Structuring a successful inclusive classroom takes a lot of work and planning. You will quickly learn that flexibility is the greatest asset of any teacher, because as soon as you think you have it right, the needs of your students change and you will have to adapt and plan again. Thoughtful planning and intentional design will benefit all of your learners.
Top Five Strategies for Structuring an Inclusive Classroom Environment:
1. A multi-sensory approach to learning
This is exactly what it sounds like; an approach to education that engages all of the senses. Some of us learn best by listening, some through reading. Some of us need to write something down to commit it to memory. Others won’t remember unless they repeat it back out loud. Still others need to touch, taste or even smell to fully grasp a new concept. Consistent use of different instructional approaches increases the likelihood that learning will be meaningful, relevant and lasting.
2. Individualized expectations
Individualizing expectations are as fair for gifted students as they are for those with unique learning needs and anyone in between. It’s a misnomer to believe that having different expectations for different students in the same classroom is unfair. Comparing students to one another is arbitrary. All students should be working toward progress from their own current level of functioning. Individualizing doesn’t “dumb down” the curriculum or hold students back. Instead, it allows students to develop and succeed according to their own individual needs.
3. Station activities and centers
Centers are areas of the room that are dedicated to learning a specific topic or developing a specific skill and provide students with the opportunity to learn at their own pace. All students benefit as centers enable the delivery of instruction to be differentiated according to individual students’ needs. There are many different ways to structure centers within a classroom, and curricular choices will need to be made based on skill level, students’ ability to work independently and the number of staff available in the classroom.
4. Clear of rules and expectations
Behavior management is critical to a successful learning environment. When students act out or are unable to focus, significant learning can not take place. Such behavior is indicative that needs are not being appropriately met. Create a classroom environment that reinforces positive behavior, stimulates attention and imagination and makes expectations clear.
5. Be flexible!
A teacher’s ability to adapt and change plans when necessary is critical to the success of an inclusive classroom. Seasoned teachers know how to “read the room”. This means that they are in tune with their students’ needs and abilities and know when something isn’t going as planned. The flexibility to scrap a lesson altogether when it isn’t working, or even to capture an amazing moment and run with it instead of the planned lesson is a skill that makes a teacher truly stand out.
Please be in touch if you wish to schedule teacher training workshops that focus specifically on Jewish settings and supplemental schools to learn more about adapting these strategies to a religious school setting.
Editor’s Note: This blog originally appeared here.
Lisa Friedman is a widely recognized expert in Jewish disability inclusion. She is an Education Director at Temple Beth-El in Central New Jersey, where she has developed and oversees an inclusive synagogue school. She is also the Project Manager of UJA-Federation of New York’s Synagogue Inclusion Project. Lisa consults with congregations, schools, camps and other organizations to guide them in the development of inclusive practices for staff, clergy and families through dialogue, interactive workshops, and awareness training. Lisa is a sought after speaker on a wide variety of topics and blogs about disabilities and inclusion at “Removing the Stumbling Block.”
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