When teaching preschool, you have a classroom full of children with a diverse set of needs, and it is your job to find ways to ensure inclusion for all of these children. An inclusive preschool classroom ensures that all children, regardless of their abilities, have access to individualized learning experiences that are adapted to meet the needs of all children in the class.
CREATE A CALM ENVIRONMENT
All children, and staff, benefit from having a calm and peaceful classroom environment. Use the layout of your classroom and the activities that you plan to create the atmosphere that you desire for your classroom. Also, provide your preschoolers with the tools that they need to manage their emotions and self regulate. This will allow for a better learning environment for the whole class.
BE AWARE OF EACH CHILD’S NEEDS
It is not enough to just know which children have special needs. You need to know what they are and have a specific plan on how you will individualize your lessons to make them more accessible to those children. Also, be aware of all of your preschoolers’ needs, not just the obvious ones. Some children may be facing food insecurity, which can also have a great impact on their development. Other children may have more mild learning delays that have not yet been diagnosed. It is important to be aware of all of these issues, which is why it is so important to get to know your preschoolers and their families.
USE PRE-ASSESSMENTS TO INFORM YOUR PLANNING
When you use pre-assessments you gain an understanding of where each of your preschoolers are developmentally. This means gathering information, either from parents or assessment tools, and reviewing it. This allows you to intentionally plan for your preschoolers and individualize each activity with their developmental goals in mind.
IMPLEMENT A VARIETY OF TEACHING METHODS
It is best practice to implement a variety of teaching methods in your preschool classroom. This benefits all of your preschoolers, which is the best way to be inclusive. In preschool, you do not always know that a child has any special needs because they have not been diagnosed yet. Make sure you are providing audio, visual, and tactile learning opportunities for your preschoolers.
MAKE ALL ACTIVITIES ADAPTABLE
When you have a diverse set of needs and abilities in your classroom, it is essential that you make each activity adaptable. This way all children are able to participate in every aspect of the classroom, regardless of their abilities. Luckily, preschool activities are generally easily adaptable because they are generally very open-ended.
For example, working with and manipulating playdough is a popular preschool activity. It works on fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and social skills. Since playing with playdough is such an open-ended activity, it is easily adapted to fit any theme that you are working on and for any level of ability. You can set it out with rocks, sticks, leaves, and play animals for a forest theme. For a construction theme you can provide small construction vehicles, pebbles, mini cones, and people with the playdough.
PROVIDE ADAPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES
Some preschoolers will need additional support. Providing them with adaptive technologies will help bridge the education gap between those with and without special needs. There is a wide range of adaptive technologies that you can use in your classroom. It can be as simple as providing egg shaped crayons to apps that speak for the child after they select the picture of the word(s) that they want to say.
Creating an inclusive classroom for your preschoolers means ensuring that all of the children feel included and are provided with the appropriate activities for their developmental stages. This can be an overwhelming task at times, but it is well worth the effort. Having an inclusive preschool classroom is beneficial to all children.