This week, Torrie, our CEO at KIT, sent along the following video to all of us at KIT. The video, produced by Torrie’s friend Shelley Moore, explains the purpose and value of inclusion in a way that enhances our understanding of why (and how) we include.
My favorite part of this analogy is that, when we teach to the edges, ALL of the students benefit. We shouldn’t be aiming for the center of the bowling pins with hopes that we will reach all of the students. We must think in a way that addresses all of our students, particularly the students on the two ends of the spectrum– those who need extra support and those who need extra challenge. In doing so, we are able to build a culture of learning and a respect for diversity.
It reminded me of my small group seventh grade math class last year, that consisted of all students with learning disabilities who struggle with math. On average, the students functioned around a fourth or fifth grade level. So at the beginning of the year, I taught fifth grade math topics to supplement their seventh grade math. However, I found that I was not serving all of my students in the slightest– one of the students, who struggled most significantly with math, was often confused and consistently failed assessments. Two of my other students, who were stronger than the average, already understood the concepts and were bored. They were constantly achieving high A’s on their assessments without really trying. That wasn’t good either.
Ultimately, I decided to differentiate much more significantly. I used online programs and self-directed stations to change what each student was studying. In our proportions unit, the students who fell in the middle still studied what had been planned– basic concepts of proportions with intervention on fraction operations. Meanwhile, my one guy who struggled learned what fractions were and how to put them on a number line, as well as how to label visual representations of fractions. The two students who excelled? They got advanced work in proportions– they learned how to graph them, determine a unit rate from a table, and find equivalent fractions, among other related skills. When I aimed to still hit the two ends of my bowling pins (my students who excel and the students who struggle), I was able to better support the entire group. That curveball was most effective because 1) it taught all students material that was meaningful to them, but 2) more importantly, it helped to build a culture of respect for differences and motivation to grow within my class.
Let us all commit to thinking more of how we can change our aim to incorporate more curve balls in the way we teach and serve our kids. They will ALL benefit!
— Written by Elise, KIT Blog Editor
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.