5 Ways to Create an Inclusive Reading and Writing Program

Friday, August 22, 2014 No comments

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.  

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

Monday, August 11, 2014 2 comments
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!