A Complete Guide for Task Boxes in Special Education

Task Boxes are a key strategy all special education teachers need in their tool boxes. Task boxes make life easier by helping you spend less time planning and more time teaching.  They offer a structured approach to learning that caters to individual strengths and challenges. They provide hands-on, interactive activities designed to target specific skills, ranging from academic concepts to functional tasks and beyond.

Think of this blog post as your go-to resource, your trusty sidekick, your roadmap to task box greatness. We’re gonna talk about why they’re so awesome, how to whip up your own, and—most importantly—how to rock ’em like a boss in your classroom. Task boxes are something every special education teacher wants and needs in their classroom.

So grab your favorite mug of coffee (or tea, or whatever fuels your teaching soul), cozy up in your comfiest teacher chair, and let’s geek out over task boxes together. Trust me, by the end of this journey, you’ll be a task box ninja, ready to tackle any challenge that comes your way in the classroom.

What are task boxes for special education

First things first, let’s break it down. Each box contains hands-on activities designed to help our special education students practice and master specific skills. Whether it’s math, literacy, fine motor skills, or life skills, task boxes are our secret weapon for making learning fun, engaging, and effective.

Now, why should we bother with these task boxes? 

Task boxes are like superheroes in the classroom, swooping in to save the day in so many ways. They’re perfect so many things like

  • catering to diverse learning needs
  • promoting independence
  • boosting engagement
  • and giving our students that extra confidence boost they need to shine

Because they are hands on, they build hand strength which is just an added bonus! Plus, they’re customizable to fit the unique needs and interests of every student in your crew. Talk about a win-win!

You can even use them to save time with progress monitoring- something we all know takes hours and hours.

How to make task boxes

First up, you need to get the PDFs for the targeted skills you are going to be using. If you are just starting out I have a few free ones you can grab. Here are four free math ones. Okay, so print those out and then it is time to gather the rest of the materials.

You’ll need to grab a laminator, laminating sleeves, velcro, a photo storage box, and packing tape. 

Then you’re ready to go! Follow these steps:

Step one:  Print all the pages.  I like to do everything at once because I will use all of the tasks, but if you only want specific tasks- check out the table of contents and only print those pages!

Step two: laminate those pages. I personally turn on one of my favorite shows and just run things through.

Step three: add that velcro. I do this before I cut- I think it saves just a little bit of time, but time is precious.

Step four: Cut out the task boxes.  I do this step one task at a time to keep them organized.  When I finish, I put it in the box, close it and put it away. Be sure to put in all the moveable pieces as well.

Step five: Tape the covers and labels onto the boxes. This is a great idea that makes them easy to pull when you are planning!

Step six: Use them for years to come! Now that you have put in all that hard work, you can use them for years to come. 

Why Task Boxes are so Important

Task boxes are so important for a variety of reasons.

Let’s break down why task boxes are so important:

  1. Promoting Independence: Task boxes are like the ultimate confidence boosters for our students. By providing hands-on, interactive activities that students can tackle at their own pace, task boxes empower them to take ownership of their learning journey. From mastering basic skills to tackling more complex challenges, these boxes are the best way to build independence and self-esteem.
  2. Targeted Skill Practice: Task boxes aren’t just about keeping our students busy—they’re all about targeted skill practice.They allow us to zero in on specific skills and concepts, making learning more meaningful and impactful. Whether it’s fine motor skills, math facts, or social-emotional development, task boxes give our students the practice they need to soar to new heights.
  3. Individualized Learning: We know that one size does not fit all. Task boxes support the catering to individual learning styles and needs, and task boxes are like the MVPs of differentiation. With their customizable nature and endless possibilities for adaptation, task boxes are a great way to ensure that every student gets the support and challenge they deserve.

Want to learn more ways they are important? Check out this blog post now!

Tips for Using Task Boxes in the Special Education Classroom

Ok, now you have them ready and know why they are so important. But how do you actually use them in the classroom?

Check out these ideas:

  1. Small groups: Use them to teach during small group times. You can do one task box together or give each kiddo one to work on and make your way across the group to support each kiddo. During this time you could also progress monitor. You do not need to cancel your groups to progress monitor! They can work on a task box while you assess other students.
  2. Independent work: It can be challenging to find work that is actually independent for some of our learners. That is why once they have mastered it in small group, you can then send them off to for extra practice independently. The additional practice will build confidence and solidify skills. You can use this for set independent time or for early finishers. If you are using a independent work system or a task box system, these are a great place task boxes can easily fit in to provide materials for the students to use.
  3. Teaching assistants: This is a total time saver. Instead of constantly having to plan for your paraprofessionals, give them a task box and a group to run! This is a way to save time and not having to constantly think of new things for them to do.
  4. Reach IEP goals: Use them to target specific IEP goals by giving students task boxes that target that skill and the prerequisite skills needed to master it!

Want to learn more ways? Check out this blog post!

How to use Task Boxes to Teach Phonological Awareness

First things first, let’s get on the same page about phonological awareness. It’s all about recognizing and understanding the sounds of language, and task boxes offer a hands-on approach to help our students grasp these concepts. Whether it’s identifying rhyming words, sorting pictures by initial sounds, or blending phonemes, task boxes provide opportunities for students to engage with phonological awareness skills in a meaningful way.

The most impactful thing about using task boxes for phonological awareness is the ability to demonstrate their knowledge receptively. This means, they do not have to orally say their answer which is sometimes extremely challenging for some students!

With task boxes, we can create an easy way to sequence of activities that gradually increase in complexity, allowing students to progress at their own pace and demonstrate their growing understanding of phonological awareness concepts receptively.

How to use Task Boxes to Teach Social Emotional Learning

Not familiar with social emotional learning? Here’s a quick definition: It’s about more than just teaching kids to be kind (although that’s definitely part of it!). SEL encompasses a range of skills and competencies, from recognizing and managing emotions to building healthy relationships and making responsible decisions. And guess what? Task boxes can help us address all of these areas in a fun and engaging way!

Whether it’s practicing mindfulness, exploring emotions through storytelling, or role-playing social scenarios, task boxes offer opportunities for students to develop their SEL skills in a hands-on, interactive way. By providing structured activities that encourage reflection, communication, and empathy, we can help our students navigate the ups and downs of life with confidence and compassion. A great time to use these are during morning meeting! You can set goals, talk about the day, and practice some of these important skills.

They also can offer students a toolkit of coping strategies they can turn to when they’re feeling overwhelmed or upset. Whether it’s deep breathing exercises, visual relaxation techniques, or creating a calming sensory space, task boxes provide students with the tools they need to regulate their emotions and navigate stressful situations with grace and resilience.

Resources for Task Boxes in the Classroom

Of course I would never leave you hanging on materials you need for these task boxes.

Check out all of these for different subject areas!

Math Task Boxes

You can either grab sets with a variety of skills such as these ones here. Or you can get skills packs. The skills packs take one skill and break it down so everyone can be working on the same skill, just at their own level. They are perfect when you have students who span across various grade levels. You can have some students working on an addition problem that is within 10 and another working on word problems!

Reading Task Boxes

We talked a lot about phonological awareness. You can get phonological awareness ones with clip art or real life images for students who need something a little more concrete.

Have students who are actually reading? Make phonics task boxes which you can grab here. We know it can be boring doing the same worksheet or skill over and over. These task boxes take the same skill and allow students to practice it many different ways so they don’t get bored! 

Social Emotional Learning Task Boxes

Maybe you want to add in some SEL, but you don’t have a curriculum or supports. Grab these task boxes from my TPT store to get you started! They align with the 5 competencies of CASEL and ar fun for all kids!

And that, teacher bestie, brings us to the end of the complete guide of task boxes. From mastering the basics to exploring innovative ways to use them in our classrooms, we’ve covered a lot of ground together.

But our adventure doesn’t end here. You can grab your own task box bundle here! Don’t forget to reach out once you make them and tell me how much you are loving them!

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