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What does Inclusion look like in Grade 5 Science Class?

By Tiffany Gallagher, PhD, Brock University

25.TiffanyGallagher2This is a ‘good news’ inclusion story of a Grade 5 student, Isadora, with Down’s Syndrome. Isadora is in a class of 25 with an amazing teacher, Mrs. Rodriguez. There is an EA in this classroom to assist ALL students for a few periods of the school day. Mrs. Rodriguez is a participant in a research study that is investigating integrated literacy and science through assistive technology. She has been co-creating and teaching this integrated unit on matter and energy in science that lays the groundwork for early learning in chemistry.

Students in her class have learned about topics such as, “solids, liquids and gases” through accessing multimodal, differentiated texts (both print-based and digitally based). Below is an example of a text that is levelled for students of different reading abilities. The texts are downloadable and all include the same illustrations, just the text difficulty is modified.

On the day that I observed Mrs. Rodriguez’s lesson, Isadora was proudly reading the ‘same’ text as her peers. She was making personal connections to the examples of physical change that were explained in the passage.

After the reading, Mrs. Rodriguez extended her lesson into an inquiry-based application of what the students had read about. She randomly drew names of students that would work together in groups of three. I observed the pleasure that Isadora expressed when her name was drawn with two others: Charlie and Simon. Students worked together to complete a planning sheet (see below) for their “Scientific Investigation” ensuring that the variables that they were investigating would be measured and fairly controlled.

25.TiffanyGallagher3Isadora and her group members discussed what they would like to investigate and made a quick decision – she nodded her head in agreement with the choice. Without prompting, Charlie reached into his desk and pulled out a pad of stickie notes. He wrote on a stickie note, “How much salt will dissolve in 250 mL of water” and slid the note to Isadora. She copied the statement from the note onto her planning sheet. The group continued to talk and complete the other components of the planning sheet in this same way.

After the lesson was complete and the students went outside for recess, Mrs. Rodriguez reflected on how the students worked together. She asked me if Isadora was paying attention or not. I remarked that she was extremely focused and fully participated in the activity. Mrs. Rodriguez said, “Oh that is great, I was worried when I drew Isadora’s name with Charlie, ’cause she has a huge crush on him and often just gazes at him in awe.” I remarked, “Isadora is just a typical tween, isn’t she?”

25.TiffanyGallagher1Tiffany L. Gallagher, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education. She teaches and has co-authored texts in educational psychology and language and literacy instructional methods. Tiffany was an administrator and diagnostician in supplemental education for over a decade. Her current research interests include literacy assessment and strategy instruction, inclusion through the use of technology, the role of the special education teacher, teachers with learning disabilities and post-secondary education for persons with disabilities. Tiffany is one of our IEC Network of Associates.