Structured Teaching

Structured Teaching is a tool used by CCSS teachers and staff to organize student work and provide access to Content Curriculum. The “structure” consists of modifications in the environment, concrete and visual ways of presenting information, and proactive routines. It is individually designed around each student’s strengths, skill, interests and needs.

The goal of structured teaching is to promote independence and meaning through structure over the life time of the individual. As an individual grows and changes, the structure may be adjusted but it will always be necessary, in much the same way that people always wear their eyeglasses to see properly. In many ways, Structured Teaching is simply a more concrete, conscious version of the organization we use in our daily life. For example, we depend on our daily planners and calendars to understand what we’re supposed to do, when and where.

Physical Structure

This is the way the classroom environment is set up so that each area of the classroom is visually organized; each space has a specific purpose and set of expectations.

Clear physical and visual boundaries

  • Boundaries are in place to help the child understand where an area begins and ends. It helps to establish context and segments the environment for the student.

Minimize visual and auditory distractions

  • Helps the student focus on the concept and not the details.
  • Develops basic teaching areas: Independent Work, One-on-One, Leisure, Transition, Group, Computer, Snack, Lunch …based on the needs of the students.


The Daily Schedule tells the student where they need to be, where activities will occur, and the order in which they will take place.

The length of the schedule is dependent upon the needs of the individual student. It can vary from one item, a full day, a full week or a month.

  • Object schedule
  • Object card schedule
  • Photograph schedule
  • Picture/Symbol Schedule
  • Picture/Symbol with written Schedule
  • Written List Schedule
  • Sentence Schedule


Work System

This is what tells the students what they will be doing once they are where they need to be in the environment. The work system clarifies information for the student.

The work system tells the student:

  • How much work
  • What work
  • When work will be finished
  • What comes next


Visual Structure

This is what helps students keep working by providing information within the environment that clarifies, organizes or instructs.

  • Clarifies by drawing attention to the important details. (labeling, highlighting, color-coding …anything that makes the relevant more obvious)
  • Organizes materials in the space and sequences. (all items in their place, limited number or spacing …anything to organize)
  • Instructs by giving visual information about how to complete the task. (jigs, arrows, pictures, product samples …anything that makes no verbal instructions necessary)



Learn more about structure and how we work with our students…

The following websites will help you to learn about visual strategies, Picture Exchange Communication system, visual schedules, errorless learning and discrete trials, TEACCH structured work tasks and structured classroom strategies. Here are a few links to get you started:

The official TEACCH website, which includes information on structured teaching and work tasks, which are useful for all special needs children.

This first link provides a useful and short description of Augmentative Communication and explains why AC is so important, how to implement AC strategies to help children communicate and provides some troubleshooting suggestions.

This is an excellent site for Speech Language Pathologists, but it also provides tons of visual resources that teachers can use in their classrooms. I get a lot of visual strategies, schedules and social stories from this site.

This is a classroom teacher and she has lots of details about how she sets up her classroom for students on the spectrum, including lots of pictures. While it is designed for autism, you’ll probably find you have several students with autism in a multi-disability classroom and many of these strategies work for all children.

A general special education site that includes links to all kinds of great information helpful for sped teachers.

Another wonderful teacher of students with autism that is full of pictures and useful ideas for the classroom teacher.

This is one of our favorite websites. While this talks about a high school class, most of the ideas work for children of all ages. Click on the link How to Set up a Classroom, as it has a wonderful detailed PowerPoint with lots of pictures showing tons of visual strategies.

California Avenue School in conjunction with project TEACCH has offered the core TEACCH Training in Vista, California. These are the work tasks that were developed by the TEACCH trainers and students during these training sessions.    This site has lots of pictures of structured work tasks to look at!

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