Inclusive education is largely based on an attitude towards educating students with special needs. Essentially, it does not differentiate between students who are typically developing and students who are not. It is about educating all students, alongside same-age peers and peers with varying abilities, in a general education classroom.
Inclusive education is reliant on student access to curriculum. Schools must create opportunities using activities, space and materials so that all students can learn. If you are working in an inclusive classroom or are on the journey to becoming one, here are 10 items that can make your classroom more inclusive:
1. A Large Table
There is no piece of furniture more important in an inclusive classroom than a table large enough for small groups of students. Having a table allows the teacher to bring students together and provide them with various types of instructional programming that meet the needs of the group. In addition, students can meet at the table to work together on projects, have discussions or use as an alternate work space. The table is usually placed in a prominent area of the room, and facilitates many opportunities for students to be members of a group.
Technology is vital to the 21st century classroom. Not only does it allow students to keep up with our changing world, it provides accessibility to the curriculum for learners with special needs. Whether it be a computer, iPad, audio/visual equipment or assistive devices, technology can play various roles in the inclusive classroom. It can offer educational software, provide an accessible curriculum to children with special needs and help differentiate lessons. Highly engaging, technology appeals to most groups of students and supports inclusion in numerous ways.
Inclusive classrooms provide curriculum for different types of learners. For some learners, they prefer a “hands-on” approach to help them understand lessons. Manipulatives can support this process by allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge, develop new levels of understanding and explore deeper concepts. Manipulatives can be easily grouped, placed into plastic containers and put on shelves around the room. Useful for all ages, manipulatives are an easy way to make a classroom more inclusive.
4. Visual Aides
Visual aides are, undoubtedly, very important items in the inclusive classroom. They attract student interest, explain an idea or help a student understand a lesson. Visual aides come in many forms and there should be a variety available in a classroom to facilitate inclusion.
Some examples include: schedules, posters, number lines, charts, diagrams, graphic organizers and different types of paper such as lined, plain or graph. A visual aide can also be a SMART Board, television or iPad. Inclusive classrooms always have numerous types of visual aides handy to help deliver, accommodate or modify a lesson.
5. Positive Behavior Management System
A positive behavior management system can support and maintain a safe, optimal learning environment. It allows the teacher to highlight and reinforce the strengths of individual learners. In addition, it provides students with cues to good behavior.
Supporting student behavior, maintaining a calm learning environment and providing predictable routines assist in giving all learners optimal learning conditions. For a detailed description of a positive behavior management system used in inclusive classrooms, you can refer to My Secret Strategy to Successful Classroom Management.
6. High-Interest Leveled Books
Inclusive classrooms recognize that students learn in different ways in different rates. Not only do teachers want to provide lessons that address the varying abilities, but also provide classroom materials that all students can use. As well as textbooks, an inclusive classroom should also provide books that can be read for enjoyment. Offering books (or audio books) that are age-appropriate, interesting and can be read by readers at different levels are an important way of making a classroom more inclusive.
7. Job Chart
A Job Chart serves several purposes in a classroom. First, it helps keep the classroom running smoothly. Second, it enlists the help of the students and makes the workload lighter. Finally, and most importantly, it allows all students to contribute to the successful operation of the classroom. Class jobs are usually rotated weekly, with students participating in the best way they can for the betterment of the group. Often overlooked, yet very effective, a class job chart can include every student in the classroom in numerous ways.
Teachers need to have a method of choosing students for classroom-based activities in a fair manner. There are many strategies for this, but one simple and easy way that ensures all children in the classroom have an opportunity to be included is called Popsicle Sticks. This method involves putting each child’s name on a popsicle stick (found at craft stores) and placing all the sticks in a jar. Whenever the teacher requires students to make teams, complete a task, or answer a question, a popsicle stick is randomly chosen from the jar. This strategy ensures that every child in the classroom has a chance of being asked to complete the task and done so in an unbiased manner.
9. Student Information Binder
Because an inclusive class welcomes learners of all abilities, it is extremely important that teachers track the strengths and needs of each student. Important data such as assessments, observations, IEPs and notes can be kept together in one place. The teacher can use this information to ensure that all students are included and participating in the classroom program. A teacher can easily combine information into a Student Information Binder which will support the implementation of an inclusive curriculum.
Games such as card games, board games and classroom games are often used by teachers to reinforce a new concept. However, they also play a large role in teaching students social skills and team work. Because game choices are endless, they provide many different ways in which a student can participate. Most importantly, games can allow students to relax in the learning environment, enjoy one another’s company and form relationships. (Nicole Eredics)