December 6, 2023

Blog Header- Lunchtime Teaching Skills in a Special Education Classroom

Manners, starting a conversation, opening your milk and even carrying your own tray are some of the skills we teach during lunch. How can I track these skills? What skills should I teach? What strategies do I use? Continue reading below to find my answers to each of these questions, and if you do the same or something different, don’t forget to comment!

dining room lunch line visual
Lunch in the dining room

What skills should I teach?

In early childhood, I have a booklet of developmental milestones by age. This is something that can be easily found online. I also have a program called AEPS that provides me with an assessment and curriculum to address these milestones. I can use that to guide me on where to start with a student, but usually all of these skills are skills that everyone needs.

Additionally, I observe students when they first start in my classroom. I watch to see if they ask for help opening the juice or if they ask for a missing item like a spoon or ketchup. I look to see if they start conversations, eat food, or if they are able to clean their space. I observe and take notes so I can track areas of need and monitor them to make sure they are growing. I always recommend starting with the basics: asking, self-help and social skills.

Breakfast rules visual sheet
Visual breakfast rules via

What strategies should I use?

The main strategies I use are: Modeling, visuals, repetition, social stories and role playing. I model how to start a conversation, I model what to do when they drop something, and how to ask for help. Visuals are very important when the student needs to see what you are talking about and help break down the steps. I have visuals that I have in my breakfast/lunch basket to help with the request. One example of using repetition is when I have students practice opening milk or carrying their own tray. I also use visual sentence strips to help with the request.

In addition, social stories are used before breakfast or lunch to teach the skills we are working on that week. Finally, role playing is very important as it allows students to practice the skill in a safe environment. Again, these are the ones that immediately come to mind. Comment below with any other strategy you can think of!

IDEA – Check out this blog here on how to start a social skills lunch group for older students.

Separate opening of applesauce
Support for independence and work on fine motor skills

How can I track progress in these skills?

Many of my kids mostly have social skills goals that I track. Pre-made charts can be found online or I will create charts specific to a given skill. I usually track progress through observation. Using anecdotal notes and pictures to keep records is really important to me. Worksheets are not used in Pre-K, so I take many pictures throughout the week to share with parents, which also count as evidence of any goals they may be working on.

Ultimately, tracking these areas shouldn’t be stressful. My recommendations would be the beginning of the year, the middle of the year, and the end of the year. Here are some simple data sheets that I recommend for almost any goal. I feel that simple is best. I love checklists and anecdotal notes!

Milk with a gentle motor
Milk with a gentle motor

Teaching skills

Finally, there are a few skills that need to be learned. Please note that there are MANY more!

  • Request for missing items
  • asking for help
  • opening the milk
  • use dishes in an appropriate way
  • walking through the lunch line
  • transport tray
  • ID scanning during registration
  • sit securely in the seat
  • talk to friends at your table
  • keep your hands to yourself
  • zip their lunch box
  • and much more!
Pin- Skills to teach during lunch preschool special education classroom

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