Do you love the idea of inclusion but your students struggle to go into the general education setting? Are you looking for more peer to peer interactions?
This is something I am always trying to do. Having general education peers involved in a special education students school day is extremely important. For the most part (there are always exceptions) general education students provide the perfect modeling example for students with special needs. Our students are able to see and hear typical language development and proper social interactions. They are forced to use the skills we have been working on in the classroom. Here are a few ways to get general education and special education students together throughout the school day.
1)Start a peer to peer program. These are awesome. At our school we call it STAR (Students Talking and Relating). General education students who are interested in learning more about disabilities are able to join. Each week we have a lunch group and the students learn about different situations that may arise and how to handle them. An example would be a non verbal student using an AAC device or sign language. How do you interact with them? What are some ways to include them in the group etc. Then the students get to practice these skills throughout the week.
2)Invite general education students into your classroom. Have weekly game time or dance parties. It doesn’t have to be long or involve a lot of planning. This is just a way to get peer role models into an environment in which your students are comfortable.
3)Ask your specials teachers about starting adapted programs. At my school we started a program called Music Connections. Two times a week our music teacher, SLP and local college music student put on a class. Students from my classroom as well as select students from other general education classrooms (these change each class) come to the class. The class is geared towards our students with special needs and the general education peers are there to help, encourage and engage with our special education students. They get to dance, play instruments, sing and listen to stories with music incorporated. EVERYONE loves these classes (honestly I think the general education students love it more :)). The class is such a hit our P.E. teachers want to do something similar next year, since we don’t have an adapted P.E. program.
4) Recess!! This is the perfect opportunity for kids to interact. Try purchasing some equipment that helps encourage peer interaction. Things like side walk chalk, adapted playground equipment, hula hoops, light weight balls, ribbon dancers, parachutes. bean bags (for tossing) etc. The biggest thing I can say here is let the kids explore.
5)Photo booth- Set up a photo booth in your classroom (again can be simple, put a sheet up for the background and have a few props). Invite some friends in to take pictures. Then show those pictures to your students. Talk about them throughout the week. If your students are able to, use the pictures for a writing assignment.
These are just a few was to incorporate more peer to peer interaction throughout the day. Do you have any more ideas? If so, share them in the comments.