We just celebrated Teacher Appreciation week. Nobody appreciates a teacher more than their students. Often, that appreciation comes from a teacher providing multiple systems of support for their students within an inclusive learning environment.
To create an inclusive learning environment, teachers need classroom and individual systems of support that meet academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs of their students. This can be easier said than done for teachers. A consistent problem educators face today is supporting ALL students, not just those within the margins. It’s our friends on the ends of the margins where a system of support can really be beneficial.
All students have the ability to learn and make progress towards academic and social-emotional standards given the right supports. Often, the best support a teacher can provide their students is to provide the least restrictive learning environment in their classroom. Teachers can do this sticking to the following principles…
- Present information and content in different ways
- Differentiate the ways students can express what they know
- Stimulate interest and motivation for learning
- Promote a positive culture for all students
- Use proactive strategies to support appropriate student behaviors
In Physical Education, many inclusive strategies can be developed based off these principles. Here’s a few ways a Physical Education teacher can create an inclusive learning environment with systems of support for all students. Many of these strategies are / can be linked to a general classroom.
Present Information and Content in Different Ways
Curriculum: Start with basic concepts students will know and revisit them with more complexity every so often to allow all students to develop their learning.
Start and Stop: Periodically stop activities to discuss / highlight concepts and provide students with immediate feedback about their decision-making skills.
Organization of Learning Space: Provide a variety of skills with multiple practice areas for small groups of students to receive instruction.
Differentiate the ways students can express what they know
Free exploration: Allow students time to discover skills on their own. This will help their brain connect learning content with the motor skill they are practicing.
Assessment and Reflection: This is a must! Learners need to be able to recognize their own progress. Provide multiple types of assessments students can choose from. Self-assessments, peer assessments and group discussions are just a few examples that will allow students to express their knowledge.
Vary Types of Assessment: Ask students to demonstrate their mastery of learning through physical, verbal, and/or written means.
Stimulate interest and motivation for learning
Technology: Most students have a device on them at all times. That can be an advantage for teachers. Use social media and interactive web tools to engage learning in the classroom.
Critical Thinking: Instead of telling athletes what they are doing incorrectly; ask them open-ended questions to encourage reflection and critical thinking.
Engage Students: Provide tasks that allow for active participation, exploration, experimentation and self-reflection.
Get Creative: Include activities that capture creative imagination and promote problem solving. Foster the use of imagination and teach complex ideas in creative ways.
Provide Options: Many kinds of learning, particularly the learning of skills and strategies, require sustained attention and effort. Giving students choices of how they learn will sustain their effort and concentration.
Promote a positive culture for all students
Provide Differentiated Feedback: Instead of “nice job everyone,” individualize your feedback for each student. If a student is a visual learner, use a picture as feedback. If a student learns best by “doing,” correct their body position / stance when learning a skill.
Build a Learning Community: Help students learn from one another, strengthen relationships with their peers and explain skills and concepts to one another. Cooperative learning can have positive effects on academic achievement, physical fitness, self-esteem, active learning, and social interactions.
Feedback Strategies: Use various types of feedback (verbal, video analysis, written rubrics) that emphasize effort encourage students to persevere when they face a challenge.
Use proactive strategies to support appropriate student behaviors
Problem Solving: Solve problems using a variety of strategies. Connect before you correct. Know the interests of your students ahead of time to personalize relationships.
Create a Safe and Predictable Environment: Structure goes a long way and can help students knock down maneuver through academic and social-emotional obstacles in their way. Don’t make your students guess, be consistent.
System of Support: We want students to achieve social, emotional and academic success. Placing attention on removing potential barriers of students can play huge dividends. Classroom and individual systems of support should be…
- Culturally relevant and responsive
- Socially relevant
- Age and ability appropriate
- Appropriate for diversity cultural, ethnic, and gender groups
Providing support systems can effectively address student academic and engagement needs and will have significant influence on graduating all students prepared for college, career, and citizenship.
If you currently have a systems of support set in your school and / or classroom, what strategies have you used to remove social, emotional, and academic barriers for your students?
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