As students move away from self-contained classrooms and into the regular education setting, you as the classroom teacher are not alone in wondering about adapting your school classroom for a disability. Student learning is your number one priority, and accessibility of both the space and lessons can be intimidating. How does one begin? Here, we will cover a few of the basics.
Classroom Management Elements
You should begin by identifying the specific difficulty of the disabled children in your classroom. This may be done by using diagnostic assessments and classroom progress reports, referring to existing IEPs, or simply consulting with the parents and any staff who have had prior interactions with the child. Once the information has been gathered, suitable arrangements should be made in the classroom. Some of the classroom management elements that should be considered by the teacher for effective learning are:
- Arranging the physical environment
- Organizing the instructional environment
- Using educational technology
- Managing time and other resources
Arranging the Physical Environment
Obviously, the classroom enviroment needs to be a safe and secure setting for every learner. This becomes even more crucial for children with a disability. Some considerations for arranging the physical environment are:
- Ensuring a safe and barrier-free environment by removing objects cluttered on the floor, desks, equipment, architectural barriers, etc.
- Proper arrangement of light, noise level, ventilation and attractive furnishings should be there in the classroom for effective learning.
- Offering comfortable and attractive furniture in the classroom so that the environment is inviting and enjoyable.
Organizing the Instructional Environment
The instructional environment of the classroom includes the procedures and material performance. The teacher organizes the curriculum, group study and delivery systems for the presentation and practice of skills and information. When it comes to adapting your school classroom for a disability, student needs are best met by consulting with your building specialists. They can assist you in organizing curricular skills and information sequentially, and arranging skills and information according to the subjects and activities of interest to the students.
Using Educational Technology
The current technology of education includes systematic instructional techniques, procedures for changing behavior and technological advances in equipment, media and learning resources. Electronic technologies such as television, radio, audio, and video-tapes and computers have the capability to revolutionize the quality, productivity and availability of education for the students you service.
Be sure to tap any resources available within your district. Consult with other classroom teachers for programs, techniques and curriculum which might be newly offered. You may also find that local and state agencies can be of assistance. When budget restraints are present, explore grant options offered locally and nationwide.
Managing Time and Other Resources
Keep in mind that the teacher, as manager of the total learning environment, supervises the allocation, organization and use of essential learning resources. This provides the opportunity for adaptations to be easily incorporated into the daily routine, including:
- Instruction time or duration
- Learning materials selected for use
- Instructional personnel incorporated for support and assistance
Divide the daily schedule into blocks of time, and specify what activities will occur, when they will occur, and who will be involved in the delivery. When choosing learning materials, consider the validity, cost, portability, skill level, presentation sequence, input modes, modes of response, durability and overall attractiveness. Finally, if you feel it necessary, you may wish to get help from specialists, instructional aides, peer tutors or even volunteers.
Overall, adapting the classroom environment is not difficult, but it does take careful planning! Remember to use the resources you have readily available, and do not be afraid to search out the ones which are not. Working with diverse populations is a rewarding experience, and one which will most certainly shape your carreer.
- The advice offered in this article is based on the author's extensive experience working in a fully-inclusive classroom setting.