Tag Archives: Inclusion

Everyone Deserves to be Heard

I recently told you about the novel,Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.  My class started reading it at the beginning of the nine weeks and we are already on Chapter 8.  I was originally going to do this book as just a read aloud when time permitted, but it has already evolved into something wonderful.  It is probably going to take most of the nine weeks, but I have designed a unit that I think will be worth every minute.

My thematic foundation: Everyone deserves to be heard.

We will focus on the these questions as we read, write, and practice good speaking and listening skills:

  • In what ways are individuals excluded?
  • How does it feel to be excluded?
  • How can we make everyone feel included?
  • How can you effectively express yourself?
  • How can we show respect for people who have different ideas?

To tie in non-fiction and media, I am going to introduce them to Carly Fleischmann, an amazing young woman with autism.

Both nonverbal, Melody (the protagonist) and Carly sharing some very similar characteristics, experiences, and abilities.  Their differences will make a great compare and contrast activity, as well.

I am so excited how this unit has come together so naturally.  I try so hard to find topics, novels, and activities that are meaningful to my students.

I bought the iBook on my classroom iPads, and while I only have the 6 iPads for 10 students, I am able to pair some of them up and their response has been great.

Reading a full length novel in an eBook format is new to all of them and they are very anxious to read each day.  I have gone from reading to them, to them primarily reading on their own – even reading ahead at times.  The ability to highlight, search, bookmark, and adjust the text size and font appeals to them.

For some of my very low readers, I highlight a small chunk of text, give them a brief overview, and ask them to read. After a few quick questions to check comprehension, I highlight another portion, focusing on the main events of the chapter, and repeat the process.

But honestly, I think the topic is key.  We’ve had some very serious discussions about Melody. They’ve asked me flat-out if Melody’s classroom, “H-5,” is the same as our class – which it isn’t, but they see the differences in each student and recognize the struggles and emotions the characters face. They are making connections on how it feels to be included and excluded.

Although Melody is a fictional character, she is as real to them as anything.  I can tell, after only 8 chapters, they feel a connection to her and care about her as a character.  I plan on waiting awhile to introduce Carly’s story, so that they can continue to form their own images and opinion in their minds.

To read more about Carly:


The Complete March Madness Unit

Here is the entire March Madness Unit I will be using in my Resource Room.  I included the links from my previous post as well.

Map Skills – Students will be asked to include a map on their display board that shows the location of each college and the state abbreviations.  Below are three  different maps for different levels for the abbreviations requirement.

There is a great blog, Bill’s Sports Maps (billsportsmaps.com), that will have an updated map of all 68 teams.  Typically we don’t show this to the higher students and many of them will discover it on their own.  However, it is a good “cheat sheet” for some IEP students.

Research the College/University – Students must research the college or university and locate information. I have created a Recording Sheet for March Madness for the college and team info.  In the past, I found it was very difficult for some middle school students to understand college and associated terms like founder, enrollment, campus, degrees, major, and tuition.  It might help to use a local college not in the tournament to model this.

Research the Team – Similar to the college/university research, students must find information on the team itself.

Writing a Letter – This has been optional in past social studies classes.  I am going to do this for sure in my Resource Room.  Sometimes a college or athletic department will send something back in the mail.  Below is a sample letter you could use. Students can include the stickers, pamphlets, T-shirts and autographed posters  (Yes, some kids receive things like that) on their display boards.

University Advertisement –This is a new requirement this year.  It must be at least one minute in length, be informative, and promote the college. (Prezi, video, etc. – No PowerPoints or posters) 

Writing a Poem Using Figurative Language

Another great resource for your March Madness Unit:

  • “March Madness” Unit (www.quia.com/pages/mmchristiancy.html) – This is where I found the sample letter mentioned above. The links at the bottom of the page are great ways to help students locate information and include some of the links I posted above.  Also included: links about school mascots, fight songs, and everything NCAA-related.

March Madness

How appropriate that it is called March Madness!! I’m not referring to the NCAA tournament, but the final weeks before Spring Break.

My calendar is incredibly full this month with IEPs, PT conferences, the end of basketball season and the beginning of baseball season, Tweedle Dee’s 13th birthday, orthodontist and doctor’s appointments, and a few other random meetings. I am double booked on some evenings and am not really sure how I am going to work that out. One day at a time, I guess.

Just 9 days of school (plus one in-service day) until Spring Break.  I don’t have any big plans over break, except for a Cavs game against the Celtics. The weekend Ian was in the hospital, we had had tickets for the kids’ first ever Cavs game.  Sadly, Ian and I did not get to go.

This Friday, we will be kicking off our own March Madness unit in the Resource Room. Another Language Arts teacher and I are recycling/revamping this unit from past years when he did it in his 8th grade Social Studies class.   To get started, I found this great Prezi presentation and have created a March Madness Scavenger Hunt for my students to complete. This is a good simple introduction and very well done by the creators.

Two Things I Need To Survive 8th Grade: Coffee and Mnemonic Devices

When I first started teaching 8th grade, the curriculum was all new to me. I was the inclusion teacher in four subjects, as well as teaching two of my own resource classes.

Few things are less intimidating than being unfamiliar with the curriculum and learning it just a few days ahead of the students. One of the first things I had to learn was the Scientific Method.

I needed a quick way to memorize the steps:

  • Ask a question
  • Form a hypothesis
  • Test the hypothesis
  • Analyze results
  • Draw conclusions
  • Communicate results

I also needed to think of a way to help my students memorize these steps for their test.

Fortunately I had been in band and knew the “Every Good Boy Does Fine” trick to learn the notes on the staff. Since then, I have always been a big fan of mnemonic devices. And, as luck would have it, the science teacher I worked with usually had a cup of coffee in her hand every morning as she greeted the students in the hallway.

So this is what I came up with:

A fun snapshot of the science teacher with her morning cup of coffee would make a great poster for the classroom.

Totally unscientific, but trust me….silly things like this work!

Tweedle Dee used this same strategy to help her in her science class this year and last year. (Being a teacher’s kid, she learns all kinds of crazy ways to memorize things!)

I am certain I will never forget the steps to the Scientific Method and I bet there is a good chance you won’t either.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Like many middle school students do each fall, our 8th graders are currently reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. One of the many activities that students do during this unit is memorize and recite Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” poem.

Just like learning the lyrics to a song, practice makes perfect.

Here are two ways I have found useful:

1) Write the poem on the white board in different colors for each couplet. Each day, in order to practice, students stand one row at a time and recite two lines in unison. The next row stands and recites the next two lines and so on and so forth.

Every day, a new row starts the poem so that students have an opportunity to recite every line. This is a good transition activity and should be done daily for at least a week (or two) prior to the due date.

2) I have also created a SMART Notebook file using the “Sentence Arrange” tool which you can read more about by clicking the link.

Last Christmas we had a gift exchange with all of the 8th grade teachers. I made this with my Sizzix machine for a co-worker, who I shall call “Follower 100.” This year, I am her inclusion teacher in her Language Arts class and it is displayed in the front of her classroom.

What poems do you require your students to recite?

What other techniques do you use to help students memorize poetry?

Share your ideas here and enjoy this video of  “Stay Gold” by Stevie Wonder.

Dear Journal…I Finally Found a Way to Stay Organized!

As an intervention specialist who works with 4 different inclusion teachers and meets with students in 6 different rooms daily, I have to be very organized. As a traveling teacher, I find I am always needing something I don’t have with me and running back to my classroom isn’t always an option. None of the rooms, except my own, have a desk or a place to call “my own.” I sit my belongings on tables, bookshelves, counter tops and window sills. I carry a pencil, a pen, and a highlighter – which are usually all lost by the end of the day.

I have tried all different kinds of ways to document, organize, plan, and take notes in the inclusion classroom. I have made charts, tables, and forms on the computer. I have tried writing notes during class and then typing them up later in Word or Excel. I have used folders, binders, clipboards, and bags. Every system seemed to work for a few days, or a few weeks, but I always abandoned them. Sometimes, I think it is possible to be too organized.

Finally, in November of this past school year I found a system that lasted for 3 nine weeks and I plan to use it again this coming fall.

This method is not high-tech or expensive. I use a basic composition book – I opted for one with a faux leather looking cover versus the marbled black and white, because our 8th graders each carry two of those.


I carry it with me all day long and I write everything I think of or need to remember. This includes but is not limited to:

OAA scores, alternative schedules, team notes,

staff meeting notes, IEP/ETR dates,

a day by day plan for each inclusion class,

brainstorming ideas for my Resource Room class,

documentation for my intervention study hall,

small groups for our Rock the OAA days,

lists of missing work and retakes.

I use Post-It Index tabs across the top for my most important pages.

I also keep a supply of sticky notes on the inside of the front cover. Sticky notes are good for daily TO DO lists or notes to students.

I also carry a clipboard with worksheets, study guides, and other important papers.

I wanted to scan the pages and show you some samples of my layouts, but because I write in pencil and because it is very worn, it is hard to read. For that reason, I am going to type up some samples on Notes and show you some ideas of how to lay out the pages.

This is a sample of my documentation for my Intervention Study Hall. I keep brief notes on what we work on each day. This is my “secret weapon” when a student says we didn’t work on an assignment or that I didn’t help him. It also helps me remember what we did when students were absent.


This is a sample of a two page spread for my “This Month” tab. I talk to the inclusion teachers and pencil in the main lesson(s) for the day so I always know what is up. It is also helpful to have this two page spread to glance at because I can see if there are too many tests on a given day and I can plan for my intervention study halls.



This composition book lasted me for 3 nine weeks and there is still room to spare. I can picture 15-20 years from now a whole bookshelf of worn books full of notes. I decided at the end of the year to write a list of my IEP students in the back of the book – just to remember their names. (I wish I had this thought 16 years ago!)

Tweedle Dee bought me this composition book at the Dollar Tree for Christmas. How sweet is that?


She obviously noticed how important my other journal was, as I always carry it in my purse. (You never know when you might think of a good idea). I turned this journal into my “All Access Pass” journal. This is where great ideas begin….


Questioning Strategies that Promote Discussion

Discussion is one of the most important parts of a lesson. This allows students to seek clarification and allows teachers to gauge understanding.

How do you get students to engage in discussion?

By asking questions…the right questions.

Take our inclusion Pre-Algebra class, for example. After we go over the answers for their homework, the teacher asks, “What questions do you have?”

In some classrooms, you will get an appropriate response.
In the inclusion classroom, you often get blank stares.

After a moment of silence, I throw out some other questions:

“What was something that was confusing to you?”
“What did you realize you were doing wrong?”
“What makes more sense now?”

Asking these types of questions and the discussion that follows is beneficial for  several reasons:

  • It gives students time to reflect on mistakes.
  • It may help others who have made similar errors.
  • It clears up further misunderstandings.
  • It encourages metacognition (thinking about thinking).
  • It allows students to verbalize and prove his or her understanding.
  • It encourages a safe learning environment where it is ok to make mistakes.


How do you encourage discussion?
What kinds of questioning strategies do you use?
How do you combat the blank stares and moments of silence?

Behind Every Hero….

One our favorite family movies is Sky High (starring Lynda Powers, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, as Principal Powers.)

In this movie, each student possesses some sort of super power (and of course will have to work together to save the world.)

The scene below is on the first day of school when the students are gathered together to demonstrate their skills and be placed in the appropriate track….either “Hero” or “Sidekick.”

Principal Powers: In a few moments, you will go through Power Placement and your own heroic journey will begin.

Will Stronghold: Power Placement?

Layla: Sounds fascist.

Ethan: Power Placement. It’s how they decide where you go.

Magenta: The hero track or the loser track.

Will Stronghold: There – there’s a loser track?

Ethan: I believe the preferred term is “Hero Support.”

In the inclusion setting, intervention teachers are often the “sidekick”. However,  if you watch the whole movie, you will see that the sidekicks are a vital part of the plot.

I am lucky to be a sidekick to Captain Algebra (her identity must remain secret to protect the citizens). She presents content in a heroic fashion while I provide support.

If you are an inclusion teacher, here are some tips for being the best hero support you can be:

Provide alternative views, tricks, and tips during lesson  – Don’t be afraid to interject during the lesson. It’s something that takes time to develop. After you work with the same teachers for a few years, it will become more natural to add your two cents during a lesson. I often share mnemonic devices or crazy things that we make up in our intervention study hall that will be helpful to everyone in the inclusion  class.

Be a role model – Ask questions and encourage discussion.  When there is a lull in the discussion or you know students must surely be wondering (but not asking questions) throw out your own questions for the teacher.  Kids will usually start talking when they think they know more than you.

Read minds – Think like the students….What doesn’t seem clear? What misconceptions do they have? As you walk around the room and look at student work you can see common mistakes and verbalize this to the teacher by “thinking out loud.” “Oh…..So you mean that I have to multiply by the reciprocal instead of dividing?”

Help citizens in need – Sit down with a student who is struggling and offer some one-on-one time while the teacher goes on ahead with the rest of the class. Sometimes if a student has missed a day or two they really need the instruction of the missed lessons before they can proceed with the current lesson.

Are you a hero or a sidekick in the classroom?

What are your responsibilities as an inclusion teacher?

If you are a regular classroom teacher, how do you utilize your inclusion teacher?

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