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

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.


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.  

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