Skills that All Paraeducators Need

It doesn’t matter if you work with preschool students or high school students: most paraeducators work for the district not their campus, and not the families of the student. At a moment’s notice, you could be working with kindergartners or high school students. This is more true of new hires as they try and place the hires with the most need and best fit, but most of the time, we’ve seen districts just put people in places and hope they will adapt.

There are many, many skills paraeducators need, but there are three we feel are pretty invaluable.

  1. Making a task sheet or visual schedule. This is a bread and butter basic. The challenge is in understanding what a student doesn’t understand. The classroom board may say “Planner: HW due this week” but this implies several steps:
  • getting the planner out,
  • getting a writing tool out,
  • identifying what needs to be written
  • processing the act of writing.
below eye level picture looking up on white board at date written two ways in blue white board marker "September 25, 2017, 9-25-2017" Under, "Math Agenda" with an underline in faded black marker Green marker with large square bullet points "Planner HW due 9/29, Communication book" date written in red white board marker, "Math talk 'Adding 9's" 'adding 9's written in black', "Math Work".

A visual schedule on a white board, hand written green pen check boxes with actions written in red

small white board with purple edges, metal corners. Visual schedule written in black for separated with solid black line between tasks. "Take out planner", "Write in planner" in red: "HW due Friday", "Put away planner", "Math Talk", "Math page 29 & 30", "Clean Up"

Personal visual schedule

Commonly, paraeducators, like other educators, have gone over to a student an exasperatedly declared, “Why haven’t you done it yet?” A visual schedule cuts down on the verbal prompting a feature especially important to a student who has an audio processing delay. Even a student who doesn’t know how to completely read yet is reminded by a visual schedule and icons can replace words for some students.

While I’m on this: it is a big deal to run out of cue colors. Always have back ups of that red marker or purple support sheet.

Realize some tasks for a student are a big deal and others aren’t nearly as a big deal. Document the frequency of prompts, count to twenty before reinforcing the prompt, and finally result only to hovering if the student hasn’t made progress in 5 minutes.

  1. How to read for content in under a minute.  There are things that happen in reading text books or even copied readings that are useful.
  • Scan the page quickly
    • You’re looking at font size
      Worksheet, black text on white paper. Blue lines "Ok" with signature through problems 1-5.

      Worksheet page adapted for student

      • What can you do make it bigger, find more space between paragraphs?
    • Look for headings/vocabulary words (these are the words for the reading, not words that will stop your student)
      • Can the student find definitions? What words are important? Do they give key ideas?
    • Look at pictures
      • Are the pictures useful to the student? How do the illustrations convey information? Can the student follow the illustration instead?
  • Think specifically about your lowest student.
    • What might attract that student’s attention to the content?
    • What can they take away to their attention to the content?
    • What key ideas/terms need to be reinforced to grow in the unit of study?
    • What can the student do independently?
    • Most important: the answers to the first four questions cannot be ‘nothing’, you can find something, even for the student most likely to need the most help
  1. How to relax after a full day. We can’t help you with this, but remember all the things you do for a smile, the ways you need to let go of the day. Just remember taking care of you at the end of the day is better in the long run.

These skills make you successful in the job in the long term. The skills get better with time and practice. These are three of many. Which skills do you think are necessary?


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

About paraeducate

ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.

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