What is an inclusive classroom? It is a place that includes everyone, of all ability levels. When I say everyone, I mean absolutely everyone, the average students, gifted students and the students with mild, moderate and even severe disabilities. This is scary for some people. Research after research after research article has proven that inclusion not only helps the student with exceptionalities, but it also teaches the students without exceptionalities. It teaches acceptance and compassion, as well as the fact that really, we are all more alike than different.
What materials are needed? Your regular curriculum, with a few tweaks. Is it highly visual? Is it interactive? Can students work collaboratively when completing the lessons? Students with reading delays really benefit from visual lessons. When print based (reading and writing) delays are present, students often appear to not possess the same depth of knowledge as their non-disabled peers, but that is not always the case. They may be able to provide excellent answers when allowed to answer verbally and when they are provided visual materials.
What is being assessed? It is important to ask that question and to really reflect on the objective of the lesson. I have seen lessons before, and the ones I’m thinking about right now are science based lessons, that require things like the scientific terms spelled correctly in essay answers. The objective of the lesson, however, was that the student understood what the terms meant. If they need to also answer in an essay with the terms spelled correctly, the assessment doesn’t match the objective because the assessment is not only measuring vocabulary comprehension, but it also is measuring spelling, writing and grammar. If a student has a print based disability, then their disability is impacting their performance in that class negatively and unfairly. However, if the objective included the spelling, writing and grammar, that would be different.
What alternative methods can students demonstrate knowledge? This one is a little tricky because it requires advanced planning as well as creative thinking. I am friends with Barry from Acorn Science at Teachers Pay Teachers. (A side note, one of the amazing things about TpT is how connected you can become with people from all over the world. Barry is in Ireland and I live in Kansas, and because we share a similar passion for writing and teaching, we have become friends! Small world!) I looked at one of his science products and it immediately caught my attention. The focus of the lesson is on cells, organs and tissues, and his lesson, which can be found here, is colorful, interactive and it can be easily geared towards the students who need enrichment activities as well as those with disabilities. Look at this next image for example.
This is a sample answer key, but a student can demonstrate knowledge in so many ways. If there is a student with a significant disability, they could be given circle cut outs with the answers written on them and they just have to put the correct example in the circle. This eliminates the language barrier if reading or spelling are issues. They could just use images as well, if the student is a non reader. If the student struggles with spelling, a word bank can be provided. If the student is gifted, (keep in mind, this is not my specialty), maybe they can also write a few sentences about the importance of each one.
This particular lesson is also very interactive. I have mentioned before, in this article, how much I love interactive notebooks. This has a very cool 3D piece to it, check out these images!
I love this lesson for inclusion because it is SO highly visual! I’m personally not a fan of worksheets because I think there are way more interesting and engaging ways to learn and teach and this is a perfect example of that!
Inclusion can be challenging, but with the right tools, which are, an adaptable curriculum and the know-how to align the assessment to the objective without unknowingly assessing other skills and concepts, it is absolutely do-able. It’s one of those things that, over time, and with practice, analyzing and creating the right assessments just come second nature. Try it, you will be glad you did. All of the students will thrive by getting to know each other as people, and taking away the stigma of having to send kids to the “special room.”
Thanks for reading!