- Let’s get to know each other
It is important for us to know our students as human beings. What are the students’ likes and dislikes inside and outside of school? What will they enjoy doing in our classrooms? Use this information to plan activities and lessons that take into account the needs and interests of your students. Planning this way will help students connect with you and the material you teach.
- Let’s partner with parents
Partnering with parents to better understand your students and plan for their needs is imperative to a successful school year. When you develop a relationship with the parents they feel that they are partners in their child’s success. You can encourage them to share much-needed information by approaching them with respect, understanding, and hope.
- Let’s plan
Educators spend much time planning their lessons-but the key is to plan with differentiated instruction principles in mind. Keep in mind the learning needs of the auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic students to ensure that your lessons will be accessible to all your learners. It can take more time and effort, but the benefits are immediate and lasting.
- Let’s structure
Classrooms that are well-structured and organized are more accessible to all students. As adults, most of us are calm and focused in places that are clean, organized, and run on a specific known schedule. It’s important that we prepare all of our students if there is a change to the schedule or the environment so they feel comfortable and engaged, their minds free and open to learning-not distracted by chaos and worry.
- Let’s see
Visual schedules are a great way to show students what to expect next. They give students the information they need, and reduce anxiety so they don’t worry about what’s going to happen next. Pairing this with the use of a visual timer (the Time Timer is one example, www.timetimer.com) will help students and educators stay on-track. Non-verbal cues can also help students connect to and be aware of their environment.
- Let’s touch
The use of fidgets in the classroom can help students focus. Research has proven that these techniques actually work. Think about it: Don’t we all fidget in some manner? Fidgeting can include doodling, so make index cards available for students to have at their desks. You may want to get some mini-slinkies and silly putty from the dollar store. Anything that students can use for fidgeting will help them with secondary focusing and engaging in the given lesson.
- Let’s share
Create a network of sharing with other educators in your school. Every educator has a wealth of knowledge to share, and we can help each other build inclusivity in our classrooms. What has worked for you? What have they tried? How can we tweak? Share the wealth and meet to brainstorm.
Please keep in mind that although these tips aren’t going to cost a lot of money – they will require an investment of time and effort. The extra work will pay off as you see your learners engaged, growing, and achieving their goals.
Michelle recommends the following resources:
Michelle Steinhart has been in Jewish Education and Jewish Special Education for over 20 years, teaching in day and synagogue schools. She is the Director of Inclusion at Temple Israel Center, White Plains, NY, and is Mentor Coordinator and Director of Special Projects for MATAN – an organization that educates and empowers Jewish communities to create learning environments supportive of children with special needs.