Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Easy Accommodations in the General Education Classroom

This post is by special request from one of our readers! You are always welcome to click the "Contact Us" tab at the top to request topics you'd like to read about!

I was an inclusion teacher for 3 years and I learned a lot about special education before I actually went back to grad school to become a special ed teacher myself. Years later, I now have the perspective of both a general education teacher (and what is reasonable in a class of 25+ kids) and a special education teacher who wants what's best for her kids.

Here are some easy to implement strategies for the general education inclusion classroom!

Accommodations (changes HOW things are done, not WHAT is done)
  • Quiet space to work in the back of the room, free of distractions
  • Extra time to complete assignments
  • Fidgets to help wiggly kids sit still, this can include wiggle seats (sensory cushions)
  • Set a timer for the amount of time a kid needs to work before being allowed to take a short break
  • Highlight where a student needs to write if they have trouble staying on the lines (this can be done ahead of time on worksheets and math pages in the morning before school). It helps indicate where to write, which problems to do, or how long a written paragraph should be along with the alignment for indenting and titles. Eventually you take away the highlighter when the student has learned how to write in the appropriate places.
  • Send kids to class with sensory objects: wiggle seats, pencil grippers, fidgets, sound reducing headphones
  • A partner that can repeat directions if necessary
  • Small behavior chart taped to the desk for kids who have behavior struggles: the teacher can silently draw stars on it while walking around the room assisting students or instructing. Here is a freebie one I created with my friend (the speech teacher) for staying focused without reminders.
  • Reminder charts: type out a list of things the student needs reminders about and tape it to the desk. This has soooo many uses (steps for writing a paragraph, reminders what to do when agitated, how to ask for help appropriately, etc.) You can also put small laminated cards on a ring if the child needs different reminders for different subjects. I've made these cards for my kids.
  • Have students type assignments instead of hand write them. I can't even count the number of young students I've had that type twice as fast as they write with a pencil! The student can also do 50/50, so they are still practicing writing, but not during other subjects such as science and social studies where there is limited time for the writing process.
  • Have outlines of the key reading materials pre-made. If comprehension is a problem, the student will have notes to look at with the main ideas of the reading. A faster way is to use flags and highlighter tape on the book so the student knows where to find the key information on the page themselves.

Modifications (changes/simplifies the work students are expected to do)
  • Shorten assignments by only selecting essential problems. This is great for kids with attention problems and kids who take a very long time to complete assignments, but understand the general concepts. This is essential for many kids during writing time! It's easy for a teacher to ask an inclusion student to write 2-3 sentences when the rest of the class does a full paragraph without having to change the entire lesson and instructional time.
  • Swap out a reading text for simplified version. Is the class reading about America? Find a picture book or easy reader on the same topic so the students gets the main concepts as his/her peers, but doesn't struggle as much on reading. I've also made my own easy readers before to help the kids understand concepts that I could not find in a simple book. This Presidents' Day book is a perfect example of something I've done. (It's a FREEBIE! Click image to download)
For more ideas, here is a great list of ideas I've used in my own classroom to help kids with sensory issues. These can be used in both the general and special education classrooms!


  1. Love this! My kids struggle with knowing how much to write and feel like it is just an never-ending task. Using the highlighter will help.

    Thanks for sharing :)
    Shenanigans in 6th-Math

    1. I'm so glad you found some new ideas you can use! I swear the highlighter one just might be my favorite (and most used!) strategy!

      The Lower Elementary Cottage

  2. This is an absolutely AWESOME post! Do you think you could possibly make a little graphic or picture sign to put at the top of the page with the title of the post, so that we could pin your post easily to Pinterest? I think that it would really get the attention that it deserves if you had the title of the post in picture form so that it could be "pinned," if you know what I mean.
    I could pin any one of the pictures you have there, and put a caption below it, but people won't notice it as much. If you need help with this, I would be happy to make one for you and email it to you. :)
    Heidi Butkus

    1. Great idea Heidi! I can whip one up in just a little bit! It'll be ready for adorable pinning by this afternoon :)

      The Lower Elementary Cottage

  3. Thank you so much! I was thinking of starting a collaborative pin board of ideas for helping special needs kids in regular Ed classrooms. Would you be interested in contributing if so?

    1. All set! I'd love to be a part of it Heidi! Here is my email and Pinterest Link :)


  4. Wow! I love these ideas! The highlighter idea is blowing my mind! I was reading and automatically started thinking of students I had this past year who would have benefited from this. Thank you so much for sharing!
    Polka Dot Lesson Plans

  5. I am so glad you posted this!! It gave me a small boost in my confidence because I have been scared about going into someone else's classroom. I am saving this.

    A Tender Teacher for Special Needs

  6. Fabulous list Lisa! I was shaking my head as I was reading through them all and some were great reminders as well!

    Jennifer Smith-Sloane

  7. Thanks for this awesome reminder! I work with special ed. a lot and have a bad tendency to get these two terms mixed up. Lol!
    Mrs. Landry's Land of Learning

  8. Great post! I love to hear what other sped teacher do to accommodate. I am always looking for new ideas.

    The Phonics Phenomenon

  9. Because of current economic issues in my district, I have students who are in an inclusive classroom without an assistant or collaborative teacher. I am looking for a simple form that I can share with homeroom teachers where they can check and easily comment on a regular basis. Then , I can address concerns and issues even when I am not there...."feeling the pinch" Elizabeth Jones

  10. This post is great, but I would be careful on letting kids type assignments, because in my district assistive technology is an actual accommodation that must be made through an ARD meeting. It's not something all SpEd students can get. Usually your department chair can give you a list of accommodations that all students can receive without any changes to their IEPs. :)

    1. I think this is dependent on your school and the task at hand. Your district, and I'm sure some others, are strict about limiting accommodations. It's a good point to make so that people know to confirm what their district allows. When I was in public school, the only time we couldn't only use typing as an accommodation was during standardized testing situations unless there was an IEP stipulation stating the student was allowed to use it even during testing. Additionally, as a general ed teacher you can increase the number of activities that all students are allowed the option of typing (if the technology is available). This means it's not an accommodation for a specific student, but more of a choice for all students who wish to use it. I've done this in the past when I did not want to single out a child who I thought could use it.

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