It is important that teachers are aware of and use inclusive teaching strategies in their daily lesson plans. Classrooms today are very diverse places. The most common example of student diversity is the academic ability levels of your students. In my district, a full-inclusion model is a standard for classes K through 8. Students with a wide range of abilities and needs are included in one classroom.
In special circumstances, parents can request a different placement for their child, but many parents wish their children to remain at their home school with their peers. In my teaching experience, it has been common to have students who are still working at an elementary school level in my middle school classes. For many teachers, this is not an unusual scenario to have pupils of all abilities in your classes. So how might a teacher design lessons that reach all learners?
Today’s blog post is written by Rebecca Gettelman who is a middle and high school teacher from the Midwest. She has been teaching for over eleven years. Kristy has added in some of her ideas throughout the post.
Below are some inclusive teaching strategies that I find useful when I am lesson planning for my classes.
Preload Discussion Questions
Class discussions are one of my favourite teaching tools. But class discussions can easily favour students who think quickly on their feet and are not shy about contributing. One of the best ways to counteract this problem is to hand out copies of the discussion questions you will be using ahead of time. This gives your students who struggle with discussion (and your more advanced students as well) a chance to think about the questions at their own leisure and formulate responses before class even begins. Another strategy is to have students work together in a think-pair-share activity, after their initial independent brainstorm. This gives students time to digest the information before participating in the class discussion. I use this discussion strategy in my holiday-themed units Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
Turn On Closed Captions
When using video in your classroom, turn on closed captioning to help all students access the material. Many video sources have this feature available it just needs to be turned on.
Any time that I assign a major assignment, I always give several options for the students to select one to complete. The opportunity for students to pick their option gives students the chance to select one that appeals to their own strengths and interests. I scaffold the options so that they are a mix of less challenging and more challenging activities. Depending on how your classroom and curriculum are structured, this option-giving can also apply to required reading, project topics, homework assignments, and so much more.
Abandon The Literary Canon
Not every piece of classic literature will appeal to your students. Ensure the novels, short stories and articles you are reading in your classes reflect your students’ realities and interests. I love using Google Forms to get my students’ opinions and thoughts about different topics. A quick Google Form survey will help you plan your lessons to ensure they meet the needs of all your students. I also like to use audiobooks in my classroom when reading novels. Students often learn more when they are following along to the audio version in their book.
Listen to Your Students
It is so easy to fall into the “I am the teacher: I know best” trap. Teachers have a vast amount of knowledge, but that being said, it is so important to listen to what your students tell you. While you may be the expert on all things English (or Math or Social Studies), no one is as much of an expert on a given student as that student him/herself.
Begin the year by asking your students what they need to be successful (do this in writing—you will get better, more honest responses). Ask students to goal-set, and together design steps for both the student and the teacher to reach these goals.
Be open to change—not every student or every section or every class will learn the same way or respond as well to the same teaching methods. When something isn’t working, whether you are seeing it in students’ test results, their behaviour, or their engagement, don’t be afraid to ask the students what is going on and try something new. When you demonstrate a willingness to listen and respond to your students, they will usually listen and respond to you.
Different ability levels can make your job as a teacher more challenging, but that doesn’t mean that the challenges this sort of classroom presents are insurmountable. Be open to trying new things and new ideas and, before you know it, these challenges will have become a part of your daily routine.
Additional Inclusive Teaching Strategy Resources
- Choice Writing
- Strategies for Inclusion in the ELA Classroom
- Special Education Resources For The ELA Classroom