special education inclusive classroom
Creating a special education inclusive classroom can be challenging. There are many different layouts for special education classrooms. Some are more isolated than others. The more isolated you are in your setting, the more you may be overwhelmed when creating an inclusive environment. How can you support your students’ access to others of different abilities and cultures? How can you support your students’ self-advocacy within their class or grade level? If you are struggling with these questions about creating a special education inclusive classroom, read more to learn how to make this dream a reality!
Small group instruction can be your key to creating a successful special education inclusive classroom. Use this free guide 7 Tips for Small Group Instruction to get the most out of your small group learning time.
Define Inclusive Classroom
There are so many terms in education, it can be hard to keep them straight! You may be asking yourself “What is an inclusive classroom?”. An inclusive classroom is one that builds a relationship with each student as an individual and works to meet his or her needs while valuing their culture and family. In the United States, many laws attempt to support an inclusive model in the classroom. The term “inclusive classroom” is most commonly used when referring to integrating students identified with special education needs into the general education classroom but a truly inclusive classroom supports all students of various identities and their families. Read more about strategies for an inclusive classroom here!
Why is an Inclusive Classroom Important for Special Education?
Utilizing inclusive classroom strategies when working in a special education environment can be life-changing. Creating an inclusive classroom for special education means providing real-world experiences that allow peer-to-peer learning. An inclusive classroom also means providing choice and multiple methods of learning. This increases accessibility while promoting collaboration between students and staff.
An inclusive classroom for special education also promotes a least restrictive environment. American Dictionary of Psychology says the least restrictive environment is “an educational setting that gives a student with disabilities the opportunity to receive instruction within a classroom that meets his or her learning needs and physical requirements”. Providing a least restrictive environment is a best learning practice. It is also the law in the United States! Special education students have the right to an inclusive environment that values their individual abilities.
Why Use a Least Restrictive Environment
When creating a special education inclusive classroom, teachers should work together. Creating a least restrictive environment should be a single classroom! Start to map out your student’s day. Are they in a special education classroom? Do they access a traditional classroom? Take a birds-eye view of your student’s educational experience. Are they in an environment that meets their needs? Do they have access to peers and experiences? Can they participate in a variety of learning methods? Creating a special education inclusive classroom means asking difficult questions. Have conversations among the special education team to explore creating an inclusive classroom.
Inclusive Classroom Practices
To build a special education inclusive classroom follow best practices! The best practices for an inclusive classroom can vary widely. bInclusive classrooms have two things in common: choice and access. The more student lead choice and self-advocacy you can use in your lessons, the more inclusive classroom you will create.
One of the most important strategies for an inclusive classroom surrounds access to instruction or materials. When students are able to understand or relate to the material, they are able to learn. Think about your instruction – are you utilizing multiple mediums? Are you providing several opportunities for the students to explore the material? Are your students moving, talking, watching, drawing? Read on to find out some of the most effective strategies for an inclusive classroom!
Utilizing Small Group Instruction for Special Education
Small group instruction is one of the most powerful strategies for an inclusive classroom. Small group instruction allows you to listen to each individual student and creates a safe space for students to share their knowledge as well. Students are twice as likely to share their thinking in a small group when compared to whole group instruction. Small group instruction allows you to easily introduce new material in the method which students can access. It also allows you level instruction, which is crucial for accurate growth and data collection.
Using small group instruction in your special education inclusive classroom allows all students to explore and grow. Teaching in small groups allows you to easily differentiate instruction to meet students where they are at. Here are more strategies to easily differentiate instruction in your classroom, while creating an inclusive environment.
Creating an Inclusive Classroom
Creating an inclusive classroom is important! It touches every aspect of your students’ special education experience. Inclusive classrooms often lead to increased student engagement and achievement because, by nature, students are invested in their learning when working in a special education inclusive classroom. Creating a special education inclusive classroom is a long-term goal. To succeed, use these steps to create an actionable plan for yourself. Small steps lead to big change when creating an inclusive classroom! Your students will reap the inclusive classroom benefits from any small, meaningful change you make.
Use Clear but Flexible Classroom Management
Classroom management is the first step in creating a special education inclusive classroom. Utilizing routines and expectations allows your students to take risks and become independent. Inclusive classroom routines are also key to the success of your classroom support! When paraprofessionals understand and contribute to, the classroom expectations and environment they are better able to support their student’s individualities and cultures.
Make a clear and easy-to-follow classroom management plan. Your plan should fit on a single page, and be simple enough for all students to not only follow but recite! Generally, these are also considered classroom rules for classroom special education. When creating your classroom management special education plan (or rules) you want the rules to be simple enough for staff and students to remember, and follow, but broad enough they cover almost any event that can occur in your classroom.
Think about Your Special Education Space
When creating a special education inclusive classroom, think about your space. What materials can students access independently? Do your students have mobility concerns? Arranging your special education environment is a key part of creating a special education inclusive classroom. Have common resources like number strips, word walls, and alphabet posters readily accessible and directly teach when and how to access these materials. Resources are only as good as the student who is using them!
Creating Multiple Places for Inclusivity
When thinking of a special education inclusive classroom, think of the individual experience. If your student accesses multiple places, work with your team to create a cohesive, inclusive experience among multiple spaces. Is the student accessing a particular alphabet in the resource room? Do they use the same strip in the regular education classroom? Think of small changes you can make that will have a large impact on creating an inclusive environment.
Small Group Instruction for Inclusive Classroom Management
Providing instruction in small groups is a key component to successful classroom management in special education. Meeting with children in groups of 2-4 students allows you to easily level your instruction, collect data, and meet the needs of all students. This is a great resource for classroom management during small group instruction!
An Inclusive Environment Has Options
A successful special education inclusive classroom has student-led options. This means providing multiple types of assessments for students of various abilities and needs. A student utilizing an AAC device can demonstrate the same skill as a student with physical limitations but think about the how. Choice boards, picture boards, and manipulatives are going to be your best friend! Special education inclusive classrooms focus on the application of skills, rather than the simple rote memorization of skills. Although, often rote memorization is the start of skill acquisition! When using choice in your inclusive environment, encourage students to reflect and share why they made that particular choice. This will build your special education inclusive classroom because it promotes collaboration and conversation among your students. During conversations, students learn how to respect each other’s differences and values – a key part of a successful special education inclusive classroom!
Adapt One Activity to Meet Multiple Needs
To create a special education inclusive classroom, be sure to work smarter not harder! For all activities start with a base, then scaffold the activity to make it slightly harder or easier to meet the needs of your students. Adding visuals is a great way to accommodate an activity or adding a deep-thinking question (usually starts with “why”) to make an activity more challenging. Overwhelmed with differentiating curriculum to create an inclusive classroom? Check out these leveled resources for grades K-2!
Use Peer Supports to Encourage an Inclusive Classroom
Peer-to-peer learning is a vital part of any classroom. Research shows children learn most from each other. Teachers can facilitate peer-to-peer learning by leading thoughtful, intentional conversations among their class. Conversations between peers create a special education inclusive classroom. Step out of your room for these conversations! Include peers in other classes and service providers. By having conversations across locations, teachers can create cohesive educational experiences among their special education students.
Small Groups Are The Key to a Successful Inclusive Classroom
In a special education inclusive classroom, each child feels heard, supported, and valued. The most effective way to build these relationships and encourage students to share their thoughts is through intentional small group conversation. By encouraging conversation in small groups, children are more likely to take risks and share personal experiences with each other. This allows for more growth, connection, and understanding between peers. Through small group instruction, teachers can also easily level the curriculum and provide multiple methods of learning. These are both key to creating an inclusive space while providing special education supports to students. If you are struggling with effective small group instruction, be sure to check out these free 7 Tips for Effective Small Group Instruction.
Importance of Teamwork When Creating a Special Education Inclusive Classroom
It may be cliche, but it’s true: teamwork makes the dream work! A special education inclusive classroom utilizes the experiences and philosophies of all team members. Special educators, classroom teachers, service providers, paraprofessionals…each member contributes valuable insight and experiences into the child’s educational experience. You can read more about leading an effective special education team here.
Special Education Inclusive Classrooms are Fun!
While it may seem overwhelming, special education inclusive classrooms flow naturally and are fun! By providing students with choice and encouraging meaningful conversations, teachers support student inquiry and growth. Special educators and classroom teachers who create an inclusive environment ensure their students are valued and supported.
Looking for more information on how to best support special education students in an inclusive classroom? Check these articles out!