Kids: Mainstreaming Into Classrooms
Kids Health, D'Arcy Lyness, PhD, May 2002
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The world is
made up of many different kinds of people. There are people with
different skin colors, different religions, different
hairstyles, different accents, and different learning abilities,
just to name a few. Yet, despite all their differences, most
people somehow manage to work together successfully.
Learning to get along with all different kinds of people is one
of the keys to being successful in life. School helps you do
this. Mainstreaming and inclusion in classrooms allows you to
work with and get to know all different types of kids. Read our
article to understand how learning with others helps everyone.
What Is Mainstreaming?
Mainstreaming is an educational method that includes many
different kinds of learners in the same classroom, instead of
separating students according to their learning abilities. The
term mainstreaming was first used in the 1970s and describes
classrooms where students with disabilities and students who do
not have disabilities are together.
In a mainstreamed classroom, all kids, including gifted kids and
children with disabilities, learn together in the same
classroom. Mainstreaming is now more commonly known as
inclusion, and many school systems today are using inclusion in
their districts. Is your school mainstreamed?
What Happens in a Classroom That's Mainstreamed?
The purpose of mainstreaming is to give every student a
typical classroom experience. Many specific changes need to take
place for a classroom to become successfully mainstreamed.
Teachers need to be trained to use new teaching methods,
teachers' aides must be added, and special equipment must be
provided for students who need it.
In any classroom setting, the teacher needs to be able to meet
every student's needs. In a mainstreamed classroom, meeting
every student's needs is more challenging because there are many
different types of learners. Teachers who have mainstreamed
classes are trained to provide different things for different
students, making sure there is something for everyone. For
example, assignments may vary to meet the needs of all learners
- from kids with special talents to kids with special needs.
Because it is impossible for one teacher to help everyone at
once, there is at least one teacher's aide in the room.
"Sometimes, the teacher's aide will work with a small group of
people while the regular teacher will lecture or do a project
with the rest of the class," says Laura Andrews, a teacher from
New Jersey. "That way, the small group can focus on the extra
help they need while the rest of the class can learn some
additional information, review old material, or start something
new." With more than one teacher in the room, everyone gets the
extra attention they need.
In a mainstreamed classroom, teachers and aides use special
teaching methods. Instead of just lecturing all day to the whole
class, teachers break kids up into groups, put students at
different learning stations, and have independent tutoring time,
too. For example, in a mainstreamed social studies class, you
could watch a video on Russian geography, get into groups with
other kids to simulate living in Russia, and then have personal
attention when you write a journal entry about life as a kid in
Russia. Varied activities in school definitely help all kinds of
kids learn, and it makes learning more interesting, too!
Mainstreamed classrooms have specialized equipment and learning
materials on hand. There might be a variety of books for
different reading levels, you might see some kids with
Alphasmart laptop computers that help with spelling, or there
might be a special area to accommodate a kid who uses a
wheelchair. The extra equipment is provided to help everyone in
the classroom learn as much as possible - including you!
How Mainstreaming Affects Kids
The best part about mainstreaming is the positive effect it
can have on all students in the classroom. Kids without
disabilities benefit by learning to be patient with kids who
need extra help in class. According to the book Inclusive
Education, research shows that students without disabilities who
are in a mainstreamed classroom accept and value the differences
in their classmates, have enhanced self-esteem, and develop a
genuine capacity for friendship.
In a mainstreamed class, kids can learn firsthand that everyone
has different needs as well as different strengths. A kid who
needs more time to process what he's reading may also be the
fastest runner or the kindest friend. Someone who needs extra
help with multiplication tables may be a great artist or know
the most about animals. The kid who has to review Spanish
vocabulary more often may be a math whiz or a talented soccer
goalie. A student who uses a wheelchair may not play soccer, but
may play the piano or the violin.
The best mainstreamed classroom becomes a place where
differences are respected, everyone's needs are attended to, and
everyone's strengths and talents are appreciated - and that kind
of learning environment is healthy for everyone!
The skills kids develop in mainstreamed classrooms can help them
be better members of their workplaces and communities later on.
Plus, the extra time that's necessary to help all kids learn
encourages both the typical and special needs learners to work a
little harder. Learning to work hard is the key to success in
whatever you want to do - whether it's getting good grades,
being a great hockey player, mastering a musical instrument, or
being successful in whatever career you choose.
Because working with different people allows you to become more
tolerant, accepting, and understanding, everyone benefits. In a
mainstreamed classroom, you'll experience new ways of
instruction, you'll see varied materials to help you understand,
and you'll learn about how others have a different way of
thinking than you do. But perhaps best of all, you'll get to
know all kinds of kids. You might even end up making a new
friend by helping someone with her spelling list!
What to Do if You or a Classmate Needs Extra Help
This is the easy part. Everyone needs help at some point in
her life. Maybe you need help with your dribbling skills in
basketball, your sister needs help with her college application,
and your brother needs help with reading. There's nothing wrong
with asking for help - everyone needs it at some point.
If you need help learning stuff in school or your friend does,
talk to your teacher, parent, or guidance counselor. These
people can help you find a tutor, get help from the teacher's
aide, or get into a study program. Also, sometimes on TV, you'll
see a number you can call for extra help or even a homework
hotline. It's almost guaranteed that as soon as you start
getting help, you'll feel better about your schoolwork - and
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