If you do a google search on the words “JAR” or “JARs” you’re likely to get a lot of catalog pictures of sealed containers and some miscellanous tech artiles about Java file formats. But JARs have an entirely different meaning in the special education and speech-language pathology world.

A Joint Action Routine (JAR) or Joint Action Routine Schedule (JARS) is a structured strategy for teaching communication along with other skills identified on the IEP, through dynamic and naturalistic routine activities.

JARS is a powerful strategy for teaching communication and other skills identified on the IEP, through interactive routine activities. It is the use of motivating activities that are conducted repeatedly with an emphasis on students interacting and communicating with one another.

The NYC Department of Education website has a great brochure that breaks down the what, why and how behind planning a JAR. It’s a great resource to print and hand to an administrator or classroom teacher if you are getting some pushback or hesitancy around your attempts to plan JARS.

JARS is also a great way for related service providers and classroom teachers to collaborate! You’d be surprised how many IEP goals you can target within these structured routines if you plan them out carefully.

For over a year now, I have worked closely with one other colleague and a special education classroom teacher (6:1:1 last year and 12:1:1 this year) to create a weekly JAR for our students and we have seen a steady increase in communication skills, social-pragmatic skills, and progress towards meeting academic goals.

If you have not yet tried a JAR, here are five SOLID reasons why you should start incorporating them into your practice:

  1. They are FUN for the kids!

    We know what the research says. More importantly, we know what is innately true of all humans regardless of age. The most learning happens when people are experiencing joy and excitement.
  2. They are FUN for the adults too!
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    I’m just saying. Reading books and using flash action cards can get boring for students and clinicians alike. I typically put two sessions in the same classroom back-to-back in order to complete a JAR and it makes the day go by so much quicker. It’s nice to have a change of pace sometimes.
  3. It is a great opportunity for pictures and videos.

    My team tends to focus on edible crafts because of how young our kids are and because we want them to have a reinforcer at the end. It also helps to teach the concept of waiting. They cannot eat the crafts until they have signaled that they are finished and the teacher has approved of their finished product. It’s a wonderful opportunity to take pictures to send home or record videos to playback for the kids. Video modeling has been proven to be a successful strategy in teaching children on the Autism spectrum.
  4. It’s a fantastic way to generalize concepts from the therapy area and academic lessons.

    My team is very intentional about getting together to talk about what is being targeted in the classroom and what is being targeted in the therapy room. Finding ways to incorporate concepts from specific subsets helps the kids to generalize the information they have learned. They are more likely to remember because they have now practiced using the skills in a different environment with different people.
  5. It works wonders for social skills.

    All JARS will start out being teacher-centered, meaning the teachers and therapists are leading the students through the routine. Once the students become accustomed to the routine, you can start to have it be more student-centered or student-led. Students are assigned as monitors who pass out materials, ask peers for their preference in color, flavor etc and pick up garbage from their peers. Joint attention is at the center of every JAR.

If you already incorporate JARS regularly into your therapy practice, please take a moment to share how and when you do. If you don’t incorporate JARS into your practice yet, take a moment to follow Bilingual Speech Resources on TpT to gain access to free and discounted JAR lessons you can incorporate into your classroom.


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