Distance learning and following directions


Following directions while distance learning can be challenging for any student. But, it is even more challenging for our students who struggle with communication and language. Teaching this group of students to follow directions, especially while looking at a screen can be tough, but not impossible. The key is to start with the basics before jumping into following directions for an assignment or activity. Just follow these steps, and then be sure to scroll to the bottom to get your free social story to share with your students.

1. Getting really quiet

following directions social story: getting quiet

This first step is often overlooked. Before our students can be successful following any type of instructions, they need to get quiet. This can be even more challenging at home where there may be a television going in the background or siblings quarrelling over a favorite toy. Regardless, stressing the importance of being in a quiet (as possible) space as well as being quiet themselves is the first step.

2. Looking at the screen

following directions social story: look at the screen

This may seem super obvious, but don’t count on it. There are a ton of distractions at home. You want it to be really clear that students should be looking at the screen while you are talking and not at the TV or out the window.

3. Getting still

following directions social story: sitting still

You can have a student who is quiet, looking at the screen, while wiggling and dancing all around in their chair. Many of our students have sensory issues and will always be in some state of constant motion, but if they can be as still as possible then their ability to concentrate will go up. It does not have to be for a long time. Just long enough to get all the information. And, that brings us to the next step.

4. Listening to all of the information

following directions social story:  get all the information

Explain to your students that their job is to make sure they are getting all of the information they need to complete the activity or assignment. Where can they find the materials? How do they go about asking questions? How do they submit assignments? Is there a deadline? Obviously for this population, we are keeping the information short, concise, and very clear. We are not giving our kids a checklist of 10 things to do, but even if it is just 2-3 things, we want to make sure our students are obtaining that information.

5. Beginning right away

following directions social story: start task right away

This is the last but crucial step. Encourage your students to begin right away on their activity if at all possible. The more time that goes by, the more they are likely to forget critical pieces of information, or just get distracted by life.

Being honest

Reality check. This list of steps is ideally what we want our students to follow, but in most situations without the help of our parents it simply won’t happen. That is a big reason I wrote this simple social story for you to download for free. If we share it with our parents, and encourage them to review it daily with their kids, then the parents are also more likely to follow these steps. Parents will be setting an example for their kids, and hopefully modeling these behaviors. At the very least, parents will understand what is needed (and really it is not that much) for their kids to be more successful with distance learning.

I have always said that I felt social stories were almost more of a help to me and my assistants than to my students. They were constant reminders for the adults of the expectations and how we needed to react in order to achieve them. Read more about my biggest “aha” moment when it comes to social stories HERE.

If you want to download my 19 page social story on following directions while distance learning, then just click the button below. On the last page of the story is a link to a free download of this book in a movie format you can use in google classroom or insert into a google slide.

following directions social story

I also have some more resources on following directions in my free resource library (some of which are digital!!). Be sure to head over by clicking HERE.


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