How do you create an inclusive environment in the classroom?
Teachers may be asked to teach special needs students in the same class as regular students.
Inclusive classrooms are the new "mainstreaming." It can be more effective, but it often presents many challenges to teachers. An inclusive classroom is one where special needs and regular students learn in the same classroom and environment. You might be a teacher that has Special Ed students now in the classroom. Now you wonder if it will be difficult to have these students in your class. Inclusive classrooms are increasing, so if you have not experienced it yet, get ready!
Special Ed students will not be as difficult to deal with as you think. Of course behavior problems might be what you think about first. Perhaps it is not wise to make a statement that Sepcial Ed students will be more disruptive. But they can be. And certainly it will challenge any teacher to incorporate them well in to the class. So relax.
First, get to know the parents of your Special Ed students. The more you know, the more you know. Build a relationship with the student and parent. In fact, if you have read other articles on this website, you will have already learned that building relationship with the parents is what every teacher should be doing with all students anyway. Going with that thought, the more you make learning available to Special Ed students, the more you will make learning available to ALL students. Special Ed students just force you to realize that changes might have to be made.
Special Ed students need to know they are part of the class. But wait! All students need this, right? So use activities that get students interacting with each other in a positive way. Students have similar interests. Make other students aware of the things they like make them similar to other students in the class. In this way, Special Ed and regular students will understand and know that they all have similarities. What color do you like? TV shows? Music? Sports? Games? Yes, this will take a few minutes of class time, but will be well worth it.
If you have Special Ed students, chances are you will need to do some pairing up or group work. Don't worry. This works for virtually all students and classes. You want every student in your class to be exposed to as many different learning levels and styles as possible.
One group could be advanced students paired up with lower ones.
Each group or lesson should include multiple uses of different auditory and visual stimulators.
Students go from a group that has a hands on activity, to one that has sound. Then to one that has visual.
Get creative! You are the teacher!
If possible or practical, the ideal solution is the have the Sepcial Ed teacher give lessons in your class, in tandem with yours. If this is the case, be sure and incorporate the Special Ed teacher into the classroom environment. That teacher should be involved in managing your class, together with you, when they are there.
Not only will they be reaching their students, but they will be teaching you as well.
Even though the Special Ed teacher is probably accountable more for the special needs students, don't let yourself off the hook.
Collaboration is the key to success. The Special Ed teacher and you can work together to make sure all lessons are created to reach all students.
Be determined to learn about teaching strategies for special needs kids. As stated above, these strategies are actually good for all students. There are online seminars and probably ones that your district can offer or send you to.
Yes, having special needs students in your classroom will be extra work...on the surface. But incorporating the Special Ed teacher into your classroom will lessen this, and be beneficial to all.