I will admit when I first started teaching, taking my students into the community made me so nervous! But over time, I got more comfortable and saw the benefits, and now community based instruction is one of my favorite things about my job. Here are some tips I've learned to make community based instruction a successful experience for everyone involved.
Set clear expectations and goals, for students and staff.
This may seem obvious, but it took me a while to figure it out. Before we go out, we talk about the location, the goal of the trip, and the rules. We create practice opportunities within our school day. Then, when it's time to go out into the community, students and staff know what to focus on.
Assess and collect data.
Community Based Instruction is not just a field trip. It should be part of your curriculum and should include data collection and assessment. Set clear targets so that you know what to measure, and involve your staff and students in data collection when possible.
Focus on increasing independence for each student.
Moving teaching into the community requires a plan. Think about the skills that can be generalized to many settings. Students are more likely to increase independence in skills that can be practiced at every community location. Create a plan for independence, including your instructional strategy and how you will fade prompts. This will of course be individualized. One student may be working on making a purchase at a store, and another student may be working on greetings. Regardless of ability level, our goal is always to increase independence.
Choose age-appropriate locations.
CBI is appropriate for all ages, but the teacher should choose locations where individuals who are close in age to the students are going. You want students to connect with their same-age peers, which will increase recreational opportunities and be more meaningful.
Communicate and collaborate with the student's family.
Send home activities or a list of skills that students can do with their parents to help reinforce what you are doing at school and in the community. Here are some examples.
Reading the menu or ordering their own meal at a restaurant the next time the family goes out to eat
Making a grocery list of needed items
Calling to find out movie times or make appointments
Make sure you grab my free planning form in this post and get planning! Remember, CBI is more than a field trip, but can still be just as fun!