Systematic instruction (HLP 12) is instruction that is taught in segments and follows sequences that are carefully and logically planned toward a specific goal. Prioritizing that instruction and creating a logical instructional sequence can be the key to progress for students with disabilities. Teachers plan effective instruction when they unpack the grade level content, prioritize the importance of skills and knowledge and effectively sequence instruction. Systematic instruction allows special educators to link content to the general education curriculum in an observable, measurable, and efficient way (Konrad, et al, 2019).
As teachers go about planning systematically, ask them to consider the following:
Teach BIG ideas and main ideas before details. Teach the big idea of cycles before introducing specific cycles (e.g. water cycle, life cycle of a star, rock cycle, food chains). Understanding that cycles are found everywhere in nature is an anchor that helps students make connections. If the big idea of the unit is cycles, what happens in each stage are the details, they can be complex or as simple as, water loops through different stages; evaporation, condensation, and back to evaporation.
Use logical hierarchies. Move from less complex to more complex; teach prerequisites before requisites; unambiguous before ambiguous. Rules are introduced before the exceptions. In the science classroom, when classifying animals, teach the characteristics of mammals and unambiguous examples such as dog, horse, human, before teaching the exceptions like platypus and dolphin.
Focus on separate skills and concepts that are similar before those that require discrimination. Simplicity and clarity are important. In Geometry, circle and square, are very distinct concepts and should be mastered before concepts with more subtle differences like a square and rectangle.
Teach commonly encountered content before lower-frequency content. Prioritize content so that the most frequently encountered content is taught first. Teach students to decode commonly encountered word segments first. Morphemes that occur less frequently and in multi-syllabic words examples can be added to their repertoire later or as a way to differentiate instruction.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. If you have them available, use well-planned, research-based programs; focus on lesson delivery.
- Collaborate! Special and General educators can work together to share expertise in task analysis and content.
- Organize and document your plans. Google Sheets and Google Docs are two tools that can be used to keep track of and share ideas.
Learn More About HLP12: Professional Development Resources
Read: A Look at Instruction: Overview of HLPs 11-22 (Council for Exceptional Children); Unpacking Standards to Get to the Heart of Instruction.
Konrad, M., Hessler, T., Alber-Morgan, S., Davenport, C. & Helton, M. (2019). Systematically Design Instruction Toward a Specific Goal In McKleskey, et al., High Leverage Practices for Inclusive Classrooms (pp. 157-169). New York, New York: Council for Exceptional Children.