Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Widening the Circle: the power of inclusive classrooms

Widening the Circle: the power of inclusive classrooms by Mara Sapon-Shevin is a book that parents and educators should take the time and effort to read. For me, it is quite frankly the most powerful book I've read about inclusion.

From the back of book:

Widening the Circle is a passionate call to change the way we organize our classrooms, talk about differences, and teach. Through engaging storytelling and thoughtful argument, it lays out the moral and educational case for creating classrooms in which all students - including those traditionally segregated into special education classes - are full and valued members.
Taking on common objections to full inclusion and placing the issue in the context of our deepest goals as a society, Sapon-Shevin shows how inclusive schooling - which she defines more broadly than as a simple disability issue - teaches children to connect deeply with others and see themselves as powerful agents of change. She demonstrates how inclusiveness enhances the educations and lives of all children in myriad ways.


  1. Her book "Because We Can Change the World: A Practival Guide to Building Cooperative, Inclusive Classroom Communities" is also a great read. Loads of great ideas and suggestions on how to build respectful classroom and school communities.

  2. Interesting idea. Haven't read the book, but it sounds like one of those too good to be true things. Teachers often need special training for dealing with kids with varying levels of special needs. Also, focused attention can really help those children. I have one class right now with a high-level special needs kid. At first I spent about 80% of my energy merely attending to him. It's down to about 50% now, but it's extremely unfair to the rest of the children, despite the benefits they may get by including others. I think distinctions need to be made between children that have special needs and can care for themselves and children who have special needs who need very heavy levels of attention. I guess I'll have to read it to see if she has any practical ideas about to how to actually deal with such situations.

  3. faust - If you are looking for a how to in regards to including students with significant needs it would be worth checking out "The Beyond Access Model: Promoting Membership, Participation, and Learning for Students with Disabilities in the General Education Classroom" by Cheryl M. Jorgensen, Ph.D., Michael McSheehan, and Rae M. Sonnenmeier, Ph.D. It outlines a pretty detailed process around working collaboratively to support a student who has needs beyond what a general education classroom teacher might be able to handle. There are some students who do require specialized support but that doesn't mean they should be excluded from the same experiences as other students.

    It is also worth checking out Michael Giangreco website (google search will bring you there). Some great practical ideas around how to properly support students in general education classrooms but it does mean challenging traditional ways of thinking.

    Students with significant disabilites can (and should) be included in general education classrooms but it must be done with the right level of support in order to ensure success for all students.

    One of the challenges with inclusion is to see it beyond students with disabilities. It is really about good teaching practices - the things mentioned many times in this blog - rethinking structures so that we move students from isolation, competitionm, segregation, rejection, external motivations (punishments and rewards) to collaboration, cooperation, inclusion, acceptance (to the point of celebration of difference) and internal motivations. We can't talk about all these good things in education without realizing they should apply to all students.

  4. Hi Monica, thank you very much for the recommendations. My situation is a bit different as I only see my classes two hours a week, but I'll take a look at what's out there.


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