Federal law in America prescribes that learners with disorders should be placed in their neighborhood school with as much time as possible in a general education setting. This policy is known as LRE, or Least Restrictive Environment and dictates that kids should receive educational services with their peers unless it is deemed to be an inappropriate placement. School districts are required to maintain a complete range of environments from least restrictive to most restrictive.
The Successful Inclusive Classroom
Keys to success involve:
- Learners need to be active learners.
- Kids should be encouraged to make choices as often as possible. A good educator should allow learners some time to struggle as some of the most powerful learning comes from taking risks and learning from mistakes.
- Parental engagement is crucial.
- Learners with disorders must be free to learn at their own speed and have accommodations, modifications and assessment strategies in place to meet their individual needs.
- Learners need to experience success. Educational goals need to be precise, attainable, and measurable and have some rigor to them.
What is the Teacher’s Role?
The educator facilitates learning by encouraging, and probing with good questioning techniques, like ‘How do you know it’s right—can you show me how?’. The educator provides 3-4 activities that address multiple learning styles and enables learners to make choices. For example, in a spelling activity a learner may select 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 educator should have mini-conferences with learners. The educator should provide learning manipulatives and opportunities for small group learning. Volunteers, who are largely made up of parents, are helping with counting, reading, assisting with uncompleted tasks, journals, reviewing fundamental ideas like math facts and sight words.
In the inclusive class, an educator should differentiate instruction as much as possible, which should benefit both the learners with and without disorders, since it should provide additional individual attention to all students.
What Does the Inclusive Classroom Look Like?
Classrooms should be a beehive of activity. Learners should be engaged in problem solving activities. The class that is kid-centered relies on learning centers to support whole group and small group instruction. There should be a language center with learning goals, perhaps a media center with chances to listen to taped stories or create a multimedia presentation on the computer. An inclusive classroom should have a music center and a math center with many manipulatives. Student expectations should always be stated prior to learners engaging in learning activities.
Efficient class management tools and routines should provide learners with reminders about the appropriate noise level, learning activity and account capacity for producing a completed product or completing the center tasks. The educator should supervise learning throughout the centers while landing at one center for small group instruction or creating “Teacher Time” as a rotation.
Learning activities at the center take into consideration multiple intelligences. Learning center time should start with whole class instructions and end with whole class debriefing and assessment: How did we do with creating an effective learning environment? Which learning centers were the most fun? Where did you learn the most?
Learning centers are a good way to differentiate instruction. Teachers should place some activities that every kid can complete, and some activities designed for advanced, on level and remediated instruction.
Models for Inclusion
Co-teaching: The tactic is used by school districts in secondary settings. Efficient co-educators help with planning, provide suggestions for differentiation across abilities, and do some instruction to give the general education educator the chance to circulate and support all the learners in a class.
Whole Class Inclusion: Many districts are placing dually certified educators in classes like social studies, math, or English Language Arts. An educator teaches the subject to both learners with and without disorders and carries a caseload of learners enrolled in a specific grade, etc. We would likely call these “inclusion classes”, and they involve learners who are English Language Learners or struggling with grades.
Push In: The resource educator should come into the general class and meet with learners during center time to support their IEP goals and provide small group or personalized instruction. Districts should encourage educators to provide a combination of push in and pull out services. Often the services are provided by a para-professional under the direction of a special education educator. Pull Out: Pull out is typically indicated with a “Resource Room” placement in the IEP. Learners who have key problems with attention and staying on task may excel in a quieter setting without distractions. Kids whose disorders put them at a key disadvantage with their typical peers may be more willing to “risk” reading aloud or doing math if they aren’t worried about being teased by their general education peers.