Teaching Inclusion in the Classroom

Teaching Inclusion in the Classroom is a professional development course for teachers covering how to support students from diverse backgrounds, with a focus on those who are blind, deaf, hard of hearing, or visually impaired.

The course is split into two sections: Supporting Students and Supporting Parents. Each section includes two units.

The first unit of the Supporting Students section focuses on serving students with visual impairments. The second unit focuses on serving students who are blind, deaf, or hard of hearing. Both units introduce a general definition and overview of the condition, as well as providing strategies for supporting these students in your classroom. There are also videos featuring parents and experts in the field to help you understand the experience of these types of learners and how to best accommodate them.

The first unit of the Supporting Parents section focuses on helping parents support their children at home by explaining their child’s condition and providing strategies to teach new skills. The second unit focuses on helping parents prepare their children for school by teaching specific skills and preparing them for common situations they will find in school settings.

Each unit includes handouts that can be printed and shared with parents so that they have a reference guide available when they leave your office.

Inclusion isn’t always the easiest thing to do—it takes patience, support from parents, and some cooperation from other teachers. However, the benefits are huge: when you allow children with special needs to learn alongside their peers without disabilities, rather than segregating them into special classrooms or resource rooms, they often improve academically and socially.

When you’re teaching an inclusive classroom, one of the most important things you can do is let your students know what your expectations are for them. It’s also good to make sure that your students know that you care about them as individuals and want them to feel safe in your classroom.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when you’re designing a lesson for an inclusive classroom is that all students will have different needs. You should consider these needs in your design and take advantage of the incredible opportunity to customize learning experiences.

Diversity makes our world a richer and more interesting place. As educators, it’s important that we make room for people of all backgrounds in our classrooms.

This is particularly important to do in the early grades, when children are forming their ideas about what is “normal” and who belongs. Not only do young students need to learn how to interact with people from diverse backgrounds, they also need to learn how to talk about different kinds of people without causing offense.

Inclusion has traditionally been seen as a challenge: it’s hard to keep up with learning plans that are individually tailored to the needs of students who speak different languages, have different educational backgrounds, or have a wide range of physical or mental capabilities. But with the right tools and strategies, inclusion can be a seamless part of any class, and your students will benefit from the range of perspectives, experiences, and ideas that inclusion brings.

Diversity is one of the most important features of a classroom. It’s what helps students learn to respect and appreciate one another’s differences. For example, in classrooms where some students speak Spanish as their first language while others are learning English, it can often be difficult to find ways to help all students participate and feel included.

Inclusive Classroom Strategies

  • Make it Personal

Provide opportunities for students to share their own experiences and perspectives. Students learn from each other and the various perspectives and existing knowledge their fellow students bring to the table. Activities such as a fishbowl activity or reverse circle discussion activity can encourage and direct these challenging conversations.

  • Include Various Perspectives

Provide a variety of perspectives on the topics you teach. For instance, literature that comes from only one perspective lacks depth. Varied perspectives might offer new ideas and unique views. One example would be to teach a World War II class from an American historian’s perspective only. The look into that historic moment will be rather narrow. Include literature from the experiences of other groups such as concentration camp survivors, German foot soldiers, French resistance workers, and Vichy government officials. As much as possible provide content from diverse perspectives or created by individuals from differing backgrounds.

  • Know Your Students

Get to know your students. Invest time to focus on getting to know your students. The impact may surprise you. The simple gesture of addressing a student by their name demonstrates care and concern.

  • Watch for Problematic Assumptions

Problematic assumptions and implicit biases can manifest themselves in the classroom. Developing awareness of the assumptions and biases can help develop a positive classroom. Take an implicit bias test.

  • Respect Diverse People

Establish respect for the values of diverse peoples by using specific examples. Examples that demonstrate a respect and appreciation for diverse peoples and cultures. Use language that is gender neutral or takes into consideration the gender identity of students.

  • Respect Diverse Talents

Students not only come from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, race, and gender, but students also bring different talents and styles of learning. All students should have the opportunity to learn in a way that works for them and they should be able to showcase their talents.

It is important that we all work together to create an inclusive learning environment because it contributes to student success, both inside and outside of the classroom. Students with diverse backgrounds, needs, and abilities are more likely to succeed in a learning environment that is inclusive than one that is not inclusive. This can be especially beneficial for students who might otherwise struggle in non-inclusive environments—students with disabilities; first-generation, low-income students; or other underrepresented groups.

Teachers can create a safe learning environment by establishing guidelines for classroom interaction, fostering empathy and compassion among students and ensuring that the classroom is not a hostile or threatening environment for any student.

Differentiated teaching can be used to help meet the needs of individual learners. You can differentiate instruction by adapting the content, process, products or the learning environment to best fit the needs of your students. For example, you may choose to have students work together in groups of varying sizes, depending on their needs and preferences. Other ways to differentiate instruction include:

Providing different pathways for students to demonstrate their understanding; for example, allowing students to choose between writing an essay or delivering a presentation;

Adjusting course content based on student interest or ability; for example, adapting readings based on reading level or allowing extra time for tests that require more complex calculations;

Creating multiple versions of assignments with different levels of difficulty; for example, allowing students with more advanced skills to do additional research as part of an assignment.

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