Interested in using First, Then language in your classroom?

These teaching tips will make it even more effective.

What is First, Then Language?

First, Then is a simple cueing system we (teachers) can use to support students in completing tasks.

Have you been using First, Then language with limited success? Don't give up - try out these helpful teaching tips today!

If this is starting to sound familiar, chances are you've already used this type of phrase before. It's definitely not confined to the classroom, but can be used anytime we're tackling a list of to do's.

“First I'll do the laundry, then I'll sit down and text my friend.”

Have you been using First, Then language with limited success? Don't give up - try out these helpful teaching tips today!

Adding a visual can make this strategy even more effective – students may be able to keep their “eyes on the prize” as they power through a task. For example, a picture of a large cup of coffee would definitely help me stay focused on whatever I need to accomplish first!

If you're supporting a student who resists certain tasks (the “first'), try using this language cue and be sure to pair with a preferred tasks (the “then”). Conducting an informal Preference Assessment can be a helpful (and fun) way to learn more about your students' interests.

Learn more about using this hands-on tool HERE.

Helpful Hints for Using First, Then Cues

I've experienced so much success with using these language cues, that I couldn't imagine teaching without them. If you were a fly on the wall in our resource room, you'd probably hear my students narrating their own actions using the same phrases!

Here's a few teaching tips I've learned along the way:

  • Consistency counts! If your student is hearing “first, then” during math on Tuesday, then he or she will probably be hearing it again on Wednesday! This consistency can also extend to co-teachers, support staff, and anyone who is interacting with students throughout the day.
  • Model using the same language by narrating your own actions. I find this helpful to eliminate the “do as I say…” (you know the rest!) feeling our students may be having. And guess what, it works for adults, too!
  • If a student is struggling with remembering the “then” task and feeling especially reluctant, it may be time to break down the task. “First we'll write our name, then we'll take a stretch break.” Followed by “First we'll answer the first two questions and then we'll get a drink of water.” And so on. Don't worry – as students build up stamina, the tasks can be extended longer.
  • Use the language in all areas of the school day, not just those “tough” tasks. We don't want our students to associate these cues with things they don't want to do. Instead, we want it to be an universal strategy that helps us maintain focus throughout our daily activities.

Hope this helps! I can't wait to hear how you're students are doing with these cues.

Hi there.

I'm Jennifer!

I’m Jennifer and I was a special educator in the elementary school setting over the past decade. I entered the classroom every day dedicated to making learning inclusive AND engaging.

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