Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Classroom Community and Being Kind

The inclusive environment is new to Jahn this year. This means that students are used to seeing their peers leave the classroom for chunks of a time. Some use words like resource, pull out, and special education. Some don't. All know that some students need more help and they get pulled out. Now all of a sudden students who disappeared during math or reading time are back in the room! Now there's a second teacher who teaches lessons! Now work is differentiated!

These changes are wonderful BUT we have to keep in mind that this change can be confusing or uncomfortable for students. Without getting into specifics, teachers have been telling me about language and complaints that they have overheard. Generally, the students are not meaning to be well... mean. They're confused by this new environment and don't have the language or background knowledge to understand the change. Below is a list of my favorite ways to do this:

1. The Bandaid Activity. 

I got this from Paula Kluth's awesome blog years ago. I just saw that she put it back up on her blog and with good reason. The Bandaid Activity was created by a kindergarten teacher but it's perfect for all grades. I used it as a first week ice breaker activity in a fifth grade co-taught classroom for years and years. This year, I did the activity in a sixth grade homeroom and one of the seventh grade teachers did it with her homeroom. Go to this blog to get the scoop on the lesson. Essentially, it's a really interactive and visual way to explain differentiation to students. 

2. Repeat after me: "Fair is what you need."

Students are aware that some peers learn skills really quickly and some peers take more time. We need to be honest about differentiation and student needs. That doesn't mean calling out students and divulging confidential IEP information. It does mean telling students that we all learn differently. Johnny needs glasses to see. If he is the only student who struggles with seeing the board, is it unfair to give him glasses so that he can see the board? Of course not! Johnny needs glasses to see the board. Ms. Snider needs to put scheduled meetings into her phone or she won't remember to show up. Seth needs time to clean out his binder each week. Rachel needs a calculator when solving eighth grade math problems. Fair is what you need. We all need different things. 

Use your language to promote kindness, community, and shared ownership.

"It looks like ____________ is talking. Support your classmate by turning your head towards him and listening while he talks."

"What can you do to help your classmate solve this problem?

"I want you two to take two minutes to figure this out together before asking for my help."

"Check in with a classmate before you check in with me?

"Who in your class can help you with this?"

3. Lessons and Activities on being kind:

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