Inclusion is definitely a buzz word. There’s lots of talk about making schools and classrooms more inclusive of diverse learners with a broad range of abilities. And while there are many teachers who “buy in” recognize the value of full inclusion, there is still a gap between desire and skill set. Many continue to shy away from making their classroom a welcoming space for learners of abilities because they believe that they do not have the expertise needed, and often fear they might “do it wrong” or make too many mistakes.
And while there are no shortcuts for learning and collaborating with the experts within your school or community, there are lots of simple, inexpensive ways for individual teachers to make their classrooms more inclusive. (It’s worth reminding you that special education is just good education and these hacks are great ideas to add to any teacher's toolbox!)
Since we are always #BetterTogether, I decided to ask some of my inclusion friends and colleagues for their help in coming up with these ideas.
HACK #1: Be Welcoming to EVERYONE - (Renay Marquez of ParaEducate)
- It costs absolutely nothing to say “hi” to 3 different people (adults or students) who are not a part of your classroom every, single day. Being open and welcoming is at the core of being inclusive.
HACK #2: Create an area for class meetings - (Nicole Eredics of The Inclusive Class)
- Flooring stores will often sell their samples (the square samples you see on display) at a discount. Have one for each child, even those who may use a wheelchair and/or cannot sit on the floor.
HACK #3: Set up a movement area where it's OK for students to go when they feel “wiggly” - (Torrie Dunlap of Kids Included Together)
- Buy an inexpensive yoga mat and put pictures of yoga poses on the wall for students to copy with their bodies. (A little bit of movement can help all of us refocus our brains!)
HACK #4: Create schedules within schedules - (Tim Villegas of Think Inclusive)
- We call them "help boxes". When starting an activity, list the order and then check items off as you complete them. Helpful for everyone.
HACK #5: Give EVERY student full access to the alphabet - (Brenda Giourmetakis of [In-kloo-zhuhn])
- Life skills include literacy and numeracy. Teachers should avoid assuming that some students will never read or write. One way to accomplish this: Have alphabet flip cards available for use by everyone.
HACK #6: Change YOUR language - (Ruti Regan of Anachnu)
- Another FREE way to become more inclusive is to be mindful of the way you speak to students. An example: Stop saying "it's easy" when students are having difficulty. Alternatives can include “You can do it,” “I believe in you, “or “Let’s try it together.”
- Another FREE idea, this can help students to avoid becoming idle and/or restless. This also lets them see the whole school and not just one classroom.
What are some of your best hacks for making a classroom more inclusive? Please share your favorites in the comment section below.