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At home or at school, we are always learning or teaching how to do new things. Often those things have multiple steps to them. What better way to teach a multiple-step process than with visual instructions? Creating a storyboard is the ideal format for creating a step-by-step style representation of a "how to chart". The individual cells create a visual separation between steps, allowing each cell a different step.

Examples of Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Cooking Recipes
  • Directions (driving, walking, public transportation)
  • Life Skills (cleaning, personal hygiene)


Recipes are naturally a one-step-at-a-time process. The steps in a recipe require a sequential order, with each step building on the prior one. A traditional storyboard is the ideal layout to add a visual component to the process of following a recipe.

This can be used at home for personal use or in the classroom when teaching students life skills, such as what would be taught in some special education settings.


Most people today rely on GPS devices to help them get from one place to another. This is a great tool and especially helpful for driving, but it may not always be a realistic option. Some types of directions where a GPS may not be ideal and physical directions may be better are:

  • Directions within a building (i.e. getting to the restroom or other commonly visited place, emergency evacuation)
  • Public transportation routes
  • Walking directions

The step-by-step directions would be helpful in a special education classroom by potentially giving some students independence that they may not necessarily have otherwise. By printing the storyboard, the teacher can create a "how to graphic organizer" that has cell-based step-by-step directions for the students to get to and from common places within the school building.

Some special education programs go beyond academics and may include vocational skills, especially as the students are being prepared to transition out of the school systems. One of the vocational skills that is sometimes taught is how to use public transportation to certain places such as a job, a grocery store, or a doctor’s office. Sometimes public transportation can be confusing. Preparing a visual diagram for the student to reference can be helpful.

Life Skills

Household chores are life skills that our cell layout would be beneficial for displaying the step-by-step how to instructions. Cleaning is not something people just know, they need to be taught the necessary steps.

Most adolescents, including those with special needs, need to be taught about daily hygiene and the steps associated with it. Students with special needs may require more explicit instruction. Creating a storyboard with "how to instructions" to represent each step can be helpful. For tasks such as washing hands or brushing teeth, the storyboard can be printed and posted near the sink for reference.

Check out our resource Daily Living Skills to learn how else storyboarding can enhance your special education classroom and assist in teaching various aspects of daily life.

How to Create Step-by-Step Instructions for Special Education


Identify the Skill or Task

Determine the specific skill or task that you want to teach. It could be a cooking recipe, directions for navigating within a building, public transportation routes, or life skills like cleaning or personal hygiene.


Break Down the Steps

Identify the sequential steps involved in completing the skill or task. Make a list of each step in the correct order, ensuring that each step builds upon the previous one


Design the Storyboard

Create a storyboard layout with individual cells or sections, one for each step. The cells will visually separate the steps and provide clarity. You can use digital tools or draw the storyboard on paper.


Add Visuals and Text

In each cell, includes a visual representation of the step using pictures or icons. This visual component is essential for learners to understand and follow the instructions. Additionally, write a brief text description for each step to reinforce the written language.


Print and Use

Print the storyboard and use it as a teaching tool. Display the storyboard in a visible location, such as a classroom wall, or provide individual copies to students. Encourage students to refer to the storyboard and follow the step-by-step instructions as they practice the skill or task.

Frequently Asked Questions about Step by Step Instructions for Special Education

How can "how-to" worksheets be adapted to meet the needs of special education students with different learning styles and abilities?

Teachers and parents can adapt "how-to" worksheets to meet the needs of special education students by incorporating visual aids, simplifying instructions, and providing additional support as needed. For example, students with visual impairments may require larger print or braille instructions, while students with ADHD may benefit from color-coded instructions or shorter steps.

How can "how-to" worksheets be used to support special education students with communication difficulties?

"How-to" worksheets can be used to support special education students with communication difficulties by providing clear, visual instructions that can be easily understood. Teachers and parents can also incorporate assistive technology, such as speech-to-text or text-to-speech software, to help students access and interact with the worksheet content.

How can "how-to" worksheets be used to teach life skills to special education students?

"How-to" worksheets can be used to teach a wide range of life skills to special education students, including cooking, cleaning, and managing money. These worksheets can provide clear, step-by-step instructions on how to complete everyday tasks, helping students develop independence and confidence.

How can "how-to" worksheets be used to promote self-regulation and independence in special education students?

“How-to" worksheets can be used to promote self-regulation and independence in special education students by providing clear, sequential instructions that allow students to work independently. By breaking down tasks into manageable steps and providing visual aids, students can develop the skills and confidence needed to complete tasks on their own.

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