4 Tips for supporting paraprofessionals with teaching academic skills

Special Education: working with paraprofessionals
Unfortunately, paraprofessionals are sometimes only used for supporting with behaviors, but paras can be a HUGE asset when used to work on academic skills and IEP goals. If paras are new to the classroom or haven't been expected to lead small groups in previous classrooms, it can be scary for the teacher and paraprofessional to expect the para to lead academic instruction.
In my classroom, all of my paras run small groups (1-3 students in a group) during math, literacy/reading and writing. I'm also pulling groups at this time, but instead of having my paras just supervising students, they're teaching too! Here are a few tips that will help to ensure that paras are supporting students' academic needs:

1) Make sure your paraprofessionals know exactly what academic skills they should be targeting
Have a "Goal Wall" in your classroom that shows each kiddos' specific IEP goals or targets. I have a goal wall in my classroom that includes the academic, OT, PT, behavior and speech goals of all of my students. It's a great way to remind the staff in our classroom what we should be working on with students. This is similar to posting weekly/ learning objectives, but they're individualized for each kiddo.  

2) Provide paras with lesson plans
Lesson plans don't need to be super long or detailed (this would actually probably stress paras out more), but you should give paras lesson plans so they know what and how they should be teaching students skills. I typically ask my paras at the beginning of the year how detailed they want lesson plans to be and then build lesson plans for them around their preferences. In the past, I've only had 1 para who wanted a super detailed/ script like lesson plan and the rest of my paras have always wanted something brief and simple to follow. I typically stick to tables that include what the student should be working on and the supports that the student will need. 

Special Education: working with paraprofessionals
Example of a literacy lesson plan for paraprofessionals.

Editable template for paraprofessional lesson plans.

3) Determine how paras want feedback on their instruction
It can be tough to watch a para teach a skill/ lesson in a way that you wouldn't do it. Giving feedback to paras so they can improve their instruction can be hard, but it's SO important! You can use this free inventory to figure out how paras want feedback (right in the moment, in writing, etc.) so that you can ensure they can grow from your feedback.
Special Education: working with paraprofessionals

4) Give paras visual zoning plans 
Zoning plans are awesome because they make sure that all classroom staff know exactly where in the classroom they should be and what students they should be working with. To avoid paras having another paper/form to read, I use these visual zoning plans. I basically made a visual layout of my classroom and then made a visual for where staff and students should be at specific times of our day (like reading, writing, independent work, etc.). Something I've found really helpful is to also make visual zoning plans for when I'm teaching a whole group lesson. The zoning plan for whole group lessons show paras where they should be situated and what students they should be supporting even when I'm teaching the entire group. 
Special Education: working with paraprofessionals
Visual zoning plan examples

Special Education: working with paraprofessionals

If you want any of the editable templates in this post, you can grab it here