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How Students Are Different And The Same. Chapter 3 Diverse Students In The Classroom. Teaching Diverse Students. “ The key is learning how to teach individuals, not groups.” Carol, 7 th grade teacher. Teaching Individuals Not Groups An Inclusive Middle School.

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teaching diverse students
Teaching Diverse Students

“The key is learning how to teach individuals, not groups.”

Carol, 7th grade teacher

Teaching Individuals Not Groups

An Inclusive Middle School

  • Multilevel writing assignments
  • Cross-ability friendships
  • A place and support for students with special challenges
  • Multicultural, multi-ability, dvierse socio-economic status
  • Student’s capabilities complement one another
  • An interesting class!! NOT boring
Sights to See

Peanut Butter and Micah in High School

Peanut Butter and Jelly Lesson

Micah: Senior Year in High School

Special Needs and Good Teaching

Good Teaching Addresses Many Specific Needs

Do we design teaching for categories of students or design teaching to handle diversity from the beginning?

  • Students that are part of a group are often very different from one another
  • When we teach towards ‘groups’ we can easily stereotype
  • When we design our teaching for diversity we automatically address both indivdiual and group needs.
Label Jars, Not People

Seeing Children as People First

Labels can dehumanize students seeing them AS their label rather than simply children. Let’s . . .

  • See students as children first
  • See strengths as central rather than deficits
  • Understand individual strengths, needs, interests
  • Use ‘person first language’ when we discuss labels. A student who is . . .
Students From Diverse Cultural,

Racial, and Ethnic Groups

Related but different concepts: race, ethnicity, culture

  • Race - genetics and physical characteristics (no pure races exist)
  • Ethnic group - common bond based on ancestry, common beliefs, language, etc.
  • Culture - language and symbols, customs and patterns of interaction, shared values, norms, and beliefs
Students From Diverse Cultural,

Racial, and Ethnic Groups

Inclusive Teaching Strategies

  • Promote respect of students’ culture, race, and ethnic identity.
  • Promote respect and understanding of each student as an individual
  • Help students learn how to critique and challenge social injustice.
  • Assure that students are accepted and valued, have a sense of belonging, and develop friendships.
Students from Extreme Poverty

Poor people are judged as lazy and unmotivated. Getting beyond stereotypes and promoting understanding

  • Parents in a constant survival mode
  • Constant feelings of humiliation
  • Lack of understanding of options
  • Teachers often think poor parents don’t care but this isn’t true.
  • Education may not be seen as important if the challenge is daily survival
  • Poor children feel teachers don’t care about them.
Students from Extreme Poverty

Inclusive Teaching Strategies

  • Show students they are special
  • Ensure emotional and physical safety; protect students from ridicule
  • Examine our own attitudes
  • Promote understanding of poor children
  • Try to understand connection of poverty and problems with behavior or academic performance
  • Create incentives
  • Don’t give homework that is difficult for children to do in unstable home situations
  • Have parents and others who have been poor tell their stories
Students Who Are Gay

Ridicule and intolerance of homosexual students is widely prevalent

  • 10-30% of students are gay
  • Do not tolerate ridicule but promote understanding and relationships; challenge homophobia
  • Make no assumption about sexual preference
  • Have gay related materials visible in the classroom
  • Let students know you are supportive of all
  • Work on your own biases
  • Don’t advise students who are gay to ‘come out’. Let them make that decision
  • Connect students with gay role models
Students with

Differing Academic Abilities

  • Gifted and talented
  • Dominant language learners
  • Learning disabilities
  • Cognitive disabilities
  • Traumatic brain injury
Gifted and Talented


  • The term “gifted and talented” . . . means students . . . who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not normally provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities. (PL 103-398, Title XIV p. 388)
inclusive strategies for gifted and talented students
Classroom leadership, problem solving and advanced learning

Multi-level learning strategies for higher level learning

Multi-level, differentiated lessons

Curriculum compacting

Tiered lessons

Open-ended assignments

Inclusive Strategies for Gifted and Talented Students

Scaffolding for high ability students

  • Build scaffolding into all instruction
  • Use computers and particularly the internet as an information source
  • Obtain materials at different levels
  • Bring in experts to share with the class
  • Identify mentors
Inclusive Strategies for Gifted and Talented Students 2

Mixed ability groups and higher learning.

  • Social action research projects
  • Literacy circles
  • Multi-age grouping
  • Flexible groupings
  • Collaborative pairing

Expanding opportunities

  • Community experiences
  • Enrichment for All
  • Integrated honors programs
Inclusive Strategies for

Dominant-Language Learners

  • High incidence of two-way communication
  • Social integration with native English speakers
  • Thoughtful integration of second-language acquisition principles with content instruction
  • Involvement and participation of home community
  • Promotion of critical consciousness
        • Faltis (1997)
Learning Disabilities:Definition
  • . . . a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written
  • that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations.
  • The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
  • The term does not apply to children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
    • (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act [IDEA], 2004, p. 118)
Learning Disabilities

Typical Descriptions of Challenges

  • Hyper and hypo-activity
  • Perceptual processing difficulties
  • Organization of work
  • Writing thoughts and ideas
  • Remembering mathematical facts

Problems: very general statements; focus on deficits, not strengths.

Suggestion: describe student challenges in specific functional terms

        • Faltis (1997)
Ways In Which Schools

Help Create Learning Disabilities

Teaching children in ways they can’t learn.

  • Prescribed curriculum sequence.
  • Ability grouping, forcing low groups to see themselves as non-readers and writers.
  • Denying access to real books until they can ‘read’.
  • Expecting kids to learn language from sitting all day without talking.
  • Asking questions that call for only one right answer.
  • Reprimanding children for wrong answers so that they avoid risk-taking

And then:

  • Referring children to resource rooms.
  • Subjecting them to testing that further convinces them they know little.
  • Stigmatizing them with a pathological diagnosis.
Learning Disabilities

Inclusive Teaching Strategies

High expectations & recognition of achievement

Authentic, multi-level instruction.

  • Multiple intelligences
  • Activity-based learning

Provide scaffolding to help the student participate with support

  • Read-alouds, writing dictated stories
  • Buddy and group reading
  • Books on tape, talking software

Adaptations for language

  • Computers
  • Talking software
  • Taped books
  • Tape recorder
Learning Disabilities

Inclusive Teaching Strategies 2

Organization & anticipation

  • Books at home
  • Help organize desk
  • Visual prompts -- color codes
  • Teach skills in blocks
  • Preview work -- send home


  • Understand
  • Help learn responsibility


  • Report learning not just grade
  • Alternatives -- extra credit, drop-a-grade, alternative performance
Learning Disabilities

Problems with Pull-out Services

  • Resource room may stigmatize children
  • Students with many different problems are lumped together
  • Instruction focuses on isolated skills
  • Students miss instruction in the general education class
  • Difficult to establish a sense of community
Cognitive Disabilitypreviously mental retardation

AAMR definition

  • Sub-average intelligence (2 standard deviations below mean)
  • Limitations in adaptive behavior: communication, self-care, home living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, functional academics, leisure, and work
  • Before age 18
  • Needed lifelong supports
Cognitive Disabilitypreviously mental retardation


Mental retardation means significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a child educational performance.

IDEA, 1997, 300.7 [b]

Cognitive Disabilitypreviously mental retardation

Intensity of Support

  • Intermittent
  • Limited
  • Extensive
  • Pervasive
Cognitive Disabilitypreviously mental retardation

Impacts of Disability


MILD(55-70) : functions fairly normally; academic, living, and vocational limitations.

MODERATE (40 -55): work and live in community with support.

SEVERE PROFOUND (<40): need much assistance and support; often other disabilities.



LEARNING: slower and less capacity.

SOCIAL: sometimes misread social cues; overtrusting.

SEXUAL: historically very controversial. Have been successful parents with support.


Community Involvement of

Individuals with a Cognitive Disability


Institutions for persons with severe behavioral challenges

Separate school or class

Special work place: sheltered workshop

Special living place: group home.


Inclusion with other children in the neighborhood, churches, temples, or synagogues

Inclusive education--regular classes with supports

Supported employment

Supported living--own home or apartment with supports

Cognitive Disabilitypreviously mental retardation

Inclusive Teaching Strategies

Key Principles

  • Age-appropriate
  • Community-based
  • Natural proportions
  • Self-determination and choices


  • Multi-level teaching.
  • Partial participation.
  • Assistance and support from other students.
  • Picture cues and technology -- eg. Speaking software.
  • Smaller, simpler assignments
  • Link to life goals, home,and community.
  • Authentic, real world learning
Students with Traumatic Brain Injury


  • Physical impairments
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Behavioral/emotional changes and difficulties

Teaching strategies

  • Same as with students with learning and cognitive disabilities
  • Provide emotional support
  • May need a shorter school day at first
  • Focus on strengths
Students with Differing Academic Abilities

Common Inclusive Teaching Strategies

  • High but reasonable expectations for learning of all students
  • Provide leadership opportunities for all
  • Learning materials at wide ranges of ability and high interest
  • Multilevel, differentiated instruction using authentic learning experiences
  • Focus on strengths and draw on multiple intelligences
  • Provide scaffolds and supports
  • Heterogeneous, multi-ability learning groups
  • Collaborate with other professionals
Students with Behavioral

and Emotional Challenges

  • ADHD
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Students with other life challenges
Attention Deficit/

Hyperactivity Disorder

Three subtypes:


Impulsive and hyperactive

Combined -- all three challenges

  • Inattention
      • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school work, work, or other activities.
      • Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
      • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
      • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
      • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
      • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework).
      • Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (eg. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
      • Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
      • Is often forgetful in daily activities.
  • Hyperactivity
  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness).
  • Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly.
  • Is often ‘on the go’ or often acts as if ‘driven by a motor’.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Impulsivity
  • Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed.
  • Often has difficulty waiting turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g. butts into conversations).
RITALIN: Impacts of the Drug
  • helps children and adults focus for a short time
  • reduces emotional responses
  • helps moderate impulsivity
  • works equally on all people
  • long term effects are not known
  • tendency to sap children of their spirit -- zombie effect
  • can worsen conditions designed to prevent – agitation, restlessness, insomnia – which can actually lead to increased dosages
  • rebound effect may make the child’s behavior worse than it was before
  • reactions assure people the drug is needed and lead to increased dosages (a reinforcing negative cycle)
Creative and engaging learning activities
  • Students propose alternative approaches to assignments.
  • Multiple intelligences.
  • Workshops, authentic learning, activity-based learning
  • Story, pictures, manipulatives, games

Respond to individual needs

  • Structures that encourage social interactions while working – tables, gathering places with pillows, or a small sofa.
  • Places where students can be alone and it is quieter – desks or pillows in the hall, study carrels.
  • Spaces for individual work – desks, floor work areas with pillows

Inclusive Teaching Strategies For Students With

ADHD Behaviors

Help students organize and structure their work
  • Help students plan, break goals into short-term steps
  • Tools -- a calendar, project task analysis, Gantt charts for schedules, daily and weekly schedules.
  • Help organize work –student notebooks (3 ring binders, wire notebooks for each subject, etc.), filing systems (alphabetic, topical),

Understand and provide emotional support

  • Listen, build on strengths.
  • Structures for support --peer mentors, cooperative learning.
  • Positive energy outlets.

Inclusive Teaching Strategies For Students With

ADHD Behaviors

Journey Inside the Classroom

The Class Community Deals With A Fight At Recess

  • At lunch 2 students were hitting one another and calling each other names
  • The teacher called a classroom meeting
  • Students told their understanding of what happened
  • One student felt left out and rejected
  • They developed ideas so everyone could play
  • They became friends again. The teacher fostered listening and learning responsibility
Serious Emotional Disturbance


A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:

  • Tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems
  • A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression
  • An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors
  • An inability to build or maintaining satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers’
  • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances


Types of Emotional Disorders
    • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
    • Oppositional defiance disorder (ODD)
    • Conduct disorder
    • Pervasive developmental disorders (PDD)
    • Substance abuse
    • Feeding and eating disorders
    • Anxiety and social withdrawal
    • Depression
    • Schizophrenia and psychosis
The Demographics Of Emotional Disturbance


  • Male
  • African American
  • Economically disadvantaged
  • In secondary school
  • Living with one parent, in foster care, or other alternative arrangement
What Causes Emotional Disturbance and Behavioral Problems?







child rearing


Family conflict

Child abuse

Associated Factors

Inclusive Strategies for Students with Emotional Disturbance
  • School-wide Planning – culture of child-centered orientation
  • Problem Solving – work to keep all students engaged, “zero reject”
  • Clear expectations and Proactive School-wide Discipline Plan – simple understandable expectations in positive terms
  • Social Support Structures and Options – support teams for staff, students, and families
  • Trust and Safety – positive behavioral supports, respect, and relationship building
Inclusive Strategies for Students with Emotional Disturbance
  • Positive Learning Opportunities – active, student-centered, engaging instruction
  • Academic and Social Skills – purposefully address both academic and social skill development
  • Professional Support – traditional professional services are available
  • Collaboration with and Support for Families – wraparound services, partnerships, wide range of support
  • Supporting Ourselves – behavioral consultation, support team, in-class collaboration
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Typical Characteristics
  • Engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements
  • Resistance to change
  • Unusual responses to sensory experiences
  • Lack of language development
  • Self-stimulation
  • Self-injurious
  • Preoccupation with certain objects
  • Lack of social/communicative gestures and utterances
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Treatment Approaches


  • Based On A Child’s Skills, Interests, And Needs
  • Seeks To Foster Independence
  • Clear Expectations, Organized Environment, Visual Materials

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

  • Controversial
  • Expensive
  • Three Year Program
  • 40 Hours Per Week
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Inclusive Teaching Strategies
  • Social stories
  • Pictures Exchange System (PECS)
  • Redirect –
  • Hurt Feelings
  • Eye Contact
  • Smiling and Laughing
  • Vocalizing
  • Lunch Bunch
  • Class Jobs
  • Calming Down Time
Students with Behavioral and Emotional Challenges

Common Inclusive Teaching Strategies

  • Commit to students with behavior challenges - support, guide, teach
  • Creative and engaging teaching
  • Options and choices for individual needs and learning styles
  • Positive outlets for student energy
  • Help students organize materials
  • Predictable class routines; help students anticipate and understand changes
  • Build community to provide emotional support
  • Integral social learning into all academic lessons
  • Use positive behavior support affirming student needs
  • Help students understand their own needs and ways to get them met
  • Work with an interdisciplinary team
Students With Sensory

And Physical Disabilities

  • Speech disorders
  • Blindness and visual impairment
  • Deafness and hearing impairment
  • Health impairments
  • Orthopedic disabilities
Hearing Impairment


  • Factors: loudness (decibels) and pitch (hertz)
  • When acquired: pre or post-language acquisition
  • Deafness and partial hearing
Hearing ImpairmentTypical impacts of disability
  • Ability to hear: alarms, words, etc.
  • Communication with others
  • Language development
  • Sense of isolation
  • Psychological impact
  • Deaf culture
  • Use of alternative communication--sign language
Hearing ImpairmentSpecialists
  • Audiologists
  • Sign language interpreters
  • Augmentative communications specialists
  • Special Education Teachers
HEARING IMPAIRMENTStrategies for Inclusive Teaching
  • PAIR with other students
  • Class learn some SIGN LANGUAGE
  • DON’T exaggerate

facial gestures

  • Highlight & code


  • Support RELATIONSHIP building
Blindness and Visual Impairment


  • Ophthamologists
  • Optometrists
  • Low-vision specialists
  • Rehabilitation teachers
  • Assistive Technology Specialists
  • Orientation and Mobility Specialists
  • Special Education Teachers
Blindness and Visual Impairment

Inclusive Classroom Strategies and Tools


  • Braille
  • Optacon
  • Auditory Strategies
  • Large Print


  • Tape recorder
  • Word processor
  • Computer software

Teaching strategies

  • Kinesthetic and activity based teaching

Orientation and mobility

  • Canes
  • Guide dogs
  • Sighted guide
Physical Disabilities and Other Health Impairments (POHI)
    • often multiple disabilities
    • work as a team
    • adaptive technology
    • facilitate relationships
    • recognize symptoms
    • safe place
    • student rest
    • peer supports
    • lowered tables
    • adapted storage places
    • physical assistance
    • listen to recognize speech; give time
    • intelligence may be in normal range
    • give physical assistance and accommodations
Physical Disabilities and Other Health Impairments (POHI)


  • range of physical and cognitive impacts
  • Transmitted only by exchange of blood & semen
  • Help student feel support & part of a class community
  • Help other students understand - co-learning & support

Traumatic brain injury

  • various cognitive, physical, emotional impacts
  • use some of same strategies for cognitive as LD
  • provide peer and classroom supports
Students With Sensory

And Physical Disabilities

Common Inclusive Teaching Strategies

  • Organize classroom for access and ability to reach and use materials
  • Use assistive technology
  • Raise tables slightly for students in wheelchairs
  • Use low tech tools to help students grasp pencils and prevent materials slipping on the desk
  • Arrange bathroom assistance
  • Insure students are included in all aspects of the class including field trips
  • Help students understand students with sensory and physical disabilities. Provide support if a death occurs
Bumps In The Road

Rejecting Students With Differences

  • Shawn, a student with a severe disability, was to be included in high school classes
  • When school started two teachers became very angry and complained.
  • When the special education teacher tried to talk to them they said, “He’s a vegetable!”

What to do?

    • You can’t let a staff member harm a student
    • Keep a relationship so you can listen to feelings
    • On the other hand, don’t waste your energy on negative people; look for positive allies
Back Pack

Urban and Cultural Diversity

National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCREST)

National Institute for Urban Inclusive Education