Teaching in an inclusive classroom can be extremely exciting, but also very daunting for many experienced teachers. It can have an even stronger impact on new teachers. An inclusive classroom will have a wide range of abilities in the same class including students, who have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, Down syndrome, ADD/ADHD and dyslexia, and even those with undocumented diagnoses who are in the class must be taught. The most common strand that runs through these disabilities is learning challenges. Here are the 5Rs that I have practised over the years, that have kept my classroom inclusive.
The art of repeating is to ensure that instructions and questions are not missed. Whenever I start my lesson, I introduce the class to the learning objective on the board. In order to keep everyone engaged, I asked a number of students, ‘What is the learning objective?’ This is done two to three times, and the same goes for giving instructions. I would ask different students to tell the class as a whole or to do so in pairs. One student would pose the question and the other respond.
Since there is a wide range of abilities, I depend on rephrasing to solidify ideas and concepts. I simplify sophisticated vocabularies of expressions to allow all my students to clearly grasp the concepts and skills I need them to know. To ensure that nothing gets lost or misunderstood, I would say the same thing in different ways. In addition, I would ask a student to tell a partner to strengthen understanding and from there, take the feedback to the class again.
My classroom chairs do not remain in the same position for long. I create different learning groups: in pairs, in threes, according to abilities, mixed abilities, in genders, etc. These formations are not only for academic progress but also various social integrations. The supposedly weak students do not only support the strong; but the strong learns from the weak. It’s an awesome sight and sound to experience this eclectic mix.
A teacher in an inclusive classroom needs to review the needs of each student, which should be held in mind or be written for easy access. Review teaching strategies to ensure each student is; engaged in learning, making appropriate progress and being stretched. With the changing legislation and accommodations for students with SEN, a teacher in an inclusive classroom needs to keep abreast of the changes through the process of review.
Everyone loves a treat and my inclusive classroom is no different. Recognise and reward is my mantra! At the end of the each week, every student would have received a merit or a point for a good deed. Reward is not only given for academic prowess, but also to those who demonstrate altruism and for even incremental progress. Rewards motivate, and they also inspire and encourage students to do their very best.
By Debbie Hamilton-Bogues
Debbie has almost 30 years of teaching experience across mainstream and special education settings. She considers herself a global teacher. She has taught in Jamaica, USA, England, Qatar and now UAE. She has a passion for working with and for students with SEN. She is currently a SENO at a school in Al Ain.