Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Restructuring the Inclusion Classroom to Facilitate Differentiated Instruction

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Restructuring the Inclusion Classroom to Facilitate Differentiated Instruction

Article excerpt

Math is fun to me. I used to hate math, but now I like it. The reason why I like math now is because Mr. Patterson and Mrs. Connolly made it so easy for me. I don't know why or how they did it, but all I know is math is easier and funner (sic) for me.

-Billy

Billy started the year with very low skills in mathematics. He came to school with a negative attitude and cried almost daily to go to the nurse or to go home. When Billy was not crying, he was sleeping. It seemed almost impossible to get Billy to begin or complete assignments, and he was missing too much information due to his sleeping, daydreaming, and worrying. Billy's mathematics teacher and inclusion teachers researched his past educational experiences and learned that these issues had been a problem since the first grade. Billy also had failing or close to failing grades in most subjects, and it seemed that he, like too many other students, was a "lost cause." Billy did not seem motivated in class, and his mathematical skills were extremely weak. His teachers wondered, "Could Billy be motivated to improve his mathematical skills?"

When his teachers restructured the math class to facilitate differentiated instruction, Billy began to blossom. He began socializing with other students, paying attention in class, and participating in activities. He was volunteering in class and excited about giving answers every day. Beginning and completing a task was no longer a grueling process for Billy, and he appeared to truly enjoy being in class as his grades progressed from failing to Bs and Cs. Billy exhibited confidence in himself, not only in math, but also in all of his classes. Perhaps feeling successful was the medicine Billy needed.

This article describes how the teachers in Billy's sixth grade mathematics inclusion class used differentiated instruction to better meet the needs of all learners in the classroom. In an inclusion class with students of mixed abilities, differentiated instruction allows the teacher to meet the needs of every learner by providing students with multiple options for learning allowing each student to make his or her own meaning from what is being taught, and enabling each student to individually express what he or she has learned (Anderson, 2007; Tomlinson, 2001, 2004). Billy's teachers restructured the class in a unique way to better facilitate differentiation. This article describes the restructuring process and offers suggestions for other teachers who wish to try this approach.

Description of the class

The efforts described in this article took place in an inclusion class at Spartan Middle School, a school serving 790 students in grades six through eight. Approximately 44% of the students at the school were white, 35% were African American, 14% were Hispanic, and 7% were of another ethnicity. Approximately 75% of the students received free or reduced lunch, and 13% of the total population was classified as receiving special education services. Of the18 students in the 90-minute inclusion class, 56% were male and 44% were female. Approximately 89% of the students received some type of accommodation through 504 plans, IEPs, or Access for All Abilities plans, and 11% had been previously retained. Approximately 67% of the students in the class received free or reduced meals. In terms of ethnicity, five of the students were African American, nine were Caucasian, three were Hispanic, and one was Asian. Approximately 72% of the students identified English as the primary language spoken in their homes, while the remaining 28% of the students identified Spanish, Hmong, or Ukrainian as their first spoken language.

The purpose of an inclusion class is to provide education for students with one of more disabilities in a "least restrictive environment," as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The 18 students enrolled in the mathematics inclusion class described in this article were selected based on several predetermined criteria. …

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