When All Kids Get What They Need

I’m going to be really honest about my feelings about inclusion in reading class this school year… I was really nervous. I wasn’t really sure how to give kids the supports they needed to be able to actually read (as in, decode) texts in front of them, while their classmates were moving on to deeper levels of comprehension. I teach 8th grade English, but I have students who don’t know that the letter u makes the sound in “up.” I couldn’t just ignore my students’ major skill deficits, but I also didn’t want them to feel embarrassed or to make it obvious that they needed extra work on these foundational skills. I decided to bite the bullet and to start teaching my students the material they needed to be successful. They had gone too long without getting that help!

My students are in a co-taught classroom and there is no space for me to pull them out, so this instruction had to happen in the classroom with their general education classmates. Thankfully, our classrooms at my school are quite large and I was able to pull them off to the side. However, the other students were still able to hear us and see what we were working on. Given that teenagers are so concerned by what their peers think, I was concerned that this would be difficult for my kiddos. That was, for obvious reasons, a major concern.

We started about a month ago. The first day was super awkward. I gave the students their own notebooks, with all of the pages pre-printed and organized. We started by drilling letter-sound relationships using letter flashcards. Within two minutes, one of my students exclaimed, “This is kindergarten work!” I thought about it for a second, then responded, “You may have first learned this in kindergarten, but it’s something your teachers agree you need to review to get even better at it, so we’re going to take some time to do that a few times each week to make sure we’re getting each of you exactly what you need to grow as readers.”

Since then, a few issues have come up with kids feeling like they looked dumb or getting embarrassed when other students have walked past our group on their way to the bathroom. However, these events are less and less frequent. As time has passed, my students have realized how much they needed this material. I have seen some students who, before this program, would guess all day long at the words they were reading in hopes that they would somehow read it correctly, and are not stopping to sound out each word they come across. Without prompting, Sam* stopped and used the strategy I taught him to check the pronunciation of a word. When Leia* misread “frost” for “forest” when we read poems about winter, I reminded her to go back and sound it out. She used the strategies I had given her, and she got it! The light that gleamed in her eyes when she realized she had the tools she needed for success could sell for a million dollars.

The complaints about this being “kindergarten work” have stopped because my students have realized that they are getting what they need. They don’t care as much about their classmates overhearing it because they know that I am doing my best to build a sense of trust within our group and to use discretion when possible. They also know that, in order to become the strong readers they are capable of being, they need this support. I am so proud of the growth we have seen already in just a month! I can’t wait to report back as my students continue to grow!

— Written by Elise Hopkins, 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.

  • All names have been changed for confidentiality purposes.

Leave a Comment