Using Sticky Notes and Strips to Adapt a Task

  • Situation

    I am a paraprofessional who works with a student in regular education settings and in a Support Room. He has a very hard time working. I’ve learned many strategies and have used them with some success but sometimes he will just groan and refuse to work. The other day he was doing so well and had finished 3 papers but refused to do the last one. I know he could do it but he just wouldn’t think and fill in the answers. What do I do in those cases?  I hate to just say he doesn’t have to do it – that seems like going backwards and giving in.

  • Summary

    Sometimes it may be appropriate to ‘go backwards’, which really means decreasing expectations for a situation. When a student has complied by completing a number of work assignments, then begins to refuse to work, consider ways to make the assignment more doable for him/her by providing supports in order to decrease the expectation but still achieve compliance. One way to do this is by providing the answers on post-it strips. First empathize and concur with the student regarding the length of work to prevent further negative responses. Next write the answers on a number of post-its and place then randomly on the desk. Tell the student he/she does not have to write the answers – just locate and post. Usually students will see this as a novelty and become motivated to complete the task. Consequently compliance is achieved. The goal changes from academics to behavior in this situation. No need to feel things are going ‘backwards’; view it as success.

  • Definition

    Visual supports provide students with the help they may need in academic situations when work appears overwhelming. One visual support is the use of post-it notes that provide answers to work tasks. Students see this strategy as novel and ‘doable’, motivating them to complete the work. The additional “demand” of having to both think of the answer and then write it is decreased and students become compliant vs. non-compliant. When work is perceived as over-whelming, the priority becomes addressing behaviors vs. academics.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 6-10, 11-13, 14-17, 18+
    • Planning Effort: Low
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    sticky notes and/or strips

  • Process

    1. When a student is having difficulty or refusing to complete work, empathize with the student with a statement such as “Yes, it is a lot of work, and you have finished so much!” Providing such a statement typically de-escalates continued negative verbalizations.

    2. Write the answers on a number of strip-post-its and place them randomly on the student’s desk.

    3. Direct the student to see if he/she can locate the answers and place them in the correct spot. If necessary, give a few options to choose from per question to increase the probability of success and continuation of the task.

    4. Once completed, provide verbal reinforcement and a preferred activity for a specified time.

    5. Consider completion a success vs. ‘going backwards’. Successful and happy completion is the priority in such situations, not the academics.

  • Documents and Related Resources

    Example of chunking (Word document)


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