5 Fantastic Websites for Finding the Research on Inclusive Education

Saturday, November 28, 2015 4 comments

If you have seen or worked in an inclusive classroom, you will know inclusion makes a difference to everyone in the classroom. For people who aren't familiar with inclusion, they may be surprised to learn the numerous academic, social and physical benefits to inclusive education. These benefits have been proven through years of research. 

If you would like to know what the research says, here is a helpful list of reputable websites that have complied years of studies supporting inclusive education. 

1.  The National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion has put together an extensive list of research on the benefits of inclusion for all students particularly students with Intellectual Disabilities. At last glance,there were over 40 studies listed. Each study is linked to a source with a full description and more information.

2.  The Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education has a document called, Inclusion Works! In it, the MCIE has outlined why inclusion is effective with supporting evidence. In addition, they have added a section called, Making Inclusion Work. Here, readers will learn research-based strategies that make inclusion work (i.e. peer supports).

3.  The School Wide Integrated Framework for Transformation (aka SWIFT), is an organization that provides academic and behavior supports for promote the inclusion of students with complex needs in classrooms and schools. They have a document in which they note studies that show inclusion is beneficial to ALL students. In addition, they have noted studies that support their own efforts to advance inclusion. There is also a bibliography of research available.

4.  Including Samuel, is a film by Dan Habib, that documents his son's experiences with inclusive education. On the website, there is a page that has put together a summary of some of the research around inclusion.

5.  Wrightslaw is a well-known resource for parents and advocates of students with complex needs. On it, Dr. Kathleen Whitbread wrote an article called, What Does the Reasearch Say About Inclusive Education? In her article, she provides information on the history of inclusion, government mandates that support inclusion as well as notable research.

Inclusive Teachers Quote

Saturday, November 21, 2015 No comments

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015 No comments
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6 Must-Have Supplies for the Classroom

Saturday, October 17, 2015 No comments
Here are some supplies guaranteed to make your classroom inclusive! They are available from Lakeshore Learning and Target!

1.  Colored Overlays - help lift words off the page for kids who struggle to read or have attention issues.

2.  Number Lines - always handy for learning numbers, adding, subtracting, skip-counting and decimals. 

3.  Visual Timer - timers help kids manage their work and keep them on track. Helps with transitions as well!

4.  Color Coded Bins/Folders - this can be used in many ways such as organizing folders, homework, and reading groups and differentiated instruction. 

5.  Games - games help bring kids together, learn and develop social skills. Keep a variety of board, card and dice games on hand!

6.  Highlighters - very handy for making adaptations for students, focussing skills, learning and keeping organzied. 

10 Class Rules for the Teacher

Monday, September 14, 2015 2 comments
Teachers, by far, set the tone in a classroom and school. By using phrases such as, “You need to try harder.”, “What’s wrong with you?” and “Why can’t you listen to instructions?”, an air of disrespect, resentment and a drop in student motivation can occur.

So, I thought it could be helpful to post a list of classroom rules for teachers instead of the students. Why not? Sometimes adults need reminders about their behavior as well! Here a few not-so-serious (but, they could be serious) rules teachers can follow:

1. Use an “indoor voice” when speaking to the class. Yelling, shouting and screaming inside is best used when watching your favorite football team play a game on tv.

2. Be kind to others. Use “Please” and “Thank-you” often. Be courteous and model kindness.

3. Walk in the Classroom. Move around and help kids with their work, monitor behavior or answer a question. Be available and mobile.

4. Be a good listener. Listen to your students. Listen if a student tells you he/she is being bullied, doesn’t understand, is having a bad day, or didn’t eat breakfast.

5. Clean up after yourself. Keep clutter manageable. Allow students spaces to move freely and safely. 

6. Come to class prepared. Have your lesson plans for the day done, materials prepared and resources ready.

7. Follow instructions. Refer to the IEP, remember the request to call a parent after school, follow through with staff responsibilities. 

8. Stay on task. Teach not text, mark homework, give students one-to-one support or prepare for the next lesson.

9. Hand in work on time. Mark your student’s assignments in a timely fashion and hand them back within a week or two of the due date! Kids learn through their mistakes. By providing students with immediate feedback, they are more likely to retain the information.

10. Do your best. Seek the advice from your seasoned colleagues, look for resources, collaborate and never stop learning how to be the best teacher you can be!

10 Ways to Teach Social Skills in Your Classroom

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 3 comments
Research and experience has told us that having social skills is essential for success in life. Inclusive teachers have always taught, provided and reinforced the use of good social skills in order to include and accommodate for the wide range of students in the classroom. 

Essentially, inclusive classrooms are representations of the real world where people of all backgrounds and abilities co-exsist. In fact, there are school disctricts with curriculum specifically for social and emotional development. You can learn more about inclusion and teaching strategies in the inclusive classroom in my latest book, Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum. I am also available for school training sessions, professional development, and conference presentations (in-person and virtual) which are ideal for parents, teachers, administrators, specialists, and paraprofessionals.

In the meantime, here are some ways in which you can create a more inclusive classroom and support social skill development in your students: 

1.  Model Manners

If you expect your students to learn and display good social skills, then you need to lead by example. A teacher's welcoming and positive attitude sets the tone of behavior between the students. They learn how to interact with one another and value individuals.  For example, teachers who expect students to use "inside voices" shouldn't be yelling at the class to get their attention. In other words, practice what you preach. 

2.  Assign Classroom Jobs

Assigning classroom jobs to students provides opportunties to demonstrate responsibility, teamwork and leadership. Jobs such as handing out papers, taking attendance, and being a line-leader can highlight a student's strengths and in turn, build confidence. It also helps alleviate your workload! Teachers often rotate class jobs on a weekly or monthly basis, ensuring that every student has an opportunity to participate. Check out this list of classroom jobs for some ideas!

3.  Role-Play Social Situations

As any teacher knows, it's important to not only teach the students a concept or lesson but then give them a chance to practice what they have learned.  For example, if we teach students how to multiply, then we often provide a worksheet or activity for the students to show us their understanding of mulitiplication. The same holds true for teaching social skills. We need to provide students with opportunities to learn and practice their social skills. An effective method of practice is through role-playing. Teachers can provide structured scenarios in which the students can act out and offer immediate feedback. For more information on how to set-up and support effective role-playing in your classroom have a look at this resource from Learn Alberta.

4.  Pen-Pals

For years, I arranged for my students to become pen-pals with kids from another school. This activity was a favorite of mine on many different academic levels; most importantly it taught students how to demonstrate social skills through written communication. Particularly valuable for introverted personalities, writing letters gave students time to collect their thoughts. It levelled the playing field for students who had special needs or were non-verbal.  I was also able to provide structured sentence frames in which the kids held polite conversation with their pen-pal. Setting up a pen-pal program in your classroom takes some preparation before the letter writing begins. You want to ensure that students have guidelines for content and personal safety. This article on Edutopia will give you some ideas!

6. Large and Small Group Activities

In addition to the academic benefits, large and small group activities can give students an opportunity to develop social skills such as teamwork, goal-setting and responsibility. Students are often assigned roles to uphold within the group such as Reporter, Scribe, or Time-Keeper. Sometimes these groups are self-determined and sometimes they are pre-arranged. Used selectively, group work can also help quieter students connect with others, appeals to extroverts, and reinforces respectful behavior. Examples of large group activities are group discussions, group projects and games. Smaller group activities can be used for more detailed assignments or activities. For suggestions on how to use grouping within your classroom, check out this awesome link.

7.  Big Buddies

We know that learning to interact with peers is a very important social skill. It is just as important to learn how to interact with others who may be younger or older. The Big Buddy system is a great way for students to learn how to communicate with and respect different age groups. Often an older class will pair up with a younger class for an art project, reading time or games.  Again, this type of activity needs to be pre-planned and carefully designed with student's strengths and interests in mind. Usually, classroom teachers meet ahead of time to create pairings of students and to prepare a structured activity. There is also time set aside for the teacher to set guidelines for interaction and ideas for conversation topics. Entire schools have also implemented buddy programs to enrich their student's lives. Here is an article that describes how to start a reading buddy program.

8.  Class Stories

There are dozens of stories for kids that teach social skills in direct or inadvertant ways. Find strategies to incoporate these stories in your class programs. You can set aside some time each day to read-aloud a story to the entire class or use a story to teach a lesson. Better yet, have your class write their own stories with characters who display certain character traits. 

9.  Class Meeting

Class Meetings are a wonderful way to teach students how to be diplomatic, show leadership, solve problems and take responsibility. They are usually held weekly and are a time for students to discuss current classroom events and issues. Successful and productive meetings involve discussions centered around classroom concerns and not individual problems. In addition, it reinforces the value that each person brings to the class. Before a class meeting, teachers can provide the students with group guidelines for behavior, prompts, and sentence frames to facilitate meaningful conversation. Here is a great article on Education World that describes the purpose and attributes of a Class Meeting.

10. Explicit Instruction

Finally, teachers can carve out a time in their curriculum to directly teach social skills to their students. Research-based programs such as Second Step provide teachers and schools with explicit lessons for social development. These programs can provide schools and classrooms with a common language, set of behavior expectations, and goals for the future. I have used programs such as Second Step in my classrooms with much success!

What is Your Potential?

Thursday, June 25, 2015 No comments

7 Things for Parents to Do Before the School Year Ends!

Sunday, June 7, 2015 No comments
The end of the school year can make you feel like you've reached the end of a long marathon. However, before you cross the finish line, take these steps to ensure a smooth start after summer break!

1.  Find out who your child’s teacher will be for the next school year before the summer break.

2.  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.

3.  Bring a camera during your meeting and ask to take photos of the new classroom, teacher and surroundings.

4.  Ask if any of your child’s friends will be in the same class. Try to maintain friendships through the summer break.

5.  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.

6.  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.

7.  Once school has started, check-in with your child’s new teacher on a regular basis to see if the transition has been successful.

The Inclusive Class Project - Modifying Math

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 No comments

Here is a quick way to modify a math sheet for students working below grade-level! 

Inclusive Education: How to be an Advocate for Your Child

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 No comments
Parents may face many challenges when exploring education options in the American public school system — especially if they have a child with special needs. 
For example, how do parents find an education setting that best fits their child’s specific needs? Will the supports they’re seeking for their child be provided by the school? And if not, how do parents advocate for a more suitable placement? Searching for the right education setting for a child with a disability can be challenging, but it’s most effective with research and understanding a few key advocacy strategies.

What Is Inclusive Education?

Years of research and experience tell us that inclusive education — the practice of educating children of all abilities in one classroom — is the gold standard. Many schools, however, still have classrooms where children with disabilities are educated separately from the rest of the student population. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), a federal law originally enacted in 1975 and revised multiple times since, provides guidance for educating children with special needs. Though the word “inclusion” isn’t specifically used in its documents, the law requires that, to the greatest degree possible, children with disabilities should be educated in the “least restrictive environment” alongside their non-disabled peers — that is, in classrooms with children of all abilities.
Providing this type of learning environment, however, is subject to the needs of the student and the ability of the school to meet them. If a child’s learning needs can be met in general education classes, then the school can offer inclusive education. If the school believes it won’t be able to provide the supports a child requires in this type of setting — due to constraints on classroom options, staffing, budget, or resources — then a child can be placed in a “self-contained” (or segregated) classroom. While advocates for childrenwith learning disabilities often support inclusive education — and many parents prefer it — the reality is that you may not always have a choice at the school your child will attend.
If you are looking for this type of placement, ............ READ MORE HERE.

The Inclusive Classroom: Education for Children of All Needs

Thursday, April 2, 2015 No comments
Traditionally, public schools in America have educated students with disabilities separately from those without. 

In the past, this meant that students with special needs were sequestered in their own classrooms because educators believed that they were better served away from their typically-developing peers. As awareness of equal rights for the disability community has grown, an emerging body of research has lent support to a new approach to teaching, known as inclusive education. 
Inclusive education is reforming the way we engage and teach today’s students. It reflects the diversity of the larger world and recognizes that all children, regardless of ability, deserve equal educational opportunities. The inclusion of students with special needs in general education classrooms is quickly proving to be a highly effective model for allchildren.

The History of Inclusive Education

The Disability Rights Movement, which began in the 1960s, has made considerable strides securing equal opportunities in areas such as housing, jobs, and education. Today, we no longer believe that a lack of physical ability equates to a lack of intelligence. Over time, we have come to recognize the contributions that each person makes through her skills, talents, and intellect. 
As a result of this gradual shift in thinking, people began to realize that millions of children with disabilities were being underserved, leading to the 1990 passage of The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This law requires “… public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities afree appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs.” In general, “least restrictive environment” means that, to the maximum extent possible, children who have disabilities should be educated alongside non-disabled peers so that all children have access to the same educational opportunities and experiences. In schools, the type of learning environment that provides this access is known as inclusive education.

The Nature of Inclusive Education

Inclusive education has several key elements that differ from traditional, segregated special education. First, it begins with the premise that all children can and do learn from meaningful, quality curricula. The term, “presume competence,” coined by inclusion expert Cheryl M. Jorgensen, reminds us not to judge a person’s abilities or potential. Based on this philosophy, inclusive classrooms are........KEEP READING HERE.

Another Example of a Modified Math Assignment

Thursday, March 19, 2015 No comments

Here is an example of a modified multiplication worksheet! 

No extra, time-consuming work needed - just a few quick alterations and away you go! 

Go here for more examples of modified work!

Work With Me!

Sunday, March 15, 2015 No comments

I am passionate about inclusive education and love to share what I’ve learned over the past 20 years as an inclusion teacher, parent, advocate, writer and speaker.  

If you are eager to learn what inclusive education is, how to successfully include students with special needs in your classroom, advocate for inclusion or find resources, then we need to connect!

There are several ways in which I can help you achieve your goals for inclusion. I have listed them below:

1.  Writing Services:  I have written dozens of articles about inclusive education for my own blog in addition to other educational sites such as ASCD, The Friendship Circle of Michigan, Ollibean and Noodle. 

2.  Webinar Presentations: I love to organize and present webinars. I helped organize a highly successful webinar series with Brookes Publishing, presented a webinar for the Great Public Schools Network and most recently, Lekotek. My webinars are informative, interactive and based on research and experience. In addition, I was interviewed on the topic of inclusive education on HuffPost Live.  

3.  Speaking & Workshop Services:  I am available for keynote speeches, breakout sessions, and workshops. I can speak to parents, teachers, administrators, and community stakeholders who are interested in successfully including students with disabilities in the classroom. I am interactive, informative (with the latest research), and practical. Here is a list of events that I have spoken at:

I am delighted to share the knowledge and experience I have with inclusive education in any of the above capacities. Please contact me at theinclusiveclass@gmail.com with your questions and requests. Thank you!

10 Simple Tools to Develop Executive Functioning Skills in the Classroom

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 1 comment
Executive Function is a term given to a variety of cognitive processes (organization, working memory, ability to initiate tasks, switch focus or manage one's behavior) that allow students to learn and achieve goals. For some students, however, their level of executive function may interfere with their ability to succeed in school. Thankfully, teachers are beginning to recognize the need to develop a child's executive functioning skills rather than label the child, "lazy" or  an "underachiever".

To support the development of executive functioning skills, I have created a list of 10 simple tools that teachers can use or have in the classroom. Please keep in mind, that students may require the teacher to explain and model the use of each tool. In addition, on-going adult support could be needed to support the successful use of each tool.

1.  Timer - a timer can be used to help students in a variety of ways. It can be used to help a student initiate or finish an assignment. A timer can keep pace and prepare a student for transitions.  Whether on the classroom wall or at a student's desk, timers are a very useful tool to assist student's in monitoring his/her performance.

2.  Class Calendar - a calendar gives us the ability to predict an event. When a teacher creates a calendar for the day or month, it gives students an opportunity to both physically and mentally prepare in anticipation. In doing so, students are better able to transition
from one activity to another.

3.  Checklists - the primary purpose of a checklist is to clearly outline the steps needed to achieve a goal. Checklists can be created and used in a variety of ways for students. They can be made to set goals for the class or for an individual. Checklists can support a student's ability to manage tasks and make transitions.

4.  Color-Coded Workbooks - color-coding books can be very useful for students who are visual learners. By "chunking" subjects or learning materials by color, students can remain organized and retain information in a manageable way. Colored folders, stickers, book covers, bins, felts can help students group important, relevant items that they need for a particular subject. 

5.  Highlighter - highlighters emphasize parts of text, which can be very useful for helping learners develop their working memory skills. Highlighters can be used to draw attention to directions, important words or text with specific meaning. 

6.  Class Master Binder - keeping a Master Binder in the classroom is probably one of the most helpful strategies a teacher can use. A Master Binder consists of a copy of any hand-out or worksheet given to students. Not only is it useful for absent students who can refer to missed work when they return, but it is helpful for students who need to develop their organizational skills. It allows students to cross-check paperwork and keep track of class assignments.

7.  Supply Storage Caddy - students need one place to keep their supplies. Whether it is a pencil box, desk caddy or pencil case, students need a spot to keep pencils, erasers, glue and scissors together. Not only does this help a student transition between activities, but it cuts down on the time it takes for a student to initiate tasks. I can't tell you how much learning time can be wasted by a student who is looking for a pencil!

8.  Graphic Organizers - graphic organizers are visual pictures that help organize information. Graphic organizers can be used in a variety of ways, for a variety of subjects to support the development of working memory. They can help students collect their thoughts, create and convey ideas as well as draw connections. 

9.  A Large, Laminated Envelope - this envelope can be designated to facilitate and support the home-school connection. Newsletters, forms and flyers can be put into the envelope and sent home for parents to see. Likewise, parents can use the envelope to return notes and permission slips. It is a simple, yet effective way of keeping all those important bits of school information in one place!

10. Student Day Planner - adults will often use planners to keep track of important dates and events, so why shouldn't students (who seem to have even busier schedules these days)?  The use of a day planner not only keeps the student organized, helps with task transition, working memory and self-regulation, but allows the student to track his or her goal completion and achievements.

For more ways to help students improve their executive functioning skills, check out my article titled, 25 Easy Ways to Improve Executive Functioning Skills.

Do you have any other tools to add to this list? If so, please comment below!