Inclusive Practices are Best Practices

There are many accommodations that can benefit both special education students and their classmates.

Updated on: October 27, 2017

Inclusion Classroom

Think about the word “inclusion" and its positive connotations: kids playing together, working together—generally doing things together. Now think about the word “exclusion.” Exclusion promotes thoughts of bullies and cliques.

“Inclusion” is formally defined as “the act of including; the state of being included,” and, as we all know from our own school days, “including” informally means “to let others join what we are doing without hesitation and with acceptance.”

When we think of where the word comes from and the experiences it calls to mind, it is only natural that classrooms combining general and special education students are called “inclusion classrooms.”

"When teaching in an inclusion classroom, many accommodations are often made to help certain students. I have found that the majority of these accommodations are helpful not only for our special needs students, but are best practices for everyone."

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The Inclusion Model

The inclusion model promotes special education students’ right to participate in a general education classroom. These classes are often co-taught by a general education and special education teacher, and also typically have additional support staff involved in the caseload of kids. When we think of where the word comes from, “inclusion” truly is the best description of this practice.

When teaching in an inclusion classroom, many accommodations are often made to help certain students. I have found that the majority of these accommodations are helpful not only for our special needs students, but are best practices for everyone.

Some of my most utilized accommodations include reading questions orally, providing extended time for assignments, allowing wait time (which is different from extended time!), giving motor breaks, and representing the material through multiple means. If these practices become part of your daily routine rather than a special accommodation for certain students, all of your kids are bound to feel more successful!

Accommodation #1: Read Questions Orally

Picture yourself reading a physics problem, a chemistry problem, a math problem, or a foreign language problem. Are you stressed out yet? Me too. When a teacher reads questions orally, especially during a test, the kids can hear their intonation and cadence, which allows them to better understand as they read along.

Before every math test I give, I spend a few minutes reading through every single question with the kids so that they can hear it read appropriately. I also offer students the option of calling me over to read any problem to them again. Everyone learns in different ways, and while visual information alone may work for one, it may not for another.

Accommodation #2: Extended Time

If a student can complete my 10-question multiplication word problems test in 90 minutes, but would get through only seven questions in an hour, why should I settle for 70%? That 70% will prove nothing except:

  • a. Perhaps this kiddo is taking her time,
  • b. She’s a slower processor, or
  • c. She simply needs more time.

Timed tests create an extreme amount of unnecessary anxiety in elementary school students. While the majority of the class will need to learn how to complete standardized tests in a set amount of time, it is unfair and downright mean to force kids to take timed tests for every single assessment.

That being said, a student should not get an unlimited amount of time to complete an assessment unless an educational plan requires it, so use your best judgement. Additionally, if your tests are regularly taking kids well over an hour to complete… you may need to rethink them!

Accommodation #3: Wait Time

In addition to extended time, I also like to employ the use of “wait time” for my students. Wait time simply refers to the time that you wait for a student to process, understand, and respond to a question. Sometimes, students have diagnosed processing disabilities in which they literally cannot understand something unless given more time than the typical kid. In other cases, students like to organize their thoughts before responding to a question. Occasionally, kids just aren’t paying attention!

Wait time allows the student to collect his or her thoughts and formulate them before they speak. In most instances, maintaining flexibility for how long it takes a student to respond can ease anxiety and produce better results.

Accommodation #4: Motor Breaks

I don’t know about you, but I cannot sit still for an hour without getting very antsy. For students, a common way of estimating their attention span (in minutes) is to think of their age plus one. Using this formula, the average attention span for a 10-year-old can be estimated as 11 minutes. 11 minutes! Now adjust that for a kindergartner: six minutes! Kids need more motor breaks, period. They get an almost inconsequential amount of time for recess, and it is not enough. They are little kids!

One website I love for motor breaks is called Go Noodle. This website has guided dances and follow-along videos with specific exercises that can all be differentiated by grade level. The kids love it, and it gets them moving. If you don’t have a projector readily available, have kids do jumping jacks, play a movement-sharing game where players have to stand up if they’ve done something (you choose the criteria), or even create a transition just for movement. Kids need to move frequently, or they won’t retain what you’re teaching.

Accommodation #5: Multiple Means of Representation

Finally, don’t do the same thing every day. When students have the exact same means of representation (i.e. always using a worksheet in math, an oral mini-lesson in reading, or an explanatory video in science), they can get bored and may have difficulty understanding new concepts. I try to keep my teaching engaging by not only following a curriculum when I have one, but adding in activities here and there that inject a little variety into my usual methods.

Clearly, accommodations that help students with special needs actually help all students.

As long as you’re flexible and understanding of varying needs, your classroom will (mostly) run smoothly. Make sure to remember that even if a child is not on an IEP or specialized plan, they may still need different things than their peers.

How do you approach accommodations in your classroom? Share your thoughts with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

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Want more from this author? Check out Lisa's tips for implementing meaningful classroom rules, how to approach homework, or her advice on classroom seating!
Author Bio:

Lisa Koplik is a fourth-grade teacher at the Greenwood School in Wakefield, Massachusetts. She loves teaching math, reading intense read-aloud books that promote complaints when she has to stop reading, and figuring out educational games to play with her students. Check out her videos on classroom management!

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