Using Community Routines to Build Community

Preparing students for transition to adulthood is a difficult job.  One way that educators can pave the way for future successful community involvement for their students is to practice community routines at least one time per week.  Students need lots of practice to become independent!  At first, this sounds easy.  However, providing meaningful community routines can be a challenge. The first hurdle can be simply finding appropriate routines within the community that are in close proximity to the school.  Even with locations close by, it can be difficult and expensive to access the community with enough consistency to adequately support students’ skill development.  Additionally, many special education classrooms accommodate a wide-range of skill levels across students. Finding routines that allow for differentiation of instruction can take some creative thinking. 

One teacher came up with a creative solution that cleared all these hurdles.

The teacher had visited an OrPATS (Oregon Program for Training Sites and Support) classroom, and observed a community routine where the students were going shopping each week to buy grocery items for staff at their school.  (For more information on the OrPATS grant project visit the website at  Staff at this school could put in a request for students to purchase up to 10 items for them at the local grocery store.  Students received valuable experience in purchasing an item, managing a shopping list and navigating the grocery store, and staff had access to their own personal shoppers!

Inspired by this idea, the teacher looked for a similar opportunity for her students.  She found it with New Seasons Grocery Store.  The teacher was able to set up a routine with the New Seasons Grocery Store where students purchase sandwiches for staff at their school.  Each Monday, school staff had the opportunity to put in an order for lunch.  Sandwich order forms from New Seasons were provided to the staff ahead of time.  They simply filled out the order form, provided cash for their purchase and delivered it to the classroom.  Students gathered the orders and placed each one in an envelope.  The teacher would submit the orders on Monday to New Seasons. On Tuesday, students walked to New Seasons to purchase the sandwiches and deliver lunches to staff.  This routine provided a variety of different opportunities for students to participate.  Some students retrieved the sandwiches as they were prepared and payed for them at the register.  Other students stapled the order forms to paper lunch bags, placed each sandwich in the bag and added napkins.  Some orders come with chips providing students the opportunity to go find the correct flavor of chips and add it to the bag.  Students are working on the obvious skills of purchasing an item and cross walk safety but other skills, not so obvious, such as waiting for the group, socializing with friends, and team work were also reinforced.

Click the images below to view a couple routines used for this community routine

Because practice is the key to success, classroom simulations are an excellent way to supplement these community based routines and allow students more opportunities to practice on a consistent basis. Many secondary classrooms have school stores set up in the classroom. The Links Curriculum also provides several simulation lessons that are ready to go, complete with all the visuals you might need, such as Purchasing an Item, Socializing with Friends, Playing a Game and more! 

Watch the video below to see this community routine make the news!