Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Examples of Modified Assignments for Students with Special Needs

Here are some examples of modifications. Remember, that a modified lesson in an inclusive classroom is a lesson where the objective and/or learning materials have been changed to meet the needs of a special learner.  However, the overall concept or activity remains the same so that the learner can experience the curriculum alongside his or her classmates.

This math sheet has been easily modified by providing alternate questions.
Photo from www.teachingtoinspirein5th.blogspot.com.

This math sheet can be modified by having the student complete
alternate math operations with the numbers on the page.

This Grade 8 science vocabulary activity has become a YES/NO activity.

An alternate activity is provided for the student
using the same handout as the rest of the class.
Photo from www.whalenmom.blogspot.com.

Alternate text can be placed over the original text in a class novel.

In addition, you can modify a lesson by using the following strategies:

Fill in the Blank
Word Banks
Multiple Choice
Reduced work

Hope this is helpful!  Let me know if you have any questions. Also, feel free to share any modified activities you may have!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Is it an Accommodation or a Modification?

Accommodations and modifications are two different types of strategies teachers use to help students with learning needs access the curriculum.  These strategies are used frequently in an inclusive education system. With the goal to include students of various abilities in a general education classroom and have the same learning opportunities, the teacher needs to adjust either the objective of a lesson and/or the materials used for the lesson.

Accommodations and modifications are determined by the school support team (including the classroom teacher and parents) and written into a plan usually outlined in a 504 Plan or Individual Education Plan. To help clarify the difference between the two, here is a brief overview below. (Note: Click on the image for a free download.)

To help you further understand the difference, here are some examples:


An overlay is used to help the words on the page become much clearer for the student to read. 

Note that the content has not changed.


In this example, the activity stays the same but the learning outcome has changed.

Hope this helps you understand the difference between the two! For more detailed information and strategies to modify curriculum, check out, Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Is it Inclusion?

Confused about inclusion? Use this handy chart to help you understand what inclusion is and isn't!

Friday, August 22, 2014

5 Ways to Create an Inclusive Reading and Writing Program

Inclusive classrooms are not only classrooms that physically include students with special needs. They are classrooms where lessons and programs are also designed with learning needs and differences in mind. Creating an inclusive curriculum means acknowledging that students learn in various ways, at different rates and have diverse interests. It means that different resources are brought together to allow students greater access to curriculum and more successful learning outcomes. Here are some tips to help you design your inclusive language arts program:

Many Kinds of Books
An inclusive language arts program begins with recognizing that children learn to read at different rates and at different times. To support this reading development, a variety of books are available for the students to read during lessons and unstructured time.

These include books that are at different reading levels (from beginning reader to fluent reader), books that are fiction and non-fiction, illustrated and chapter books as well as books on tape. Scholastic has an extensive lists of leveled books that can be searched by genre, age, difficulty and interest. 

In addition, there are many books that have been adapted for students to include symbols and pictures. The Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities has a tool to search adapted books. 

Screen shot of Scholastic's Book Wizard

Integrated Technology
When possible, inclusive classrooms integrate technology into the language arts curriculum. This means that technology is not just used to demonstrate a new idea or skill (ie. watching a movie on a television monitor), but it is used to facilitate and support different learning styles (ie. a text to speech program for a student with learning disabilities). Technology in the inclusive class is used as way for students to access learning materials and is an integral part of lesson planning. For more information on how technology in the inclusive classroom is used, have a look at this chart:

Found on www.teachbytes.com

Graphic Organizers Galore
A graphic organizer is a visual tool that is used to organize ideas, express knowledge, create relationships and allow users to communicate. Taking information out of text and putting it into graphic organizers allows learners to actively work with concepts for greater understanding. Graphic organizers can not only be used by students to respond to new ideas but also for teachers who want to deliver lessons in more visual ways. Finally, graphic organizers can be used for not only a language arts program but for other subject areas as well. For a comprehensive bank of graphic organizers, check out the Education Place.

Tons of Tools
As an inclusive educator, I have more highlighters, pencils, markers, overlays and different types of paper than an office supply store.  In addition to graphic organizers, students can use a variety of tools to help them organize and understand ideas.  For example, rulers can be used to help students stay on track while reading text. Colored highlighters can be used to find main ideas in text and colored overlays can improve the ability to see words. Check out this resource for more strategies and examples of ways to adapt and modify content.

From www.nrsi.com

Voice Their Choice
Allowing students to have choice in what and how they read, facilitates more enthusiasm and engagement in learning. Students can be given the opportunity to choose their own books for not only personal enjoyment but for curriculum as well. They can be given choice in how they show their understanding of the book or even how they share the book with others. There can also be choice in the reading strategies that the student uses to understand text. If you are looking to create a more student-centered approach to reading and writing, this is an excellent video that explains how a student-driven language arts program can improve reading skills.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

8 Tips to Prepare Your Special Needs Child For a New School Year

Children with special needs require extra attention during the shift from one school year to the next. A change in environment or routine can be disruptive. 

Without proper planning, adjustment to a new school year can be challenging. When a significant change is about to take place for a special needs child, schools will often set up a transition plan.
A transition plan is designed to help ease the student into a new situation.

It is important for parents to know that they can also help transition their child into a new school year. More importantly, parents should begin preparing their child for the new school year before the old one is over! Preparation and support can continue through the school break, right up until the first day back to school. This strategy is known as “front-loading”. By “front-loading”, you are giving your child information and skills in order to make an experience or activity as successful as possible.

Here are some ways in which parents can help their special needs child prepare for a new school year:

  • Find out who your child’s teacher will be for the next school year before the summer break.
  • Meet with next year’s teacher, preferably before the current school year ends. Introduce your child and ask for a tour of the classroom. (If your child is new to the school, ask if you can see the rest of the building. Don’t forget to check out the playground!) You might also be able to meet with new support staff as well
  • Bring a camera during your meeting and ask to take photos of the new classroom, teacher and surroundings.
  • Ask if any of your child’s friends will be in the same class. 
  • Ask the teacher to provide you with the daily class routine so that you can review this schedule with your child at home.
  • There are many books and computer applications for children that tell social stories. Provide your child with social stories that model appropriate behavior at school and with other children.
  • Create a “Transition Book” for your child. This is a book about your child’s new teacher and class. You can use the photos you took during your meeting at the school. Look at the book regularly to help your child become familiar with the new environment.
  • Once school has started, check-in with your child’s new teacher on a regular basis to see if the transition has been successful.

A parent can prepare their special needs child for a new school year by providing appropriate information, skills and strategies. This will help ensure that transitioning into a new class will be a positive experience!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Inclusion

The door to my Kindergarten classroom in urban, multicultural and economically diverse Burnaby, British Columbia Canada opens on the Tuesday after Labor Day in September. The children in my classroom come from a school community with 24% of families with an annual income of under $30 000. Housing in this community consists of both rental and homeowner properties. 

The neighborhood consists of two-parent, single parent and blended families with most parents working. Many of the children who attend this school are in daycare or left on their own before and after school. Within this community there is a diverse multicultural population, where the home language for 34% of students is not English. Approximately 26% of the students in this school receive English as a Second Language support. 

My learners are VERY diverse. In this class, depending on the needs of the year, there might be: children with ADHD, Hard of Hearing, Selective Mutism, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, severe learning disabilities, multiple ESL learners, Cerebral Palsy, Severe Behavior, Downs Syndrome, or some other assortment of needs.

However, I open the door with confidence! I know that I have the skills and support required to do my job in meeting the needs of the diverse learners placed in my care. I have a well thought out and honed philosophical foundation in place that begins with the belief that all learners are strong and capable and that play is the work of the child. With hundreds of hours of professional development under my belt during 18 years of teaching (which is supported by a vast body of valid research), this provides me with a deeper understanding of what constitutes exemplary practice.

The Ministry of Education in British Columbia, Canada has endorsed my practice by providing me with a well thought out and well balanced, child centered curriculum that addresses not only Intellectual; but also Social/Emotional, Aesthetic/Artistic, Social Responsibility and Physical Development foci. My School Board has supported me by affirming my core beliefs around play and inclusion. And, there is most certainly money to fund the support I need in such a diverse classroom through the presence of Paraprofessionals and Specialist Teachers. 

And, in my district, for the most part, teachers are given the gift of autonomy. They are given permission to teach CHILDREN rather than being bound by constraints of rigid curriculum that is lock-step.

By October, supports are put in place to build strong community ties: parents are invited to come in to read with children at the beginning of the day, to run cooking programs, to run games centers with children, to run science experiments, to help with field trips, and much more. The school Parent-Teacher Committee hosts community Bar-B-Ques at least twice a year. Opportunities are presented for all parents to become part of our school community through sponsored meetings and events. Parents are an integral part of classroom programming. At least two Potlucks occur during the school year to bring families together and help them forge important relationships that will carry through, for the most part, for these families and children, from Kindergarten to Grade 7. 

The school community is a stable one. Color, race, creed, or disabilities of any kind are embraced and treated equally in this classroom and school. The model being presented is one of inclusion, and in this class there is an attitude of acceptance for all. Every child belongs, and every child has the right to an inclusive education.

Before beginning a conversation about inclusion of special needs students in schools, it is important to start with a definition of what we are talking about. This provides a beginning step that will provide a context.

For the purposes of this conversation, I will share and use Wikipedia’s definition, which I found on Google, October 2, 2011:

           Inclusion in education is an approach to educating students with special educational needs. Under the inclusion model, students with special needs spend most or all of their time with non-disabled students... Inclusive education differs from… notions of ‘integration’ and ‘mainstreaming’, which (tend) to be concerned principally with disability and ‘special educational needs’ and implies learners must change or become ‘ready for’ or deserving of accommodation by the mainstream. By contrast, inclusion is about the child’s right to participate and the school’s duty to accept the child. Inclusion rejects the use of special schools or classrooms to separate students with disabilities from students without disabilities. A premium is placed upon full participation by students with disabilities and upon respect for their social, civil, and educational rights. Fully inclusive schools (do not) distinguish between "general education" and "special education" programs; instead, the school is restructured so that all students learn together”

Further to this, Dr. Jacqueline Specht on the Center for Inclusive Education website http://www.edu.uwo.ca/inclusive_education/inclusion.asp (October 2, 2011) states that

      “Inclusion assumes that children with special needs are part of the regular stream and should be treated as such. Inclusion is based on Wolfensberger's principle of normalization (i.e., all persons regardless of ability should live and learn in environments as close to normal as possible). The basic idea behind normalization is that people with special needs should be viewed in the ways in which they are the same as other people rather than in the ways in which they are different.”

These definitions in my mind very nicely outline some important points that will help me begin to talk about how we start laying foundations for inclusive classrooms and schools. These are: 

Philosophical Foundations

We need to begin with an assumption that all students have the right to be part of regular education classrooms and from this place begin to develop plans around how best to accomplish the goal of inclusion, if this is the desired end result. Belief systems are built through research and conversations about this research. It also requires commitment from key stake holders and a desire to move in new directions.

Moving from a segregated to an inclusive learning environment must begin by examining the philosophical underpinnings of the overriding system as well as educators within it. If the belief is that children with extra needs are ‘special’ and don’t belong in the regular classroom, they never will be. It is important to note that there is much research to support the benefits of the inclusion of students with extra needs.

I’d like to share some of my own personal philosophical beliefs before I move to outlining a practical example of how in my district children with special needs designations and their families are prepared to enter school with the intent of making the entry to school a success. I believe that:

  • Inclusive environments do not happen by accident… They are created through careful planning and preparation.

  • There are many steps to supporting all children that happen both in and out of the classroom, from Kindergarten to Grade 12. I am a Kindergarten teacher and as such am blessed with the opportunity to set up successful beginnings for all families – those with designated extra needs and without.

  •       I begin with the tenant that each child has blessings and strengths to bring. Children are strong and capable – not weak or with inherent deficits. All have areas that will require support to move forward. The point I want to make clear here is that I do not put my students with designations such as Autism, Learning Disabilities, ESL, behaviour and the like into a ‘special box’ in my head that will separate them from our classroom learning community. They all belong and it is my job to help each one of them become successful.

  •      I must modify my programming to accommodate the child and his/her needs. I have a child-centered approach to teaching and learning. There is curriculum to accomplish, of course – but it is my belief that in order to help children be successful in school I need to assess where they are then come up with a ‘doable’ plan to help that child move from where they are in their learning toward curriculum mastery. For each child this plan looks a bit different – designated special needs or not!

  •      The families of the children I teach are the first teachers and are to be valued and included in their children’s education.

  •       I do not work in isolation in my classroom. I continuously draw on the expertise of those around me to help when I hit a dead end and don’t know what to do next. I don’t have all the answers and grow stronger through collaboration with school based colleagues, our resource team, district experts, and of course parents too!

Systematic Support in Classrooms

Inclusive schools and classrooms cannot be built in isolation – systemic supports are crucial to success. In British Columbia our education system supports a full inclusion model of teaching and learning. Without this support I could not do what I do with the children brought to me each day.

We have a curriculum that is well rounded; valuing core academic areas as well as physical, social emotional and social responsibility. Our teaching philosophy embraces a celebration of diversity and focuses for the most part *not* on differences but on ways we are alike. 

Overall our teachers place children at the heart of practice. While curriculum is important and of course drives our teaching, we greet children as they are, assess their needs, and develop plans to move each individual from where s/he is closer to meeting the learning outcomes determined by our provincial Ministry of Education. 

We look for strengths in each individual and do what we can to build on these strengths. And, there is money behind our model of inclusion – we have special education assistants to work in classrooms with our children who have special or what I like to call “extra” needs, district Speech and Language pathologists, district Hearing Resource teachers, school and district based Learning Resource teachers, and professional development opportunities for teachers to learn about differentiating instruction in our classrooms so that as much as possible we meet our students individual needs. All these things have come about for us through years of discussion, professional development and support from our Ministry.

Building Inclusion

Before a child with known special or as I like to say ‘extra’ needs designations enter school in my district, systems are in place to do everything possible to set up supports to help him/her transition successfully. Our district learning support team has worked out collaborative systems with previous professionals from health systems, preschools, and the like so that (with parent permission) information gathering meetings can take place in June with relevant previous and upcoming stakeholders such as Speech and Language Pathologists, Preschool Teachers, Occupational Therapists, Hearing Specialists, Parents, etc. to share information that will benefit the child and set up successful beginnings when the school year starts in September. These meetings begin with a discussion of the child’s strengths and gifts so we can begin in a place of capability for the child and do what we can to build on these strengths.

Then, we move into areas that might present challenges for the child entering school and we find out what has worked for this child in the previous environment to help him/her overcome these challenges. It is an information exchange. For example, if a child has an autism designation and is non-verbal, visual schedules are shared and adapted/modified to suit the Kindergarten environment. If a child has a history of hitting, strategies that have worked in the past are shared and the team brainstorms strategies that might work in the Kindergarten environment to ensure as much success as possible. These are just two examples of how supports are put in place based on what is come before. It is the intent that the classroom teacher receiving this child in September can begin implementing strategies that have worked in the past beginning the first week of school.

In October, another meeting takes place with the classroom teacher, school personnel, and the parents to develop an IEP that will be reviewed again in May, before the year ends to revisit established goals set in October and make adjustments as needed so that when that child returns to school in September, there are again supports in place to do everything possible to ensure success as the child transitions to a new teacher and classroom community. 

It is also worth noting that in June, before the child in question leaves the preschool or home setting where s/he has been living and learning, resource teacher personnel will go in to observe the designated child in a setting comfortable to him/her (again with parent permission and agreement). Conversations ensue and help determine strategies that might help the child transition as successfully as possible to the Kindergarten environment.

Strengthening Inclusion

Parents are a key part of successful inclusion. I look to my parents of children with extra needs to help me understand their children and to help guide my decisions about programming for success. I make myself available whenever possible for consultation as needed. I am a teacher who values all parent input greatly.

Having said this, I am also a teacher who believes that children with designations (aka children with ‘special’ or ‘extra’ needs) whenever possible ought not be singled out and viewed as ‘different’. As a result, I invite parents of all children in our classroom community to join us to help with activities such as driving for field trips, running science experiments, cooking activities, bingo games, reading, and etc. 

I don’t differentiate parents in the same way I don’t differentiate students in my class. Parents are always welcome and are a valued part of our classroom community.

Gayle Hernandez began her teaching career 18 years ago. She has spent 16 of the past years she has taught Kindergarten in inclusive schools. She has presented multiple workshops on the topic of Kindergarten in the Burnaby school district, has facilitated Burnaby’s Kindergarten Network for 10 years, and completed a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of British Columbia in 2007. Gayle is passionate about inclusion and building classroom and school communities. Please feel free to contact me at kindergayle@shaw.ca or follow me on Twitter @kindergayle.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

10 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make in the Inclusive Class

#1  Don’t put students with special needs at the back of classroom or away from other kids.

Do seat your student with special needs in an appropriate spot with the rest of your students. Physical proximity indeed facilitates inclusion. There becomes increased opportunities for peer and teacher interaction, learning experiences and teacher observation of the student's progress. In addition, students feel valued, a sense of belonging and develop confidence.

#2  Don’t expect the Paraprofessional to work independently and without support.

Do work collaboratively with the Paraprofessional in your classroom! Together, plan for the support programs in your classroom as well as assessment strategies, expectations of routines and lines of communication between school and home. This will allow for the best use of the Para's skills and create a culture of respect and teamwork in the classroom.

#3  Don’t expect all the students will learn the same way.

Research has proven time and again that students learn in different ways at different times. Keep that in mind when determining what you want to teach and how. Allow for lessons that vary in time, resources and instruction style to meet the needs of most of your learners.

#4  Don’t have one level of reading material in your classroom.

Just because you teach 7th grade, doesn’t mean that all your students read at a grade 7 level. Provide books that will be accessible for all your students such as books with large print, picture books, novels, non fiction and fiction. Keep the reading material varied and interesting. Not everyone wants to read the same type of book over and over again.

#5  Don’t direct teach all the time.

Direct teaching assumes that all students are auditory learners and learn the same way. Wrong. Because there are so many different ways to learn, it is important for the teacher to teach in a variety of ways. Teach lessons through co-operative learning, self-discovery, with visuals, or with another teacher. This keeps your students interested in the subject matter which in turn will facilitate learning.

#6  Don’t use text books and hand-outs only.

Again, this teaching approach assumes that  all students will respond and absorb information the same way. Inclusive classrooms provide opportunities for all children to learn, thus there needs to be a variety of resources to support different learning styles. Find manipulatives, audio-visual resources, technology and materials that students can use to help process information.

#7  Don’t use the same teaching material year after year.

There are many teacher guides and textbooks available to schools these days that support the curriculum outcomes. However, solely relying on the same materials year and year is not recommended. Material can quickly become outdated, incorrect and even unappealing to your students. Keep your resources current so your students stay engaged.

#8  Don’t talk to parents only during IEP season.

Parents play an important role in education. They not only offer support with class activities but are a valuable source of information. They know more about their child than you! Establish a relationship at the beginning of the school year, keep the lines of communication open throughout the year (through email, webpages, notes and phone calls) and work together to provide a positive educational experience for their child. 

#9  Don’t glance at the IEP once and file it away.

An IEP (Individual Education Plan) is a working document. That means it contains information that will guide the type of learning experiences a student will have to support his or her learning goals through the year. It is therefore necessary to refer to the IEP repeatedly to assess the student’s progress in meeting the IEP goals. Keep the IEP in a handy, secure spot where it can easily be reviewed throughout the year.

#10  Don’t plan activities and lessons that will exclude students in your class.

Always be aware of the type of activities your students will be involved with and determine if all your students can participate. This includes not only activities in the classroom but also the school such as dances, assemblies, sports and clubs. 

Planning ahead and communicating with other staff members will give you the time to accommodate your student’s needs. All effort should be made to include students with special needs to the greatest extent possible.

Do you have any other mistakes that teachers in inclusive classrooms should avoid? If so, please comment below!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

10 of the Best Pinterest Boards About Inclusion

As Pinterest becomes a popular way for teachers to share and find resources for their classroom, I would like to give you a list of my favorite Inclusion boards! 

The number of boards dedicated to inclusive education is growing daily and I’m sure I have missed out on some very noteworthy mentions. For that reason, please let me know in the comment section below, of any pinners or boards that you find very helpful. However, for the time being you can’t go wrong following these Pinterest boards, where you will find so many ways to enrich and enhance your inclusive classroom!

1.  Brenda Schottmuller -  The mother of all inclusion boards, Brenda’s Pinterest board has over 3500 pins related to inclusion! You’ll be sure to find lots of tips, advice and 
information for all age levels here. Give yourself a lot of time to look through it!

2.  Lisa Friedman - Lisa’s Inclusion board is a collaborative board where several inclusion advocates (including The Inclusive Class) pin their favorites in one place. You will see a variety of pins here, including blog posts and articles that make you think about inclusive practice.

3.  Melina Nafarrate - This board is focused on inclusion in the early years. Melina pins ideas for hands-on activities, books and classroom management.

4.  Ariel Glassman - Ariel's board has over 700 pins with a combination of inclusive activities, information about special needs, practical ideas and quotes. Although many of the pins are geared towards the elementary years, some can be adapted for middle and high school.

5.  Brookes Publishing - Brookes is a leading publisher of books about inclusive education. Therefore, most of the pins on this board are books about inclusion that Brookes has published. It’s a great board to help you keep up with hot topics in inclusive education and recent research.

6.  Kerri Haycook - On Kerri’s Inclusion board, you will find some very user-friendly charts, checklists and graphics that can be used in the inclusive classroom. Data sheets and IEP worksheets are also pinned to supplement the necessary

documents that an inclusion teacher needs.

7.  Whitney Fazier - Numerous charts and visuals that can used in the inclusive classroom are the highlight of this inclusion board. There are ideas and suggestions that can be used in both elementary and middle school classrooms. Since many learners need visual supports, this board will be useful for any teacher.

8.  Glitter Apples - As the title of this board indicates (Special Needs and Inclusion), it has pins about special needs as well as inclusion. Close to 500 pins describe various learning disabilities, physical, developmental and neurological issues. This is a fantastic resource for any inclusion teacher to refer to when planning for lessons and support in the classroom.

9.  Lindsey Ding - Lindsey's board is dedicated to the Common Core and how it relates to inclusion. It is a resource
that elementary teachers will find very helpful when planning inclusive lessons that meet Common Core expectations. Hand-outs, lesson plans, and activities line this board.

10. Kathleen McKlaskey - Kathleen is known for her resources and knowledge of technology to support learning and “level the playing field”.  On this board, she has numerous pins with suggestions for apps that can be used for special learners. Save yourself some time and refer to Kathleen’s board when looking for educational apps in your classroom!

Do you have any boards to add to this list? Leave a comment below! 

Don't forget to follow The Inclusive Class on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest for more resources about inclusive education!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to Make Your Classroom Inclusive Today: The First 15 Minutes

1.  Before School

Including children with various needs in a general education classroom can be a concern for some teachers who have not had any experience with inclusion. It can be an overwhelming task with IEPs to follow, adaptations to make, and differentiated lessons to create. Not to mention, inclusion is rumored to cost a lot of money! How can general education teachers ever make this work?

First and foremost, inclusion is an attitude not a program. Just by starting to think that all children in your class will be included as much as possible is the best way to begin! In fact, one of the most effective, inclusive behaviors is to use inclusive language! Rather than using the word “them” when referring to children with special needs , start using the words “we” or  “us”.  And, second, start small.  Making a few tweaks to your curriculum and daily schedule each  week will set you on your way! 

In this article, I list several ways in which you can quickly, easily and cheaply transform the beginning of the school day to make it more inclusive and support students with various social, emotional, physical and intellectual needs. These activities can be adapted to most grade levels. 

2.  Meet and Greet

Shaking a student's hand
at the beginning of class
If you are a teacher who sits at your desk as the students enter the room, you would surprised at what a difference greeting them at the door makes. For some children, this will be the first positive interaction they have had with an adult that morning. 

This time can set the stage for a day full of positive learning experiences.  By cheerfully greeting each student you let them know it is a new day with a fresh start and you are happy to see them. In a very effective way, this creates the sense that you are on their team and are ready to help them learn. (In addition, it has the added benefit of allowing you to assess the mood of the students before they even sit down so you can make curriculum adjustments accordingly!). Here are some ways to greet your class:

  • high-five
  • fist bump
  • say ‘Hello’ in another language
  • secret password
  • handshake
  • wave

Teacher giving the students
 a high-five

Different ways to say 'hello'
Found on Pinterest

3.  Seating

Before sitting down at their desks, make sure the students know where to put their belongings.  Assign hooks, shelves or lockers to students. You would be surprised at the amount of interaction that goes on in this area, so help students be fair and considerate of one another.  In addition, take the time to plan a seating arrangement for your class. Make seating inclusive by:

  • taking into account student needs (ie. physical, sensory, or proximity to teacher). For example, placing a student with ADHD near the front of the class allows the teacher to help the student remain focussed.)  
  • placing desks in a way that facilitates inclusion such as a horseshoe shape, in pairs, groups, a circle or side by side in a line. 
  • ensuring that ALL students are a part of this arrangement and not relegated to the back corner of the classroom
  • Instead of individual desks, use large tables for students to sit around

A modified "horseshoe" seating arrangement

4.  Schedule

Posting the class schedule in a highly visible area of the classroom supports ALL students by providing predictability, routine and transitions. Schedules can be used and created in many different ways such as:

  • a visual schedule with pictures of activity and/or time the activity takes place
  • individual schedules at the student’s desk

In addition, the use of timers during each new learning time can help students anticipate future transitions in the schedule.

A visual timer found on www.online-stopwatch.com

Individual schedules taken from

Visual Schedule with print
and picture

5.  Sponge Activity

After the students are seated, help them prepare for learning with a “Sponge” activity.  A sponge activity is always engaging and sets the student up for learning. In addition, this is typically a quiet time that allows the teacher to take care of matters such as attendance or homework check. Here are some guidelines I use for Sponge activities:

  • Always provide choices for Sponge activity
  • Offer choices that appeal to various learning styles 
  • Provide choices that are at various skill levels
  • Choices come from various subject areas
  • Sponge activities can be done independently

A "Choice Board" with Sponge activities

An example of what students might see
when they enter the room

Let me know if you make any of these changes! To  help you get started, I have put all these suggestions into a checklist:

*Unless otherwise noted, all images are royalty-free and are from Google Images