The Successful Inclusive Classroom
Keys to success include:
- Students need to be active - not passive learners.
- Children should be encouraged to make choices as often as possible, a good teacher will allow students some time to flounder as some of the most powerful learning stems from taking risks and learning from mistakes.
- Parental involvement is crucial.
- Students with disabilities must be free to learn at their own pace and have accommodations and alternative assessment strategies in place to meet their unique needs.
- Students need to experience success, learning goals need to be specific, attainable and measurable and have some challenge to them.
What is the Teacher's Role?
The teacher facilitates the learning by encouraging, prompting, interacting, and probing with good questioning techniques, such as 'How do you know it's right - can you show me how?'. The teacher provides 3-4 activities that address the multiple learning styles and enables students make choices. For instance, in a spelling activity a student may choose to cut and paste the letters from newspapers or use magnetic letters to manipulate the words or use colored shaving cream to print the words. The teacher will have mini-conferences with students. The teacher will provide many learning manipulatives and opportunities for small group learning. Parent volunteers are helping with counting, reading, assisting with unfinished tasks, journals, reviewing basic concepts such as math facts and sight words.
What Does the Classroom Look Like?
The classroom is a beehive of activity. Students should be engaged in problem solving actiities. John Dewey once said, 'the only time we think is when we're given a problem'. The classroom that is child centered is based on learning centers. There will be a language centre with learning goals, perhaps a media centre with opportunity to listen to taped stories or create a multimedia presentation on the computer. There will be a music centre and a math centre with many manipulatives. The goals are always clearly stated prior to students engaging in learning activities. The teacher will ask students for reminders about the acceptable noise level, learning goals, and what completed tasks look like. The teacher again, facilitates the learning throughout the centres and focuses on some specific centres. Activities at the centres take into consideration multiple intelligences and learning styles. The learning centres begin with whole class instructions and end with whole class discussions on the learning that took place.
What does Assessment Look Like?
Observation is key. Knowing what to look for is critical. Does the child give up easily? Does the child persevere? Is the child able to show how he got the task right? The teacher targets a few learning goals per day and a few students per day to observe for goal attainment. Formal/informal interviews will help the assessment process. How closely does the individual remain on task? Why or why not? How does the student feel about the activity? What are their thinking processes?
Successful learning centers require good classroom management and well known rules and procedures. A productive learning environment will take time to implement. The teacher may have to call the whole class together regularly in the beginning to ensure that all rules and expectations are being adhered to. Remember, think big but start small. Introduce a couple of centers per week. See more information on assessment.