards and more. The key is to make sure that your students have all of the cards needed to demonstrate the skills and information that you are asking of them.

Ideally, cards could be picked up from the school or distributed with other school materials. If in-person delivery is not available, look into getting the cards mailed. Laminating the cards before they are sent home will help them last longer and be more durable throughout the distance learning time.

Sending home PDFs via email might be another option for delivery but consider your students’ access to a printer and sturdy paper.

There may be struggles to open and print the PDFs at home for families, so sending a survey home to families beforehand may be helpful.

Use Online Learning Platforms

There are so many different platforms to use when it comes to virtual learning. You’ve got Google Classroom, Boom Learning, Seesaw, Canva… and so many others.

And different platforms have multiple options for addressing the needs of your non-verbal students. You can use specific digital activities to address specific skills that your students are working on or others that allow them to work through their IEP goals.

Audio directions can be added in many platforms, either directly or through the use of plugins, so that students who may not be able to read will still be able to work independently or with very little assistance.

Some platforms also allow you to monitor your students’ progress (be aware that this option is usually a paid option and not free) and success so that you will have data on hand for reporting.

Use What Your Students Have at Home

While fancy manipulatives are great, sometimes it is just not possible to use them during virtual learning.

Instead, ask families what they might have available for students to work with during this time. Blocks, LEGO® bricks, sensory bins, items of different colors, beads, etc. can all be incorporated into 1:1 learning sessions. You will be able to work on everything from positional phrases to matching and more.

Stress to families that just about anything can be turned into a learning tool, and they do not need to purchase extra supplies if they are not able or don’t want to.

No matter what type of materials or supplies you decide to use, keep in mind that virtual learning is going to be challenging at times for your students and, most likely, for you as well. 

Internet hiccups and computer malfunctions may inhibit your ability to collect precise data all of the time. Be patient with yourself and your students as you navigate these unusual times.

How are you reaching your nonverbal learners during virtual lessons? Tell us in the comments below!


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I'm a special education teacher, presenter, curriculum writer, and educational blogger behind Mrs. D's Corner.
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