Monday, May 21, 2018

12 Strategies to Engage Students Who Work Below Grade Level During Instructional Time

Supporters of inclusive education believe that students with ID should be participating to the maximum extent possible (and with appropriate supports) in the classroom lessons and activities

In doing so, we presume competence in the student's ability to learn and participate in education. In other words, we can't assume that the student with ID will not learn what we are teaching. 

However, teachers and parents often wonder what the student with ID can be doing while the rest of the class is listening to the teacher lecture, presention, or discussion. This is a legitimate concern. Understandably, some of the concepts of the lesson may not be at the learning level of the student - particularly if the student is on a modified program

So, one of the most common questions I hear with regards to inclusive education is, how can teachers keep students who work below grade level engaged and learning during class instruction? Well, in addition to providing a modified lesson activity, teachers need to back up and think about providing instructional supports and modifications to the lesson delivery. 

Thus, I have put together a list of strategies that teachers can use to reach and teach students with intellectual disabilites during classroom instruction: 

1. Outlines - Give a partially completed outline of the lecture that the student fills in at key points before, during, or after the lesson. 

2. Lecture Q & A - Give student a handout that asks questions about concepts in the lecture. Student answers questions as lecture is given. 

3. True or False? - Give student True or False questions to answer during lecture.  

4. Concept Mapping - Student draws a concept map as the lecture progresses to demonstrate understanding of lesson.

5. Doodle Notes - Student illustrates a concept or idea from the lesson during or after lecture. 

6. Focused Listening - List several main concepts given during the lecture and have students check off the concepts/make notes about concepts as the lecture progresses.

7. Scavenger Hunt – have student look for key vocab and concepts in lecture text

8. Pre-read – have student read text, watch videos, and/or complete a related activity prior to the lecture

9. Watch – have student watch teacher-created or recommended video and/or interactive lessons prior or during lecture

10. Guided Note Taking – teach student how to take notes through guided note taking. See the following for more info: 

11. Pre-read Lecture Notes – give student the lecture notes prior to or during instruction.

12. Audio Recordings – have student listen to a developmentally appropriate audio recording on the topic during lecture.

Do you have any more strategies to add to this list? Comment below!!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Including Students with Disabilities in Classroom Lessons - Part One

In a previous post, I discuss the different layers of inclusion within a successfully, inclusive school. Inclusion must exist within the community, school, classroom, AND LESSON. 

It is inclusion within the class lesson that can truly make or break an inclusive opportunity. It is not enough for a student with disabilities to be physically present within the general education classroom, without participating in the class lessons. 

Having access to class lessons allows the student opportunities in the education process that is equal to his or her peers, an opportunity to learn and grow beyond what his/her current ability level, 

Class lessons bring students together for a shared learning experience. They build community. They faciliate conversation. They are the building blocks for future units of study.

How do teachers facilitate inclusion within a classroom lesson? Well, first they need to know what grade level the student is working at. If the student has an IEP and is on a modified educational program, then the student does NOT need to be working at the same grade level as his or her peers. 

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Once the teacher establishes the grade level of the student's ability in a particular subject area, then the lesson needs to be modified. This means that subsitutions, additions, and deletions are made to the lesson to make it more developmentally appropriate for the student. For example, modifications can be made to simplify the lesson concept, change the learning outcomes, change the instructional method, and/or alter the content. 

For ideas and strategies to actually make lesson modifications, you can check out Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum. In addition to 40 strategies that will alter and modify lessons for students who work below grade level, it has background information on inclusion, the latest research on the benefits of inclusion, tips for inclusion, and printable templates. 

In my next post, I will be outlining ways in which teachers can engage students with disabilities during direct instructional time - the part of the lesson when the teacher is lecturing and delivering content. Stay tuned!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Inclusive Schools say "YES"

Inclusive schools start by saying, "YES". 

"Yes", we value all children.

"Yes", we will teach all children.

"Yes", we will do what it takes to teach all children. 

Learn more about inclusive schools from Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

***Important Update About Book***

So, we've had a little bit of a false start with the release of Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum! There is a slight delay due to some miscommunication, but the book will be released soon!! 
The new release date is set for 04/20/18. Please continue to make your orders!! The little extra wait will be well worth it! 😊
That also means, instead of a "release week celebration", we are going to turn this in to a "release month celebration"! We have lots of events and goodies in store for you!!
My amazing publisher, Paul H. Brookes Publishing, does an exceptional job of explaining what exactly happened in their recent blog post:
Thank you for your continued support!
~ Nicole

Friday, March 2, 2018

How to Overcome the Challenges to Inclusion

Inclusive education is finally starting to attract the attention it deserves in American public schools. Inclusion improves outcomes, fosters social and emotional development and equips students for life outside of school. Despite its value, however, school districts still claim challenges to implementing full inclusion.  Talk of insufficient resources, ill-prepared staff and myths about inclusion still exist to create barriers. The good news is that there are ways to overcome these challenges and move towards inclusive schools in every community. Let’s explore some ways in which we can make inclusion become a reality.

The first common challenge to overcome is debunking the myths and misunderstandings of inclusive education. We need to provide educators, schools and communities with accurate, up-to-date information. For example, inclusion is not a service or program that is offered to a group of students. It doesn’t happen in a classroom nor is it an instructional strategy. 

Inclusion is an attitude that determines how we interact with one another. It drives our desire to include every student, regardless of ability, in meaningful learning experiences alongside their peers. The website, Wrightslaw, is an excellent place to start learning and sharing accurate information about inclusion. Newsletters, Parent Night, teacher inservice and videos such as Including Isaac can also help relay the meaning of inclusion. 

Another challenge to inclusive education is belief that it works for students with and without special needs. The National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion has complied an extensive amount of research that that shows the many benefits of inclusion to both typically and non-typically developing students. For example, The National Institute of for Urban School Improvement found that, "Surveys conducted with parents and teachers involved in inclusive settings generally show that they see no harm to the non-disabled children and that they have positive opinions about inclusion. In fact, one survey of more than 300 parents of elementary-age children shows that 89 percent would enroll their children in an inclusive classroom again.”  

Furthermore, evidence reported by McGregor, G., & Vogelsberg, T. (1998) found that inclusion results in greater number of typical students making reading and math progress compared to non-inclusive general education classes, inclusion does not compromise general education students’ outcomes, typical peers benefit from involvement and relationships with students who have disabilities in inclusive settings, and the presence of students with disabilities in general education classrooms leads to new learning opportunities for typical students. In fact, according to Falvey (2004), “There have been no studies conducted since the late 1970’s that have shown an academic advantage for students with intellectual or other developmental disabilities educated in separate settings.” It is clear that inclusion can be a significant benefit to the entire school community.

And, finally, the third most common challenge is understanding the mechanics of inclusion. Inclusion is like a car. There are many parts under the hood that work together to make it run smoothly.  One of the most important parts is having the support of school administration and staff. The adults in the building help set the tone of an inclusive school - from the principal to the bus driver, the playground supervisor and the classroom teacher. They are friendly, welcoming and make inclusion a priority in all school activities. In fact, many inclusive schools institute a school-wide character education program, in which staff, students and families participate. This helps reinforce the common goal of inclusion. 

Another important aspect to inclusion is ensuring that the general education classroom is where a student receives the majority of his/her educational needs. Special Education teachers and Paraprofessionals offer their support, as outlined in the student’s IEP,  while the classroom teacher makes accommodations and/or modifications to the curriculum. There may be some need for focussed instruction outside of the classroom, which usually happens during the least disruptive time of day. In addition to curriculum, materials and resources are made accessible to all students. Varying levels of text, visual supports, manipulatives and assistive technology are woven into the class program. For ways to implement these strategies, you can look to Brookes Publishing Company where there are a great selection of teacher guides for the inclusive classroom

Lastly, inclusion involves the work of parents and families. Communication between home and school is essential to making sure the student is learning and thriving in the classroom. It should be a consistent, pro-active arrangement where information is shared between the family and classroom teacher, that is for the benefit of the child. Depending on the child’s needs, daily, weekly or monthly updates is required beyond the yearly IEP meetings. Setting up lines of communication such as email, a “communication book” or phone calls, can facilitate an on-going conversation about the child’s progress, challenges and needs. 

Inclusive education is a belief system that values a child’s abilities first, not their disabilities. Because it involves the entire school community, there are challenges that can be faced. However, knowledge, discussion, access to resources and support, along with ongoing communication, can help those challenges feel surmountable. Children of all abilities can then truly have equal access to a free and appropriate education.

Staub, Deb. "Inclusion and the Other Kids." National Institute for Urban School Improvement, 2005. Web. 25 May 2015. <>.

McGregor, G., & Vogelsberg, T. (1998). Inclusive schooling practices: Pedagogical and research foundations. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Falvey, M. (2004). Towards realizing the influence of “Toward realization of the least restrictive environments for severely disabled students.” Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 29(1), 9-10.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Free Webinar!! Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum for Students Working Below Grade Level

Be sure to mark your calendars! On Tuesday, March 27th at 3 PM Eastern, I will be giving a FREE webinar on making curriculum modifications. In conjunction with Brookes Publishing and,  this one hour presentation will cover topics useful for any teacher and/or parent who teaches students working below grade level. Below is a more detailed description of the webinar:

"Educators use a variety of strategies and learning accommodations to teach diverse learners. However, educators can struggle to make grade-level curriculum possible and achievable for students with intellectual disabilities. An educational process, known as modifying curriculum, can open doors to an inclusive, high quality education for students who work below grade level. In this edWebinar, Nicole Eredics, author of Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum, will give you step-by-step instruction on when and how to modify curriculum.

Nicole, a seasoned inclusion teacher, has the information, tools, and strategies you need to take grade-level curriculum and transform it into rigorous content that is intellectually and developmentally appropriate for students who work below grade level. Most importantly, you will learn:

   * The fundamentals of creating and maintaining truly inclusive classrooms
   * An overview of ways to support diverse learners through universal design for learning, social and emotional supports, and accommodations
   * The role of curriculum modifications in the education process
   * How to modify any curriculum for students with intellectual disabilities
   * Strategies that will quickly and easily modify curriculum in any classroom with  suggestions for interventions and extensions
   * Useful educational resources for modifying curriculum

Classroom and special education teachers across all grade levels as well as administrators will benefit from this session. There were be time to get your questions answered after the presentation. Join us to learn more about modifying curriculum to support all students."

Friday, January 26, 2018

10 Things You Can Do to Make Your Class Socially Inclusive

Inclusive schools are places where educational barriers are removed and students of all abilities are educated in general education classrooms. Many of my previous posts have focused on the removal of barriers to the academic curriculum. I've written about using learning accommodations, lesson modifications, universal design for learning, and assistive technology to facilitate inclusive education.

There is another area of the curriculum where barriers can exist to full inclusion.

It typically receives less attention, yet is just as important. I'm talking about the "hidden" or social curriculum that is the by-product of a school's education program. This social curriculum conveys the values, belief systems, and expectations of behavior in the school setting. 

This social curriculum is not "hidden" in an inclusive school. It's actually quite the opposite - with as much attention given to the social development of students as there is academic. Teachers give explicit instruction in social inclusion, model socially inclusive behavior, provide socially inclusive opportunities for students, and expect that all students will adhere to an inclusive belief system. 

So, if you or your school is on a journey towards inclusion or you are thinking about creating a more inclusive classroom, here are some strategies to intentionally facilitate social inclusion:

1. Switch up the seating plan - give students a change of scenery and someone new to work with by changing up your seating plan several times during the school year. 

2. Find common ground - class games such as "Find Someone Who", gives students a chance to get to know one another in a fun and informal manner.

3. Partner or small group work - set students up in partners and small groups to complete work. Giving students guidelines and expectations of group behavior beforehand can help set students up for a positive experience.

4. Offer structured recess activities - unstructured recess time can be very difficult for some students. It can be lonely, awkward, or even chaotic. Offer some structured and supervised games that are open to all students. 

5. Use socially inclusive language - socially inclusive language is essential to creating an atmosphere of respect. Schools should expect that students and staff use words that appropriate and culturally responsive.

6. Role-play situations where students can include one another - role-playing common social situations can give students the skills they need to successfully interact with one another. 

7. Set expectations for socially-inclusive behavior - clearly communicate your expectations of socially inclusive behavior. Ensure that all students understand the expectations.

8. Find ways to highlight student interests and strengths - encourage students to share their favorite things, celebrate student success in various areas of the curriculum, and demonstrate their talent and/or expertise (one year I had a student who brought her bagpipes to school and she played us a few songs).

9. Ensure that all students have an effective and appropriate way to communicate - make sure assistive devices are working properly and are set-up for students to effectively communicate with their peer group. 

10. Provide opportunities/places for students to meet and interact in your classroom - create spaces where students can work together, read together, have discussions, complete an activity, or just socialize with one another. Use different types of seating, tables, and materials to create welcoming spaces. 

Please share your ideas and strategies for creating a socially inclusive classroom in the comments below!