Guest Educator

Classroom Inclusion: What It Takes

by Kristen Young

This month’s guest educator, Kristen Young, is the lead teacher for the 5th and 6th grades at Penn Treaty Middle School in Philadelphia. MetroKids invites teachers to contribute Guest Educator articles that offer insights to other teachers and parents about topics such as curriculum, techniques, motivation, discipline or teacher-parent relations. Please send ideas to editor@metrokids.com.

Statistics show that some students with learning disabilities benefit more when placed in an inclusive program than when in a self-contained special education class.

In my school last year this proved true. “Inclusion students” gained an average of 1.15 years in reading and 1.1 years in math, while their fellow students in self-contained classrooms gained .125 in reading and .175 in math. So what does it take to create a successful inclusion program?

Administrators Need To:

• Schedule a planning period for the regular education and special education teacher to discuss lessons weekly.

• Plan the program so the special education teacher is in the classroom team teaching with the regular education teacher for the majority of the day.

• Provide professional development on using successful strategies in an inclusive classroom.

• Act as a support service to ensure that students get the accommodations and materials they need and that students who will benefit are chosen.

Accommodations by Teachers:

Best practices for all students also work best for inclusive classrooms. The curriculum doesn’t need to be “watered down” for students with learning disabilities, it needs to be differentiated to address various learning styles.

To do this without interruption of the daily lesson, treat all students the same. Give the accommodations for everyone and ALL students will benefit.

• As much as possible, when introducing a topic, give examples that include reading excerpts, modeling, visual aids, graphics, and hands-on activities or demonstrations.

• Organize and break down directions into single steps.

• Break down long-term assignments or projects into individual chunks. Show examples from previous students.

• Give students a specific scoring guide so they know exactly how much each part of the project is worth.

• Review new vocabulary daily. Make sure everyone knows the words before moving onto the breadth of the concept.

• Keep a list of words and pages they can be found on in the classroom for quick reference for each topic.

• Allow students to work in diverse groups or with partners whenever possible; it enhances the ability of the teachers and students to help each other with concepts and better understand where extra help is needed. It also takes the pressure from students with learning disabilities to read new material alone.

• Verbal cues and prompts along with visual aides and organizers help students understand and know where to look in the classroom to get help.

• Let students know what items they will be responsible for presenting to the class ahead of time so they can focus and feel successful in front of their peers. This can be done by simply circling an item on an assignment sheet or indicating a number to them by holding up your fingers.

• During testing read every question in the beginning of the period so students know what the questions say and can ask for clarification if needed.

• Vary types of questions on the test.

• Consider other types of assessments such as posters explaining a concept, diagrams or graphic organizers, and oral presentations explaining concepts to the rest of the class.

• Hands-on labs and activities can be used as assessments.

• Student logs and portfolios help keep track of assignments and monitor progress.

• Have high expectations for ALL students in the class.

Parents Can:

• Help your children organize their schedules at home.

• Break their studying down into 15-minute chunks each night so they are prepared for class the next day.

• Encourage your children to complete as much of an assignment as possible and write a short explanation of what they did not understand about an assignment.

• Communicate with the teachers about problems as soon as possible.

Remember, this is an ongoing process. Students’ goals and needs on their IEPs (individualized education programs) are continually re-examined so teams that work together with the school help ensure the best educational placement for each child.