The purpose of this study was to observe the first-grade classroom of 15 students. Two of the students have a learning disability while one has a behavioral disability. They, therefore, have to learn according to the Individualized Education Program (IEP). According to Siegel (17), IEP may refer to several things and hence difficult to define. Two of the students have a learning disability and one has a behavioral disability. The key point of the observation is to establish how the teaching process can be designed to meet the needs of students with IEP.
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How is space arranged in this classroom?
Students sit in pairs according to their level while in class. Those with learning disabilities tend to sit near the teacher. The IEP student with a behavioral disability is most of the time unsettled and will be seen to changing the sitting position. The teacher, however, ensures that he sits close to the other IEP students. General education students have designated sitting places as well. There is a table in the class that is reserved for use by the special education teacher. The school has a playground, and students are getting a break after lunch.
Is the classroom safe and healthy?
The students learn in a spacious, well-designed classroom. The setup allows the students to comfortably carry out various tasks during lessons. There are sufficient lighting and a big space provided for any group work or performances by the students. Furniture is strategically placed in the classroom in a way that ensures that the classroom is safe at all times.
What kinds of materials are available to the children to encourage learning?
Students are motivated by several visual aids and artifacts placed around the classroom. On a board placed in the classroom different words are written to help improve students’ vocabulary. This board is evaluated and improved every week. At a corner in the classroom, there are books placed on a table for reference, and students are permitted to borrow them.
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What kinds of classroom routines do you notice?
The routines in the classroom are tailored to be in such a way that the students with the IEP are not left behind in the entire learning process. One general education student is given the onus to help classmates with IEP with whatever challenges they may face. He makes sure that these students can follow the teacher’s instructions. He may address any difficulties faced by the IEP students or where necessary, notify the teacher to offer the appropriate support. Teaching is conducted by the general education teacher and the special education teacher who works with the IEP students for 1 hour daily. Students with the IEP have a table set aside for them where the special education teacher attends to their needs; helping them to complete their assignments. Although they are given more time to complete their work, IEP students get the same assignments as the rest of the class. This helps a lot in boosting their confidence and self-esteem.
How is the day scheduled?
Students arrive at 8:00 am, and the teacher starts by taking a roll call. Students are then allowed to do personal study until 10:00 am. At 10:00 am, they are allowed to visit the bathroom, and lunch is made available from 11:00 am – 11:45 am. Lessons are done after lunch. The students also work out at the gym for 40 minutes after lessons. The special education teacher arrives once daily: at 1:15 am – 2:15 pm to help students with the IEP during lessons.
Who talks to children? How and when?
The two students with learning disabilities actively communicate with each other and also the rest of the class and do not feel segregated. There is a smooth interaction between them and the special education teacher and this also extends to the general education teacher and the rest of the class. Although the IEP student with a behavioral disability will try to act difficult sometimes, all other students show compassion towards him and try their best not to isolate him. As much as possible, they accommodate him at various levels. The IEP students are also always excited talking to the special education teacher.
What levels of play are different children engaged in?
Given that play enhances the whole learning process, the teacher frequently allows students to play games both educational and non-education. During these times, everyone in the class is involved and both the IEP students and the rest get a chance to mingle. Students with the IEP also play with their classmates at the school playground.
Describe an instructional activity observed
In one of the mathematics lessons, the general education teacher split the students into groups and gave them two questions requiring them to find the area of a circle. Previously, the teacher had taken time to explain to the whole class how to calculate the area of a circle. With some help from the general education student assigned to those with IEP, the special education teacher monitored the work done by the IEP students and checked to see that they got the concept right. The special education teacher concentrated more on the student with a behavioral disability to see that he was kept under check and that he also was not left behind. The general education student worked mainly with IEP students with learning disabilities. He would, however, seek help from the special education teacher time and again in situations where reinforcement was necessary. Each of the groups later placed their work on the classroom wall to be seen by the rest.
Describe how the children’s socio-emotional needs are met
The teachers work hard to maintain the socio-emotional comfort of IEP children. They do not emphasize the difference between the IEP children and their classmates but adapt the educational process itself. The strategy they follow turns out to be very effective. On the one hand, IEP students do not feel that they are isolated or treated in a particular way. On the other hand, they can cope with the assignments, which also contributes to their emotional comfort and self-esteem. IEP students are often given responsibilities in class. The teachers have fulfilled impressive work on creating and maintaining tolerance and understanding in class: all students successfully interact and do not emphasize the difference between them.
How does the teacher manage the classroom?
The general education teacher succeeds in managing the educational process in class. She has full control of the classroom, observes children’s behavior and work, and reacts immediately in case any problem occurs. The teacher chooses the optimal intensity and pace for the classwork so that the IEP children do not stay behind schedule. She is always ready to help the students with the IEP but does not forget about the other children. The teacher keeps all students interested and involved in the learning process. She successfully explains assignments and manages teamwork quite well.
How are different children learning?
The general education students actively participate in class and whenever they need any clarification they will direct their concerns straight to the general education teacher. The two IEP students with learning disabilities are always paying special attention so as not to miss anything being taught but at the same time, they try to stick with the special education teacher. The IEP student with a behavioral disability sometimes gets restless and will stop at nothing to cause trouble. The special education teacher is, however, quite skilled and most of the time can calm this student. The IEP students concentrate more on understanding the lesson and do not direct any questions to the general education teacher; maybe so as not to disrupt the lesson flow. Sometimes they will ask the special education teacher to explain what may not be clear.
How does the teacher differentiate for children of diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds?
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The teacher’s approach to differentiation in cultural backgrounds is based on two points. The first aspect is understanding. The teacher explained that she does significant work on expanding her notion of cultures and cultural differences to understand her students. The second aspect is adaptation. Using her knowledge, the teacher adapts the way she explains the material to the students considering their vocabulary. She also tries to consider cultural aspects in teamwork knowing that there are cultural differences in the way children distribute responsibilities, communicate, make decisions, etc. At the social studies lessons, the teacher tells children about cultures and brings up respect to them.
How does the teacher differentiate between children who have difficulty learning or appear to have a disability?
The teacher does her best to make the learning process convenient for the children with the IEP. She had to revise the way she explains new topics and uses simple language and short sentences. She also, always remembers to ensure that her IEP students are following and able to understand. She studied literature about learning and behavioral disabilities and has so far been able to apply her knowledge well. She can use visuals quite well to clarify her points.
Siegel, Lawrence M. Nolo’s IEP Guide: Learning Disabilities. Valencia: Delta Printing Solutions, Inc., 2009. Print.