Ability Differences in the Classroom:Teaching & Learning in Inclusive Classrooms By: Angelique Curtis, Kristy Stas, & Danielle Talento
Myths about Ability & Ability Grouping What do you think the myths are about student ability and ability grouping in the class? • Myth 1: There is such a thing as ability. • Myth 2: Students learn better in homogenous groups. • Myth 3: Teaching is easier in homogenous groups. • Myth 4: Children are cruel and cannot accept differences. • Myth 5: Parents support homogenous grouping and tracking.
Myth #1 (There is such a thing as ability) • Educators use “fixed abilities” to label children as smart, slow, gifted, or handicapped. • We all differ in many ways, so we shouldn’t view a child’s (or anyone’s) ability as being fixed. • Armstrong(1993) and Gardner(1983) Multiple Intelligences: ways of being smart
Myth #2(Students learn better in homogenous groups) • Research evidence suggests otherwise. • Same-Ability groups creates differences in what is learned due to exposure to different kinds of material. • Average- and low-ability groups benefit very little. Not taught in enriched and high-ability tracks. • Negative affect on self-concept & ability to create cross-group relationships • Creates differences(or divides) and solidifies existing differences.
Myth #3(Teaching is easier in homogenous groups) • WHY? • Homogeneous grouping comfortable and familiar • Lack of time for individual needs, low motivation, low levels of involvement from some students. • Heterogeneously Grouping: • Children benefit from peer instruction, cooperative learning, become more involved • Teacher Roles Shift: Management Instruction
Myth #4(Children are cruel and cannot accept differences) • Yes!...if there is a divide in the class then there is no opportunity to build acceptance& tolerance of differences, and building of social skills. • Social Climate = Teacher’s #1 Priority • Children can learn to care and provide positive support. • Teachers: positive focus on differences, provide learning activities encouraging positive social skills.
Myth #5(Parents support homogenous grouping and tracking) • NOT true for all • Parents of children w/disabilities are challenging separate & isolated classes & schools • Parents of “typical” children support integration more as their kids become comfortable w/ disabilities & differences • Parents of “gifted” students tend to be more on the fence • Child’s need not met w/ wkbk style class • 1 solution special class • Others worry about stigmatizing affects of labels
Myth #5 (cont’d) • Increased evidence of regular classrooms providing effective inclusion of ALL students EQUALS Increased parental support of Heterogeneous Groups.
What is cooperative Learning/ Peer tutoring? • Students work together, help each other learn • Jigsaw Method: divide material and students into expert groups. Learn and re-teach to the class. • Heterogeneous grouping used to incorporate all students • Students serve as resources for one another • ‘Work Buddy’ • Classroom Yellow Pages(activity):
Multi-Level Teaching • Teachers rethink what is taught and how it’s taught • Use multiple and varied methods • Organize different activities and projects on varying levels(writing reports, draw and label a picture, acquire ability to identify. • Ask yourself: • What does each child need to know? • What can be modified or adapted? • Can students participate w/ varying levels of evaluation and involvement? • Modifications made for students w/disabilities and LD can help many students w/o
Inclusive Classrooms • Education of students w/disabilities in the general education classroom; learning along side their same-age peers • Consider: • What is taught • How it’s taught • Facilitation of student interaction • “Positive nature of diversity” within classroom
Teaching Social Skills • Provide direct instruction on how to praise, support and resolve conflicts. • Explore ways to offer, accept, and decline help w/ students • Have students reflect on : • 3 things they do well & 3 they have trouble with • Ways to provide help • Things they need help with & types of help they’d like • Show students that everyone has different skills and everyone needs help with some things.
What not to do when teaching in an elementary classroom What things shouldn’t teachers do when teaching? • Don’t label students by ability such as smart, slow, or average • Believing that ability is fixed • Grouping students homogenously by ability, High, average, and low • Not talking about or addressing students differences • Segregating students that are different • Assuming all students engage in learning the same way
Evaluating each student the same • Using a star chart to display who is doing well and who isn’t • Having students compete against one another • Awarding “best team” or voting on the best essay
What to do when teaching in an elementary classroom What things should teachers do when teaching? • Understanding that ability is made up of many factors • Findings ways that allows for all students to achieve, like creating a classroom that nurtures and supports diversity • Heterogeneous grouping students working together and learn to help each other • Addressing differences and structure learning activities that encourage interaction among students
Using cooperative learning strategies -Jigsaw divides material to be learned in 5 parts, all students responsible of contributing - “Learning together” heterogeneous groups -peer interaction • Teaching appropriate social skills -assigning different task to each member • “Family Rule” • giving student more responsibilities in the classroom -taking role, lunch count, decorating bulletin board, helping make decisions
Peering tutoring within the classroom or a crossed grade level • Students Helping One Another • Rethinking what and how they teach • Organizing a unit to fit all learning abilities • Asking questions about the students learning, “what does each student need to know?” “What aspect of the unit can be modified or adapted?” “Can students participate in the same activity with different levels of evaluation and involvement?” • Encourage students to discus how they may pick teams so it would be fair and fun for all • Students contribute to bulletin board, students choose what assignments they would like to display, room arrangements are flexible • Materials in the class show differences disabilities • Monitoring language • Respecting each student
Teaching about Differences • Do: • Have students contribute to class bulletin boards • Talk about & honor children’s differences • Ask for ideas of how to include students w/disabilities in class activities • Don’t: • Use forms of competition…Not conducive with creating community respectful of diversity • Allow inappropriate comments between students
Book • Roby, C. (1994). When learning is tough: kids talk about their learning disabilities. Morton Grove, Illinois: Albert Whitman & Company. • This book is about a group of different types of children who all have learning disabilities. Each person talks about themselves so the reader can get to know the person and if or how their disability effects them.
Quotes • Joey- “As far as learning disabilities go, I say don’t give up. You just have to work hard. Believing in myself has helped a lot.” • Andrew-“One of the tricks I have is to try and stay as organized as possible. This really helps me because I am not thumbing through a while bunch of papers trying to find my English paper or something. I also try to keep my binder as empty as possible so when I’m finished with papers, I put them in a big crate that I have at home.”
…Quotes • Cameron- “I consider my learning problem a challenge. The worst thing you can say is, “I am disabled and worthless.” The best thing you can be is yourself. You should never try to change that.” • Nick- “Kids should remember that there are tons of people out there with learning disabilities. Don’t ever, ever worry that you are different. My personal motto is : Suffer, survive, and move on.” • Emily- “Kids should remember that there are tons of people out there with learning disabilities. Don’t ever, ever worry that you are different. My personal motto is : Suffer, survive, and move on.”
Activity • -Students will be grouped by the teacher and assigned one child from the book. • -Each group will write a summary of the child. • -The summary should include when the child discovered about the disability, how he/she felt about it, if and how his/her education and learning process changed, what areas he/she enjoy or are good at, what he/she want to be when they grow up, and his/her motto. • -The groups will then present their findings in the class.
…Activity • -We will then have a class discussion. Examples of the question I will ask include: “what similarities did we see in all the students?” • “Were any of the children in the book who thought their disability affected their intelligence?” • “Does having a disability mean that the children still could live a normal life, which includes having interests and sill excelling in other areas of their life like sports, music, and writing poetry?”
Making a Class Book • Students will then make a class book. • ask the students to write a brief description of themselves just like each child did in the book. • Each student should include a description of any interests they may have, something they are good in, something they may or have struggled with, anything that is unique about them, and how they learn best in school. • each students picture put it their piece of writing. • Put the book together to keep in the classroom so the students can learn about their peers and see that everyone is unique in their own way
Student Questioning/interaction • What are some ways to promote cooperative learning within the classroom? • As a teacher what can you do to address the different needs of all students in the class? • Where there any myths that seemed surprising to you?
Summary We’ve learned that not all students can and will learn the same things at the same time, so the implementation of varied and multiple teaching methods is necessary to help each student learn. It is important to talk about differences with the students to let them know that not everyone is the same.