Presentations: Cues

Related References
Types of Assessment


Guiding Principles
Case Studies

Some students require help staying focused and on task. Cues are concrete reminders to do something or attend to something. Two of the most commonly used cues are:

  • Highlighting key words or phrases. For example, in a set of directions that ask the students to complete addition problems, highlight the addition sign.
  • Symbol cues. For example, write or draw cues such as arrows (e.g., indicating a new problem) and stop signs (signaling the end) on the response form or test booklet to remind the student to do something.


  1. Review the test booklet and form.
  2. Select only those terms and phrases that will truly help the student stay focused and on task.
  3. Highlight those terms and phrases.
  4. It is important to use only those cues that the student needs.
  5. To prevent clutter or mistakes, make a copy of the test booklet page and experiment before marking the final version.
  6. One variation of the technique is to have the student follow along as you read the directions and highlight the important words or phrases. This variation helps ensure that the student understands the purpose of the highlighting.
  7. On tests that ask students to match a word to a definition, students can underline or highlight the word as a way to stay focused.


Before marking anything, it is a good idea to identify any special considerations. For example, if the answer form is computer readable, any stray markings may interfere with scoring. In such cases, the teacher may need to transfer the student's answers to another form, an accommodation that may require additional sign-offs or specific procedures.

In addition, keep in mind that this accommodation may be perceived as giving the student the answer. To avoid inadvertently selecting cues that coach the student, have another adult review them prior to sharing with the student.

Excerpted from Assessment Accommodations Toolkit.

Council for Exceptional Children

Provided in partnership with The Council for Exceptional Children.

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