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Prompt Hierarchy

Prompt Hierarchy

What it is

A prompting hierarchy is a systematic method of assisting students in the learning and skill acquisition process. Prompts are only used as a support to students when necessary and only for as long as is necessary, with a plan in place for phasing out all levels of prompts.

What it's not

A prompting hierarchy is not meant to be used in a way that produces prompt dependency in students. Prompts are also not used to fill in quiet space while a student is processing/responding.

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How it works

When students are learning a skill, using a decreasing prompt hierarchy (most-to-least), going from the highest level of prompting necessary for the success of the student and decreasing the level of prompting to none as quickly as possible is the recommended method.

When the student has a level of skill established, using an increasing prompt hierarchy (least-to-most), allowing the student to attempt the task before intervening with assistance and then only giving the amount of information necessary for the student to successfully complete the task is the recommended method.

Prompt Hierarchy Levels

  • Independent – the student is able to perform the task on his/her own with no prompts or assistance
  • Indirect (Verbal or Nonverbal) – tell the student that something is expected, but not exactly what (e.g., “Now what?” “What’s next?”, etc.) or use body language (e.g., expectant facial expression, questioning hand motion with a shrug, etc.)
  • Direct Verbal – tell the student what he/she is expected to do or say (e.g., “Turn your powerchair right.”)
  • Gesture – indicate with a motion what you want the student to do (e.g., pointing)
  • Modeling – show the student what you want him/her to do
  • Partial Physical Assistance – provide minimal supported guidance
  • Full Physical Assistance – provide hand-under-hand guidance to help the student complete the desired task

The teacher presents the task and lets Brian try it himself.

The teacher points along with Brian to help guide him and his pace.

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The teacher asks Brian to repeat the task but lets Brian try to figure out what he might need to do differently this time.

The teacher gives Brian specific information about where the breakdown might be occurring.

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The teacher uses a phonemic cue to guide Brian’s counting.

Watch the whole sequence!

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