|Inclusion is more than physical presence in
the classroom. Students learn when they actively participate in the academic
lessons and interact with others. Here are some tips to create a
meaningful and inclusive learning environment.
|Attitude is Everything
Believe that all students can participate.
Value the student and their independence. Forget past failures. Focus on present
potential and future success.
Build a Rapport With Others
Begin by introducing yourself to
others on the team. Don't forget to introduce students to the
general classroom teacher. If you are a consultant, ensure that
people refer to you by your name versus professional title. If you
are a teacher, greet the student each day.
|Speak to Others Directly
Provide written documentation to the
team when needed, but remember the value of a face-to-face conversation.
Resist the temptation to rely solely on paraeducators to communicate
your message to others or on anonymous correspondence through office
mailboxes. Likewise, always speak directly to students, the
paraeducator is not their communication tool.
|Listen and Share
Student success is the responsibility of
everyone on the team and everyone involved has valuable insights. Share
stories, critical bits of information that one learns from daily contact with
the student, or ideas from home. Collaborate when identifying lesson goals and
modifications. Troubleshoot problems together.
A seat assignment in the general classroom
does not create or ensure learning. When students are isolated from peers, or
the classroom tasks are completed for them (including choice making), students
are passively involved in your classroom. Students must actively participate in
classroom activities, communication with teachers, and interaction with peers.
Independence, no matter how insignificant it
may seem, builds self-esteem and preserves the student's integrity. Students
learn independence by doing, not by watching others do for them. Limit
"hand over hand" assistance and use as few prompts as possible when
assisting students. Structure academic lessons and social activities to
require minimal adult supervision or participation.
Accept Alternative Products
If a picture is worth a thousand
words, then a photo-essay conveys the equivalent message of a five-page
paper. Remember students learn through the process of creation not
simply from the product.
Technology enables many students to
participate actively in academic lessons and communication. Don't
be shy explore closets and storage facilities for any and all equipment
the school currently owns. If you're a novice to technology, play and
practice first, then you will help students succeed!
Use Technology Effectively
Using technology as a tool to keep students
occupied does not promote learning. Likewise, communication technology
used randomly fails to promote socialization. Select simple, efficient
technology EVERYONE can understand and operate. Create goals for the student to
use the technology for learning and communication in the classroom.
|Outline Roles and Responsibilities
Who will escort the student to class? Who is responsible for obtaining
a book on tape? Who is going to ask the student questions about the
day's lecture? Name and itemize all tasks completed by adults, or
the student's participation will decrease.
Conduct Assessments Everyday
The annual IEP (Individualized Education
Plan) meeting is too late to assess student learning. Remember the value of
informal assessments and communication. Ask a student content-related questions
everyday. Strive to understand how the student best learns and demonstrates
knowledge. Adjust teaching methods or learning activities accordingly.
|Visit the Classroom
Understand the dynamics and the culture of a
classroom, before making any recommendations for a student. Observe
the student in the classroom to gain awareness of the teacher's expectations,
the benefits of particular adaptations, or which adaptations need modification.
|Enlist the Administrators to Participate!
Seek input and support from principals and
assistant principals. Their guidance creates accountability and ensures teachers
communication and collaboration. Ask administrators to assist, honor and
provide scheduled planning time for team members.
Paraeducators require explicit instructions
and on-going supervision to facilitate the particiption of students in the
classroom. Although the paraeducator may have the most contact-hours with
the student, the teachers should make content decisions for individual lessons.
Include paraeducators in weekly planning
meetings as well as IEP meetings. Paraeducators have valuable insights into the
student and the classroom dynamics. Their participation in meetings
creates a clear idea of what is expected of students and themselves.
|Create and Design Universally
Design instruction and choose materials that make the learning
activities accessible to all the students in your classroom. Plan and
consider all differences in abilities including speaking, sight,
hearing, movement, reading, writing, attention, memory, and organization
A student's peers are an excellent resource. Consult peers for jazzy
comments to put on communication devices, suggestions or advice on new
ways to increase participation, and create meaningful interactions.
|Generalize and Broaden Your Efforts
When you create a new activity for a specific lesson, choose content
that will apply to future students and other students in the class.
Remember that a technique used for one particular class will work for a
different class. Share your efforts with others and a student's
participation will increase in new places.