Classrooms have become increasingly diverse over the years, accommodating students with different abilities all in one setting. Inclusive classrooms ensure that students with special needs are supported and encouraged to be successful learners alongside their peers. Generally, inclusive classrooms are taught by two leaders, a special education teacher and general education teacher. The collaboration between educators allows for different skill sets that make the classroom inclusive.
Whether it is your first or tenth year as a teacher in an inclusive classroom, it is vital to prepare for the year ahead. Read up on our tips on how to best prepare to teach your inclusive classroom this upcoming school year!
1. Understand the needs of each student
The students in your classroom will all have different needs, and it is possible that you may not be familiar with a certain student’s special needs. Take time to truly understand each student’s needs.
Special needs students in your classroom will have an Individualized Education Program, also known as an IEP. Consult your students’ IEPs carefully. Ensure that each students’ goals listed in their IEPs are in line with your lesson plans and overarching school year goals. Take time to meet with the parents of children with IEPs to get an even better understanding. This meeting might inform if a student is placed into a special reading group, or if they are assisted with math lessons separately, for example.
When crafting lesson plans, they should be adjusted for all students to be able to complete. Plan to assign partners or to create a schedule with parents for long-term projects, if necessary. Similarly, if students are in wheelchairs, the classroom should be free of clutter to allow for free movement around the space.
Check out our post onunderstanding the IEP process for more information.
2. Establish classroom rules early on
Students should be introduced to the classroom rules within the first week of school. This way, they are aware of what to expect and how they are expected to behave inside the classroom.
It may be helpful to assign seating to reduce stress and anxiety on the first day about where a student will sit, and with whom. Mix students around, regardless of ability.
Because inclusive classrooms will have a mix of students with special needs and without, it is important to be proactive and active about preventing bullying. Some students might have never been exposed to such neurodiversity before.
3. Maintain open communication with parents
The parents of children with special needs are more likely to be involved in their child’s school life. Parents will also have the best insight about their child’s abilities.
Before the school year begins, arrange individual meetings with the parents of students with IEPs and your co-teacher. Invite the student to attend, as well, so they may familiarize themselves with both teachers. Based on the collaborative assessment of the student, you may find the best placement for them within the classroom and in lessons.
Meet with parents regularly to discuss student progress, as well as difficulties if they arise. The best policy is open communication and transparency. Parents should not be kept in the dark about what goes on inside the classroom.
4. Encourage collaborative learning and teaching
Because your classroom will be neurodiverse, it is beneficial to let all voices be heard in class discussion. Let your students think out loud. Allowing students to voice their thoughts and bounce ideas off of each other opens up the possibility of constructive feedback and collaborative learning.
Collaborative learning may also be applied by splitting tasks or class assignments into small groups. These small groups should be diverse, allowing for a range of skill sets to come together. Students with an advanced understanding of the material are likely to teach those who are struggling – both helping those in need and reinforcing their own grasp of class concepts.
Your classroom will be taught with another teacher. Both of your names should appear on the classroom door and other documents to immediately establish the collaborative teaching style of the classroom. Sharing of speaking time, materials, and planning should be equal between both teachers.
Collaboration, both between students and teachers, is essential to a successful inclusive classroom.
5. Express confidence in each student’s ability
Finally, it is most important to consistently encourage your students. Emphasize everyone’s ability to successfully learn the material. Be respectful of all questions and comments that may be voiced by a student. Do not put students down when they make a mistake. Use mistakes as lessons for the entire class.
A student’s confidence is likely to increase if you show them you believe in them and constantly reassure them.
Here is a helpful video about an Inclusive Classroom:
Have a great school year!