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9 Best Practices for Inclusion

Taking a look at strategies that create a quality learning environment in an inclusion classroom.

By Lani Aquino

Some of the most rewarding experiences in teaching can come to light in an inclusion classroom. By the same token, some of the most challenging aspects of teaching can also be found in making this the best learning environment for all students. By incorporating these 9 best practices, all stakeholders can find themselves immersed in an environment that is positively charged and conducive to learning.

  1. Multi-layer Directions- Don’t rely solely on a singular method for delivering directions. Directions need to be given in multiple formats- written on a paper, posted, verbally shared, etc. Reminders and redirection are also key to helping students maintain their focus and follow directions. If any changes are made mid-activity, they need to be addressed via each method.
  2. Fluctuate Collaborative Methods- Activities shouldn’t see students grouped the same way every time (e., individually, paired, small-group, whole-group). Finding a balance among collaborative groupings will be most effective, and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of students lets teachers make appropriate selections for the best fit involving different activities. With a variety of configurations, students are able to gain a foothold on the fluidity needed for working with others in real-world situations.
  3. Diversify Activities- A great way to keep any group of students engaged is to keep them interested in learning by incorporating a variety of activities. While routines in the schedule are important for establishing comfort levels, this shouldn’t be confused with making learning routine. A classroom environment that is all lecture or all worksheets or all computer-based or all any singular format for sharing information is not a healthy learning space for any student.
  4. Vary Assessment Methods- Just as students learn in different ways with a variety of strengths and weaknesses being brought to the table, the methods used to assess them should also be open to a variety of formats. When end-products can look different but still show the same level of mastery, students should not be limited to a single method to showcase learning. When oral assessments, visual displays, and/or written compositions demonstrate the same level of understanding, students should be given an opportunity to complete the assessment that is most befitting to their learning style and needs.
  5. Utilize Graphic Organizers- These organizational tools are excellent resources for any students. Graphic organizers can be used in an inclusion classroom to assist students in extrapolating information during reading or presentations. They can also come in the form of organizers used as study guides to facilitate learning along the way and prior to assessments.
  6. Infuse Technology- There are unlimited ways to incorporate technology in the classroom, and the inclusion classroom should be no exception. By introducing apps and programs that reinforce skills or assist in organization/time management, students are able to connect to the curriculum in new ways and learn valuable life skills. Technology also offers a bridge for keeping parents in the loop with what’s occurring in the classroom, which adds another layer to best practice #1.
  7. Model Everything- As with anything in life, it is always good to lead by example. This definitely holds true in the inclusion classroom. As teachers model behaviors, both social and academic, students learn valuable lessons they can apply in their own endeavors. This includes everything from how to tackle a math problem to how to tackle an unexpected interruption. Students are always watching, and some of the best lessons learned can be those that weren’t even put down in a plan book.
  8. Build Relationships- Taking the time to foster relationships with students and between students can make a huge impact on the learning environment. By knowing students beyond test scores, IEPs, and school records, teachers are able to make connections with them as individuals. This allows for trust to be built, which can lead to more effort and cooperation on both sides. When peer relationships are facilitated and encouraged through collaborative efforts and the establishment of a positive classroom environment, all students are given more opportunities to flourish both personally and academically.
  9. Focus on Strengths- Students take their cues from the behaviors modeled by teachers, and students often measure their capabilities based on their interactions with teachers. Rather than focusing on limitations or what a student can’t do, teachers need to put the spotlight on what students can do and what they do well. Focusing on a students’ strengths is crucial in building a positive self-image that can help them in reaching their full potential.

By incorporating best practices in an inclusion classroom, teachers are giving all students a solid foundation for learning. Each classroom environment may differ due to the unique challenges presented by its diverse population, but every classroom environment can benefit from strategies that foster success. These 9 strategies should be at the top of the list for teachers working in inclusion settings.

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