In this post, and the next one, I will go over the four instructional parts that make up the curriculum in greater detail, and hopefully answer some questions about how to individualize it to your specific needs at your school. Please don’t forget to comment, as you will be entered into the drawing to receive a copy I am giving away at the end of my next post!
If you remember, the four instructional parts are broken into seven individual units. Also, each unit has the same design, shown below:
The two units that I would like to walk you through today are Unit 1: What is Inclusive Education? and Unit 2: Learning Opportunities for Students.
These two units are rich with content, and the activities that the paraprofessionals take part in learning about them are easily taught and adapted to your paraprofessionals, schools, classrooms and students.
Unit 1: What is Inclusive Education?
In this unit, inclusive education is described and student examples are offered to illustrate what inclusive education can look like in practice. There are materials to be substituted for elementary, middle and high school student examples. This unit takes approximately 85 minutes, and can be offered as one long session or two shorter sessions.
The desired paraprofessional outcomes are:
- To understand what inclusive education is and why it is important for students with disabilities.
- To understand their role in implementing effective programs for students in inclusive environments.
- To review pertinent student information to prioritize student instruction across the school day in different environments.
During the welcome and overview section, paraprofessionals are welcomed to the training, and given the overarching outcomes for their learning. The next section, personal reflection, gives the paraprofessionals an activity that acknowledges their own experiences of feeling included or excluded – so as to then better understand how it applies to the students they support.
The next section, why is this important? gives bulleted reasons this impacts what they do every day in their job. It acts as a bridge from their understanding and personal experiences to that of the students, giving specifics as to how students learn best in inclusive environments. This section can be easily expanded upon, depending on what items you want to emphasize in your setting, or issues you may be having at the time.
In the new learning section of this unit, it is broken down into six separate activities. It covers a student, “Dan”, and includes activities called “Getting to know Dan”; “IEP at a Glance”; “Learning Objectives Matrix”; and a detailed look at how his learning objectives are embedded across the school day.
Through these activities, (again – offered in the manual for each age range, which can be easily substituted), the paraprofessionals can see exactly how IEP goals and objectives can be achieved throughout an entire day. Another option for adapting this to your particular paraprofessionals and students is to use an actual student that they support for the activities instead of “Dan”.
The unit summary, summarizes what they learned during the unit in a concise way. Finally, the follow-up activity section assigns “homework” that is designed to help transfer the new learning to the paraprofessional’s work with students. In this unit, the activity assigns an IEP at a Glance, which they are to do in the following week or two based on a specific student they support – before meeting with the teacher to discuss their findings. In place of the IEP at a Glance, the Getting to Know You, or Learning Objectives Matrix could be assigned as the follow-up activity.
The beauty of this section, I believe, is the way paraprofessionals can see why inclusive education is important and then actually apply that understanding with an example of HOW to include students they support. The IEP at a Glance and the Learning Objectives Matrix are tools that I suggest in my consulting work for teachers to use for each of their students and paraprofessionals, and this unit teaches how it they can be used successfully.
These activities allow the conversations to be about student specifics, with goal-oriented thinking, allowing the teacher to direct the work of the paraprofessional, and the paraprofessional the structures to ask meaningful questions that are based on real individual students’ needs.
Unit 2: Learning Opportunities for Students
In this unit, the notion that teaching and learning opportunities abound in inclusive schools is emphasized. This unit provides an overview of three instructional domains for maximizing student learning throughout the school day: (1) participating in routines and transitions, (2) engaging in academic and functional activities, and (3) interacting with others. The importance of students actively participating in all three domains is stressed. This unit takes approximately 70 minutes, and is most coherent when kept as a whole.
The desired paraprofessional outcomes are:
- To understand the importance of teaching students to participate in the full array of school and classroom activities.
- To identify specific learning opportunities for students with disabilities in inclusive environments.
- To understand the principle of partial participation and how it applies to students with disabilities.
- To be able to observe students in a variety of environments and reflect on the opportunities that are available for students to participate.
During the welcome and overview section, paraprofessionals are welcomed to the training, and given the overarching outcomes for their learning. The next section, personal reflection, gives the paraprofessionals the opportunity to reflect on their routines and why they are important, and what skills and knowledge they use to be successful in their daily routines.
The why is this important? section of this unit emphasizes the routines and skills necessary to be successful throughout the day, bridging what the paraprofessionals know about themselves and applying it to how they should think about the students they support. It stresses the importance of maximizing on the “teachable moments” that are available throughout the school day. This section can be easily adapted to specific students or issues that exist.
The new learning section of this unit is composed of three sections. The first section is an activity that allows the paraprofessional to think and learn about the three domains, and engage in conversation about why they are important to realize and understand.
The next section allows the paraprofessional to engage in activities that recognizes not only that students need to be expected to learn across these domains, but specifically how IEP goals can and should be achieved within each domain area. The activity in this section can be easily adapted to use specific students, allow paraprofessionals to ask questions as to how it can look in their daily work, and prioritize activities with teacher direction for the classes they are working in.
The third section teaches about the principle of partial participation and why it is important to realize that some activities and routines are very complex and require a high level of skill. Some students will not be able to participate independently in every aspect of each activity. Yet, students can learn even when they participate only partially. It highlights that members of students’ IEP teams identify where and how individual students can actively participate. This section allows paraprofessionals to use examples to learn about this principle and how it can look for individuals they support. There are many ways this section can be individualized and adapted, based on the unique needs of students they are working with.
The unit summary concisely summarizes the new learning and the important take away points of the unit. The follow-up activity section of this unit asks the paraprofessional to identify one student they work with, and observe this student in one class during the next week or two after the training. They are asked to use a checklist to think about how that student participates in class routines and activities, and make notes about their obesrvations, that they then share with their teacher during a follow-up reflection meeting.
The beauty of this unit is in its ability to get paraprofessionals to take a “balcony view” of what goes on within a school, and important things to remember throughout the day. The emphasis is not only on the academic pieces, but all of the routines and other opportunities for learning for students with disabilities across the day, allowing the paraprofessional to see the bigger picture and understand how better to support students in a meaningful way.
My next post will cover the remaining two instructional parts, How to Instruct? and How to Interact?, and will cover the remaining five units that are offered. It is sure to be a lengthy post! 😉
Use this opportunity to make comments, or ask questions that you have. Don’t forget that you will be entered into the drawing for the giveaway by doing so! Additionally, don’t forget that the curriculum is available for purchase at the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota, if you can’t wait until the drawing!
By the way, I have been asked if any proceeds from sales of the curriculum go to me – and the answer is no. We did this curriculum as a part of a federal grant, and as such, your cost covers the amount needed to publish the curriculum and the remaining money goes to the Institute on Community Integration to do their fantastic work for people with disabilities.
THAT being said – I am available to provide staff development around the curriculum in your schools or districts through my consulting. Let me know if you would like further information of how that could look!