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Inclusion in the Classroom: The Teaching Methods

In order to meet the demands of Public Law 94-142, schools must provide students with disabilities a chance at placement in a “normal” classroom environment before putting them into a special needs classroom. As such, methods of instruction that benefit these students, along with their non-disabled classmates must be implemented in order to serve the needs of all involved. Although a difficult task, five methods are commonly used in full inclusion classrooms to support the load of diversified students now entering the classrooms. These five methods shall be discussed in-depth including what they are, their classroom arrangement, how students are arranged and involved, and what sorts of lessons lend themselves well to this type of arrangement. Finally, three drawbacks involved in using these methods shall be discussed so as to promote awareness as to the limitations of the method at hand.

The first method to be discussed is the One Teach One Support method. This method has a very simple and very traditional classroom layout in which the students sit in rows in front of the blackboard and instructing teacher. The supporting teacher stations himself/herself off to the right or left of the students in order to provide extra help and support as needed. In this model the participants are all following the instruction of the main teacher so that no child is excluded. However, any student that needs additional help or instruction is able to obtain this from the supporting teacher.

From this description of the layout, it might be easy to tell that in a One Teach, One Support classroom there two teachers present; one teacher that will provide the main instruction, and another to provide student support throughout the duration of the lesson. These teachers will rotate roles as lessons changed so that each teacher, the general education teacher and the special education teacher, have a chance to take on the main instructor role as well as the supporting instructor role.

The One Teach, One Support method of teaching works well for lessons that teach an overall concept and don’t go into details or specifics that can be hard to comprehend. For example, a lesson on American history would be acceptable as one teacher can present the information while the other teacher can give student support, making sure students are following along and understanding the information presented. Additional uses can be for lessons on grammar. As the instructing teacher is teaching the concept of comma usage, or something similar, the supporting teacher is able to check understanding by the students or aid those students who are unable to completely grasp the topic. As this topic is not highly advanced it lends itself well to a teach and support situation where students are not pulled away from the class for help, but can quickly catch the concept and continue on with the class. This ensures a solid basis of learning early on so as to promote better understanding of related concepts in the future.

The second method of teaching under the principles of inclusion is called Station Teaching. Using this method the classroom is divided into two, even three, different sections. One group of students is situated facing horizontally toward the blackboard; the second is arranged vertically facing the right wall. If a third group is present they will be arranged parallel to their vertically arranged classmates and will be turned to face the opposite wall or the front of the classroom. Students with special needs will be divided among these groups evenly. For example, if there are two each teacher will teach one special needs student. If there are three one will be put into the third section or if there are only two groups the extra student will be put into one of the other two groups. An equal division of students, specials needs and not, between groups avoids any problems with exclusion of those students with special needs.

With this arrangement a teacher, one general education teacher and one special education teacher, instructs each group. The main lesson is divided into two segments and each teacher will teach one segment. At the end of the lesson the groups will rotate and each teacher will give the lesson again, but to the new group of students. A third group will be provided with an additional lesson segment that will be given to them as independent work, pair work, or group work. They will, like the other stations, rotate around the room from station to station.

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This model can be advantageous in that it gives students the benefit of having a more intimate lesson with close teacher-pupil attention. Additionally, the model provides for an active learning environment not allowing students much time to become disinterested or bored. However, this method does require a great deal of discipline from the students, and a great deal of attention (monitoring) from the teachers. Besides the teacher’s needing to keep pace with one another and keep their students moving quickly enough to change stations without losing a lot of time; a third group can prove difficult to monitor and keep on task. Moreover, in order for this method to work the instructors must undertake a great deal of preparation and teacher-teacher coordination to ensure that the lessons align and that the students are getting all the necessary information. The lesson has to be broken down in such a way that no matter which station comes first the students still have the required and necessary information to complete the tasks required of them and make sense of the lesson.

Station Teaching lends itself well to lessons that can easily be split or require smaller learning groups. Science concepts can easily be taught using the Station Teaching method. Various experiments can be placed at each station where students can conduct the experiments and learn the principles behind them in a more intimate environment. The third station lends itself well in allowing students to work independently and compile or organize information as well as write their science experiment report.

Additionally, specific math concepts can easily be organized in a station teaching type environment. Such lesson as geometry can allow students a hands approach instead of watching the teacher teach it from the blackboard. For younger classes the principles of multiplication tables can be taught using hands on materials such as blocks. Both of these math concepts allows the teacher to show the students how the concept actually works in real life and can thus improve overall comprehension.

Parallel Teaching requires that the classroom be arranged in a manner where the students are split into two groups. These two groups are placed back to back with students from each group facing their instructor. One group will face the general education teacher in the front of the classroom, and the other group with face the special education teacher in the rear of the classroom. Students with special needs are divided equally between these two groups and their peers carefully making sure that one group doesn’t contain all the special needs students.

This method is implemented by having the two instructors collaborate on and coordinate a lesson. During class time each instructor will deliver the same lesson to half of the class. This method encourages more teacher pupil interaction and attention. Moreover, it provides students with a better opportunity to participate and ask question to aid in understanding.
However, Parallel Teaching also poses the risk of creating a substantial amount of noise in the classroom. With two teachers delivering lessons and at least two students answering or asking questions, the noise level can make it hard to concentrate. Not to mention the noise generated during drill or review activities, both of which are commonly implemented using the Parallel Teaching method. Other lessons that are advantageous when taught using this method are ESL or regular English concepts. As English concepts may require a great deal of participation and student involvement, the smaller groups created by Parallel Teaching are highly effective. Additionally, new math concepts, especially those that are more complex like algebra would work well with Parallel Teaching. With this method the teacher is more easily able to help and ensure that the entire group understands the concepts addressed.

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Alternative Teaching is the fourth method used and requires a classroom set up that is similar to that of the arrangement for Parallel Teaching. The difference is that the second group, those with the general education teacher, are fewer in number. Like Parallel teaching, two groups are placed back to back, one group facing the front and the second facing the rear. Each group is then assigned a teacher. The group facing the front is a larger group with about three times as many students as the rear facing group.

In this formation a teacher must cautiously choose students for the smaller group so as to ensure it contains a mix of students from all levels of learning and not simply the class’ special needs students. Additionally, students in the second group need to be rotated on a regular basis so as to ensure that the same group of students, irregardless of their background, are not always excluded to the small group.

This method can be used for such activities as giving extra help, catching students up to their classmates, or going in further depth about a topic in which students may find hard to follow. Advantages of this method include the ability of students to receive any extra help they may need keeping all members of the class on schedule and a more even footing as far as classroom instruction and class work goes.

In turn, the Alternative Teaching method can cause students to feel alienated or secluded from their classmates, especially if the teachers have a tendency to choose the same students to be in the small group and don’t properly rotate them. Additionally, teachers need to coordinate the appropriate lessons to make sure that all students are getting the same material delivered to them and that they aren’t missing valuable information while receiving extra help.

Alternative Teaching is a good time for teachers to implement in depth studies or drills of language mechanics or mathematics concepts. These types of lessons work well as the teacher is able to very closely work with a select few students to help and ensure their learning and understanding. Additionally, reading lessons lend themselves well to the use of Alternative Teaching. The teacher is able to go through reading material easily as there are only a small number of students to pay attention to and keeping them all on the same page (literally and figuratively) is much easier than with a big class. Concepts, words, and the like can easily be explained with little overall interruption and with a great deal of benefit to those present.

Team Teaching is the last method to be discussed, and the classroom arrangement is very simple. As a matter of fact, it is arranged exactly like the One Teach, One Support method, save for that both teachers are situated at the head of the classroom. One instructor leads the class while the other provides support for the main instructor through a number of different demonstrative or illustrative tasks. As such, the students are all situated facing the blackboard. The special needs students are spread out through the classroom to provide for optimal equity and inclusion. If there is a special needs student with a disability relating to hearing or sigh, they are obviously situated up front.

In a Team Teaching environment both teachers share instructional time equally and should rotate so as to keep equality between them. For example, while one teacher discusses the concepts behind multiplication tables, the second teacher can use the board to further illustrate and embellish the topic at hand.

Team Teaching is a great model to use with lessons that can easily integrate demonstrations and illustrations on the topic. More specifically, science lessons are easily and beneficially taught this way. While one teacher explains the concepts behind a particular experiment, the second instructor is able to display any necessary items and conduct the experiment for the students to view. In many science lab lessons students are used as volunteers to help with the illustrative experiment. This exact concept solidifies the use of Team Teaching as a means to teach a science lesson. There is no need for a student volunteer and all students are able to watch and learn equally from the experiment. Additionally, history lessons can lend themselves well to the use of Team Teaching. Explanations can be followed or preceded by illustrations, graphs, ideas or images that can be displayed on the board or through other media that the students can view.

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Yet even with so many wonderful implications of the aforementioned inclusion methods, there are also a number of drawbacks. Since no method is particularly perfect, teachers should be careful in choosing the method by which they will be instructing the class. Furthermore, teachers need to be aware of their students, their student’s abilities and needs. Without this information the proper method cannot be implemented or will prove highly ineffective in the learning and instructing process.

One possible drawback of the Parallel Teaching model deals with the amount of noise and distractions involved. Some special needs students may have ADD or ADHD which can cause a shortened attention span. These students become easily distracted and find it hard to concentrate in a very noisy environment where a lot is going on at once. During instruction under this method these students may find it hard to take in and retain the information being explained. However, although the noise levels involved in Station Teaching can be equally as high, it provides a nice fast paced environment by which these students can learn from. Furthermore, the hearing impaired might also experience a great deal of difficulty in learning under this method as the additional noise provided by the second instructor and second set of students may make it hard to hear the lesson at hand.

Another problem with Parallel Teaching is that it has the potential of causing a rift in learning between the students. Besides the possibility of inter-classroom competition, it can cause students to have different degrees of knowledge. One group may cover something more in-depth than another. Even with a great deal of teacher coordination and preparation this problem may still arise as both teachers come from different educational backgrounds. As such, the entire class can be set on an uneven playing field.

The method of Alternative Teaching can also pose a problem. Although the idea seems to embrace and include the entire class it can cause students to feel isolated or secluded from their classmates. Special needs or not, frequent rotation of students or not, this sort of method can create these feelings. This in turn can cause a backlash from other class members. Often such seclusion creates a lower self-esteem and criticism from classmates.

Drawbacks or not, it is easy to see the implications of such methods as those previously discussed. Having such tools as these can allow a great deal of versatility for the teacher and offers a unique and equitable experience for all students involved. It creates a more friendly and comfortable environment for disabled students, while not losing focus on those students who aren’t disabled. Additionally, they provide sensible methods of inclusion that don’t spotlight any particular student. A disabled student in a full inclusion classroom may never be known to be disabled by any of his/her classmates, which is ideal for the student. Yet, the student will also receive the necessary and specialized instruction they need through the use of any of the above methods. They are the keys to a fully functional full inclusion classroom.