Teaching Basic Concepts Using 4 Simple Activities!

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What are Basic Concepts for Students?

Basic concepts are important everyday words that children need to know in order to follow directions, participate in routines and engage in conversations. Typically there are 5 categories of basic concepts: location, number, time, feelings and descriptions. Basic concepts are typically taught during preschool and kindergarten years in school. This makes teaching basic concepts so important. Many other skills build on these basic concepts that students need to know.

Teaching Basic Concepts

When teaching basic concepts, we often use pairs of words that are opposites to help students understand what they mean. Check out this list of milestones for basic concepts your child should know by age from Two Can Talk.

Some basic concepts examples would be:

  • happy/ sad
  • up/ down
  • big/ little
  • more/ less
  • old/ young

Below, I’ve listed 4 different ways that I liked to teach basic concepts in my autism classroom.

1. Task Cards

The first activity that I loved to use to teach basic concepts was task cards. Task cards are an easy activity for teaching basic concepts. They are simple enough for students to do themselves or with a small group. Plus, once you prep task cards once, then you can re-use them over and over again each year. They don’t take up a lot of space and are easy to store. The other thing that I really love about task cards is that you can change them up by using different objects with them. For example, you could use clothespins, paper clips or a dry erase marker with them. One example of how to use task cards in the classroom is during independent work stations. If you need more independent work ideas, you can find 3 ideas HERE!

The Basic Concepts Task Cards cover 10 basic skills that your special education students should be practicing everyday. They also include data sheets for tracking IEP goals and can be differentiated between 2 different levels. Each concept has 2 levels for a total of 200 task cards. There are even 3 levels of student response sheets- write the word, trace the word, circle the word. These themed task cards are perfect for any time of the year for task boxes, independent work stations, direct instruction, morning work and warm-ups!


2. File Folders Games

I think every special education teacher uses file folder games in their room, right? They were a MUST-HAVE in my classroom, especially when teaching basic skills to students. The great thing about file folders is you can grab them at any time of the day when you need a filler activity. Once they are prepped, they are prepped forever! I liked to use file folder games for early finishers, in small groups, for morning work and also during independent work stations as well. File folder activities are ideal for students with autism or others in your special education classroom. The predictable nature and left to right pattern of the work appeals to their strengths! Check out 3 tips for using file folder activities in your special ed classroom.

The Teaching Basic Concepts File Folders cover 10 basic concepts. Each concept has 2 levels for a total of 20 file folder activities. Level 1 has a word and visual cue while level 2 only has the word.

Concepts included:

  • Colors
  • Numbers to 10
  • Shapes
  • Same or Different
  • Big or Small
  • In or Out
  • On or Under
  • In front or Behind
  • Right or Left
  • None, some or many

Looking for themed file folder games for the entire year? Check out my monthly file folders subscription!


3. Sorting Activities

Sorting activities have always been a favorite in my room. Why are sorting activities important? Sorting helps children develop executive functioning skills, important brain skills that help with memory, attention and problem-solving. Research shows that the stronger these skills are when a child begins kindergarten, the more likely they are to perform better at school. Hence why it is important that we continue working on it. When teaching basic skills, I liked to use these Sorting File Folders.

The Basic Concepts File Folders are easy to adapt to use as an errorless learning activity and be able to grow with the student when they are able to table more than one choice for matching. The pictures are clipart but are very realistic to match things in real life. They offer different basic concepts to sort such as colors, shapes, sizes, in and out, up and down…the list goes on. There are 24 sorting activities total and they are differentiated!


4. Adapted Books

Finally, a tool that I always loved to use in my special education room was adapted books. Adapted books are simply any book that has been modified to better fit the needs of your students. Many special educators use adapted books now because they are simpler and straight to the point for our students without extra “fluff.” I loved using the Basic Concepts Adapted Books in my autism classroom. They cover 12 different basic skills your special education students should be practicing every day. We used these a lot during small group time in my room. These are also great for a paraprofessional to use with students in a small group or 1:1 setting.


I hope these 4 different ideas help you when teaching basic concepts in your special education classroom.

How do you teach basic concepts to students in your classroom?

Teaching Basic Concepts Using 4 Simple Activities!
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