As a special education teacher, I will have to create an effective classroom environment for all children to be able to learn. In the upcoming school year, I will have a special education class of eight children. To design an effective classroom environment, I will utilize high-leverage practices (HLPs) and universal design lesson (UDL) plans to meet the inclusion approach and ensure that collaboration and communication are clear and understandable to all students.
High-leverage practices are essential to effective teaching and learning. One of HLP practices is the “use of multiple sources to develop a comprehensive understanding of a student’s strengths and needs” (Sayeski, 2018, p. 170). In my classroom, I will add various visual elements and structure the room into sections. On the front walls, I will place bright, colorful pieces of paper with contrasting letters. I will put a huge growth mindset poster on one of the walls, letting the children write their S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable, and time-stamped) academic goals and sticking them to the poster. This activity will help me better plan academic tasks for each student, depending on their skills and abilities. Other visual elements, such as sight words printed on the walls, printed names of learning stations, individual tracking sheets, and printed job duties, will help organize an effective learning environment and improve students’ comprehension and attention.
I will also use learning stations to make the class student-centered and encourage small collaborative group work. The whole group learning center will be where all students gather in the morning and after the lessons. I will also hang signs from the ceiling with printed names of each learning center. For example, one area will be labeled phonics, another area – math/reading fluency, one more station – technology, then art/music, and social studies/science area, and a writing center. Each small group will spend about 30 minutes at each station. Chai and Lieberman-Betz (2018) recommend using timers and visual schedules to let children know when their activities will occur (p. 189). These objects will also help prevent challenging behavior and make lessons easier for the teacher and students.
Meeting the social and emotional needs of children is also of high importance for special education teachers. Benedict et al. (2019) offer to use anecdotal seating charts “to note students’ engagement with peers” and their responses to specific content demands (p. 55). Moreover, to ensure inclusiveness and diversity, I will create a small library area where students will find books written by authors of varied cultures. I will also encourage them to make paper dolls of themselves and color these dolls in the flesh-tone, clothing, and hairstyles of their cultures. In such a way, students will see that all cultures are appreciated and accepted in this classroom. This activity will also help meet their social and emotional needs.
UDL plans can be supported with the use of technologies in the classroom. Thus, in a technology area, I will place computers and recording devices to help children read stories aloud and record their reading. In this zone, students will enrich their vocabulary. They will also use the quizlet app and play ST Math or other math games to train their working memory and mathematical skills. A care corner will be created to let a student take a break and rest from an activity. In addition to digital technologies, I will place pencils, pens, index cards, crayons, and other stationery to help students track their achievements and train writing and artistic skills.
In conclusion, my classroom environment will be highly structured for the best learning outcomes. The use of learning stations helps attain inclusiveness and meet every student’s needs. HLPs and UDP plans will also improve the learning environment and help prevent challenging behaviors in the classroom. The class design will encourage teamwork, reading and writing activities, think/pair/share, and many other activities.
Benedict, A., Cornelius, K., & Acosta, K. (2019). Using multiple sources of information to develop a comprehensive understanding of a student’s strengths and needs. In J. McLeskey, L. Maheady, B. Billingsley, M.T. Brownell, & T.J. Lewis (Eds.), High leverage practices for inclusive classrooms (pp. 51-66). Routledge.
Chai, Z., & Lieberman-Betz, R. (2018). Strategies for helping parents of young children address challenging behaviors in the home. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 50(4), 183-192. Web.
Sayeski, K.L. (2018). Putting high-leverage practices into practice. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 50(4), 169-171. Web.