Community Based Instruction (CBI)

Community Based Instruction (CBI) is a hot topic! Some schools have it. Others do not. In my district, I have a bus scheduled two days per week to take my students out on CBI. The middle school teacher has the same schedule. The middle school teacher and I also take trips together one time per month. We do this for transition. Plus, we are working on those much needed community skills! It really helps that the students are so actively involved in activities with me during their middle school years. Our transitions from middle school to high school have been much smoother. The two elementary schools use CBI more as a reward or a field trip. This being said, we do have CBI in my district for all levels.

So, what is CBI, and how do we use it? CBI is just what the name implies, which means our classroom just got a lot larger. We are now using the community to teach necessary life skills. The first step is to make sure CBI is in the student’s IEP and get parent permission. CBI is something we discuss annually. Plus, I send home monthly newsletters with updates and information about where we are going and what we will be doing. At the beginning of the school year, I send home a permission slip for CBI. I do not send home a permission slip for each trip. I use the annual one to cover all trips, but I do make sure my parents are always up-to-date on our CBI activities. If you would like to see my permission slip, click on the link at the bottom of this page. We are also required to turn in a syllabus for each class we teach. A copy of my syllabus is available at the bottom of this page too.

Now the essentials are covered. We have included CBI in the IEP, sent home permission slips, and sent home copies of the syllabus. CBI is ready to begin! So where do we go? What do we do? Should all students participate? There are so many questions. Although, each teacher will handle this differently I am going to explain how I do it. All of my students participate in CBI. I do not use this time as a punishment. It is an instructional time, so I do not take it away from them. This has been my long standing rule for the past 20 years I have taught, but since I have taught for 20 years I am aware that sometimes rules were meant to be broken. Each student is different. Therefore, each student’s instruction must be handled differently.


I divide my students up into smaller groups. One of my assistants and I take the students out in the community. This typically lasts about 1 – 2 hours, depending on what we are doing. The remaining students stay in school in their classes with my other assistants providing needed adaptations and modifications. Since we do this twice a week, I will take one group on Tuesdays and the other group on Thursdays. Occasionally, my speech therapist or occupational therapist will go with us. Students have an assignment to complete depending upon the location. Sometimes the students will have a list of items to locate if we are in a store. Other times they may select the items of interest and follow a budget.


Almost all of my CBI activities include picture prompts. We try to make it as functional as possible. The students will create menus for the items we will be cooking in the classroom. They will then have to make lists of the items needed. We will take those lists to the grocery store. The student may have a worksheet that he or she is working on or it may be a set of picture cards to locate. We have also used a free app called ‘Type on PDF’ while on CBI. This allows me to add documents to the iPads. The students will then take the iPads into the community to complete their assignment. The app also has a function that allows the completed assignment to be sent to me via email.

While on CBI, students will do price comparisons between name brand and generic brand products. Students will also compare product prices between stores. We go to as many businesses in our community as possible throughout the school year. We have gone through a rent-to-own store to see what is available and ask questions. We also like to go to local businesses on scavenger hunts. We go to the local second hand stores to see how to use those and to the bank to find out how to open a savings account. When we do our unit on community living, we use CBI to tour the local apartments and rental homes. We go to clothing stores and find complete outfits in the correct sizes and determine the cost. These are just a few examples! During CBI, we are exploring our community and learning how to use it. We work on social interactions, money, budgeting, community behavior, self-advocacy, community mobility, and so much more!



Another activity I like to do during CBI is to tour the businesses. We also use this as career exploration. Students are given worksheets with questions. They will receive a tour of the facility by an employee to see how it operates. Students enjoy exploring the businesses and talking to the employees. It also helps with setting up job placements for when students will work with the job trainer. The tours work in another way as well. They help make us aware of different issues that may trigger inappropriate behavior, so we know to avoid it in job placement. Sometimes the students enjoy a specific tour so much, that it is definitely a location we add to the job placement rotation.

How does CBI work in your district? Are you interested in sharing CBI activities? I am always looking for new suggestions. I think a group of us adding activities to a dropbox to share would be a great idea. What do you think? If you are interested in joining our dropbox for a CBI activity share, let me know and I will add you!

Here is a copy of my CBI form and my syllabus, if you would like to have it!