Community Based Instruction #3: Out and About

This is part 3 of my Community Based Instruction Series.

For Part 1: Click here

For Part 2: Click here

For Part 4: Click here

…Now what?

The tasks and skills you work on in community should be directly tied to the work you put into place in the classroom (See Part 2). Of course this will vary depending on age level, your curricular targets, IEP goals and more!

However, below are some ideas to get your gears turning!

For students with visual impairments

** Visual clutter may be quite high in a supermarket or other community environment. I always bring a black fabric or paper along. This allows me to quickly provide an uncluttered and high-contrast background for my students. I can place visuals against it or an actual object from the store.

Black background with image velcro-ed on to reduce visual clutter

** Bring models of the items on your shopping list. We often buy coffee and tea for our coffee cart program. I will save the coffee wrapper and a little bit of coffee in a ziplock, as well as a tea bag. I bring these on our trips to the grocery store and it provides students with a multi-sensory and concrete “shopping list”! Also, you can target the concepts “same” and “different” by comparing what you bought last time to what you are buying this trip!

For student with Cortical Visual Impairment. High contrast image with red glitter tape to promote visual fixation and concrete object of peanut butter to touch/see/smell

For functional reading, writing, math

When you go shopping for yourself, chances are you had a role in writing the list. You probably know what you will use the items for, why you are buying them, and a general idea of cost. In this same fashion, your students should have this opportunity as well. I usually have my shopping lists double as a space to jot down the cost of items, but you can work it however you want! See below for some ideas.

*Tip: Some grocery stores allow you to search for their items online! It isn’t always consistent with prices in the stores but it gives you/your students a general idea of costs.

For some functional FUN

So… in my opinion, all the above is super FUN ๐Ÿ˜‰ but some students might need a little extra ‘oomph.’

We use these scavenger hunt sheets to work on various skills with students. They work for a chosen reinforcer.

My favorite part of these is that I can change the targeted skills based on student, trip, social skill or core word focus, etc!

For structured needs

Just because you’re outside of the classroom, doesn’t mean all structure should go away. In fact, it is often the opposite, you’ll need to put even more supports in place to promote success.

**Be sure that the incentives you have in place are able to be used in the community. For example, if your student gets 5 tokens to play on the computer and their schedule of reinforcement is every few minutes – you probably don’t want to bring a computer on your trip!! Give other reinforcers as options to work for.

**Provide a mini schedule. You know your students best, so be sure to individualize as needed. One student may be successful with a schedule that shows “bus, shop, eat, bus” and one may need the tasks more broken down “bus, find item, buy item, eat, clean up, bus” .

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Headed with our grade level peers for a day of FUN!!!!!

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Don’t worry!

Please note that you don’t always need to buy items! Students can have a super successful, fun, and challenging trip without buying anything! On one of our trips (photo below), students walked around the store and found/sorted items into food groups.

Community, Multiple Disabilities

Community Based Instruction #2: Planning, Prepping, Almost Going!

Welcome back!

This is Part 2 of my series on Community Based Instruction. 

For Part 3 click here

For Part 4: Click here

In Part 1 we discussed how to:

A. Define community based instruction

B. Identify evidence-based guidelines for community based instruction

C. Describe goals your studentsโ€™ families have for their child

…and you should have determined some appropriate goals for each student.I

In The Classroom:

You should be targeting your goals in the classroom, and then generalizing to the community.

  • Work on each student’s functional goals in small group or 1:1 instruction


  • Goals on generalizing core words or safety signs in the community?
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Finally added! Core worksheets come with each core book!

A post shared by Britelle Smith (@lovingsouls.superstargoals) on

  • Functional reading?
  • Finding/choosing/categorizing foods?
  • Or maybe you have some functional jobs at school?

Start Planning the CBI:

What activities will you be doing in the community?

What will you be buying?

Who will be in charge of buying which items?

What does your shopping list look like? Pictures? Words? Tactile?

How are you pairing up your aides, nurses, therapists and students?

Try to tie in your jobs and programs at school. For example, we have a coffee cart program and a dog treat program, so the students will buy supplies when we go on our trips. This way they are seeing the whole process from beginning to end!

Next: Part 3 – GOING: Out & About here

Community, Freebies, Multiple Disabilities

Community Based Instruction #1: Getting Started

This is Part 1 of a series on one of my favorite learning areas: CBI!

*For full series click here*

For Part 2 click here

For Part 3 click here

For Part 4: Click here

Community Based Instruction (CBI) has become a HUGE passion of mine over the last few years. I have seen significant growth in my students since starting to take these trips….and I want you to be able to do the same!

What is it?

Community Based Instruction “is defined as regular and systematic instruction in meaningful, functional, age-appropriate skills in integrated community settings, using naturally occurring materials and situations, designed to help the student to acquire and generalize life-skills that enhance his or her opportunities for meaningful experiences”

So basically – it is a chance for you to teach your students important and relevant skills in the setting in which these skills will be required! It also enables students to generalize skills in the most authentic way possible, and it enables use to assess how students are generalizing/acquiring skills, what we need to focus on more, what we need to challenge the students with more, etc.

We all know that student who counts nickels perfectly at the math table in class but not at the grocery store. Or the student who doesn’t yet understand that you have to PAY for food before you can open and eat it. Or, or, or, or….we could write a million stories of students who would benefit from systematic community experiences.


Step 1: Learn Best Practice for CBI

I recently read a book about how to set up your students for ultimate success in adulthood, and it detailed 4 guidelines for Community Based Instruction.

Keep these in mind as you plan and advocate for trips to admin. There is a difference between fun field trips and systematic community based instruction (though both are important and both incorporate critical life skills!).


Step 2: Incorporate Parent Input

Community Based Instruction is designed to help the student acquire and generalize life-skills that will be meaningful for them. It should occur as regular and systematic instruction within their community and the stores they frequent.

THIS MEANS— We need parent input! We don’t always know what long-term goals parents have for their child, and we most likely don’t know what stores they go to most often, or what items they help their parents buy

…and guess what? Having parents on board with your trips increases the chance that parents will assist in teaching these skills when they go out, too!

I send out this survey to parents when I start planning my trips. GRAB IT FOR FREE BY CLICKING HERE!


Step 3: Determine Goals

Now that you can:

A. Define community based instruction

B. Identify evidence-based guidelines for community based instruction

C. Describe goals your students’ families have for their child

You are ready to determine what main goals you want to track for your students in the community. More blog posts coming about how to teach, assess, and debrief with these goals–but first, let’s pick them!


Communication (greeting, requesting), functional math (paying, determining cost, number sense reading a list), functional reading (determining corresponding aisles, identifying items on list), increasing tolerance of various environments, attending to items in complex environments, safety skills, safety signs, physically reaching for items, and so much more!!!

—> Message me or comment to tell me some of your goals!