Inclusive Classroom Essentials

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

5 Things Parents Need to Know About Inclusive Education


Parents of school-age children can often become bewildered by today’s education system and it’s expectations. Its quickly evolving nature makes it hard to keep up with the latest teaching methods, the many types of tests our children are receiving, and the technology they are using in the classroom. 

Parents of school age children with special needs however, have even more information to sift through – they need to also understand Individual Education Plans, special education acronyms, and different types of services that are available in special education. In short, the education system can completely overwhelm even the most knowledgeable people!

Inclusive education is one such term that is often used in special education as it is considered by special education experts to be the ideal situation for educating children with special needs. Sadly, however, the concept of inclusive education is often misunderstood. If you are a parent of a special needs child who is in an inclusive classroom or being considered for inclusive placement, this article will give you a brief overview of inclusive education and 5 things you need to know.

ALWAYS TOGETHER - A truly inclusive environment is one in which a special needs child is a fully active member of a general education classroom – not just for PE, Art or Music – but for all subjects. An inclusive school provides equal access to school routines and programs. Lunch and recess are together, students participate in assemblies and extracurricular activities are timed to include as many children and families as possible. Inclusion is a way of interacting with one another, not a place to go to for an hour every day.

ALWAYS PARTICIPATING - Inclusion promotes social interactions between students, teachers, parents and school. Relationships develop and are strengthened in an inclusive environment.

ALWAYS SUPPORTED - Support services for children with special needs are brought 
to the child in the classroom through paraprofessionals and resource staff. Parents are also included in this process! Inclusive classroom teachers have a significant understanding of the various needs that students have and use resources, support staff and assistive technology to meet those needs. 

ALWAYS LEARNING- Inclusion provides opportunity and equal access to schooling regardless of child’s ability level. Inclusive practice benefits ALL learners in the classroom.  It involves accommodating and modifying the curriculum to reach all learners. Students become more engaged, feel more successful and develop confidence in their ability to learn. Inclusion promotes a greater understanding of diversity and the world in which we live.

ALWAYS WELCOME – children with special needs are welcomed in the inclusive school, regardless of ability, age and needs!
            
Inclusive classrooms are places where all students can learn and thrive. The decision to place a special needs child in an inclusive class is best made between parents, teachers and the school. Parents can support this process by educating themselves on the social, emotional and intellectual benefits of inclusive education. However, parents should stay involved with their child’s education throughout the school year (through communication with teacher, volunteer work, and/or attendance at school events) to help ensure that their child is continuing to receive the best education possible.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Inclusion in Action: Positive Classroom Management


Over the past four months, my co-host Terri Mauro and I have interviewed experts, advocates and scholars on the topic of inclusion. On The Inclusive Class Radio Show, we have discussed the concept of inclusion, strategies for implementing inclusion and ways to support it. However, most recently two of our guests, Michael Linsin creator of Smart Classroom Management and Howard Glasser, author of the Nurtured Heart Approach talked about two other components to inclusion that combined are the true foundation for creating an inclusive class – positive classroom management.

A teacher is not only responsible for setting-up an inclusive class, delivering the curriculum, assessing its students and working with parents but a teacher is also tasked with generating a learning environment in which students are positive, happy, respectful and motivated. By using positive classroom management, there is a flow of self-esteem, respect, appropriate behavior, strong relationships and the inclusion of one another. Alternatively, unhappy, dis-engaged, and disrespectful students will generate negative behavior, poor work habits, limited opportunities to learn and weaker relationships with one another. Thus, positive classroom management is used to create an environment in which ALL students can thrive and achieve.

Positive classroom management can be described as making the strengths and abilities of the students the focus of the classroom. Students are guided with meaningful positive messages, clear rules and consequences. Time and energy is spent pointing out what the student is capable of doing. By hearing that he/she is “able”, encourages repeated, future behavior. For example, instead of hearing, “Good job”, the student might hear:

  • Thank you for walking to the door.
  •  I like how well you are listening to the story.
  •  Look how much detail you have added to this sentence.
  •  Your reading voice is very clear.
  •  You have followed the instructions very well.
  •  I’m happy to see that you handed in your homework. 

In addition, there is an added benefit to this type of positive classroom management strategy – it appeals to all types of learners. By pointing out positive behavior or responses in children, other students can model their own behavior on it. Other students can actually see what type of behavior is expected. Simply by saying, “Wow, I like how quietly Group A is sitting”, a teacher points out a real-life example of an expected behavior which can be emulated by the rest of the class.

Positive classroom management must be the foundation on which inclusive classrooms are built. Without it, the structure of inclusion can quickly crumble. By emphasizing the positive, students see the value in themselves and others. They are able to see their similarities and not their differences, and believe that everyone can make a contribution. That is inclusion.