On our second day of our inclusive pod I found myself sitting on the floor between two third grade students. I was scribing their ideas for writing our own version of The Little Red Hen. Both of them took the project seriously, analyzing what type of characters we should have, where the play should take place, and what Little Red should cook. I looked across the room to watch the speech pathologist work with Joey and another first grader to use Bitmojis. Joey used his device to describe what should go into the Bitmoji for his friend.
It was only the second day and I was a bit surprised at everyone’s body language. Everyone – each student and us teachers – were leaning in, with big eyes sticking out over our masks. As a special education teacher I suppose one of my skills is scanning a room for unengaged students so I can proactively re-direct or engage them before there is a problem. As I took a moment to step away from the third grade group I couldn’t believe just how engaged everyone was.
As I returned my focus to the third graders I heard them debating how best to include Joey. They wanted him to be the main character, which meant carefully selecting the words for the script. They added a narrator and gave Little Red a “best friend” who will be beside him during the play, ready to help him stay calm and prompt him if needed. The best friend won’t have lines, but will be a part of the play. I couldn’t believe how they were carefully and naturally planning to include Joey. There was no resentment, or “he can’t do that”, but just “Oh! We should make him have a buddy…” In fact, it was their idea that Joey take the main role.
Later, when we gathered back together to share how our groups went, the speech pathologist turned on the projector so that everyone in the group could see a display of Joey’s words. Joey lit up to see his words projected onto the wall. As we read a version of the Little Red Hen each student was able to take a turn using Joey’s device to say “Who will help me?” and “not I”. One even tried using it with her eyes, and noted just how difficult and time consuming it was. Often she’d find herself saying it verbally or touching the screen instead of staying with the difficult task of finding each word. Joey was able to se
e each student use his device just as he does – and each student was able to understand just how much work Joey puts into sharing his thoughts with us.
We are still early into this and I foresee many learning opportunities for us adults as we go, but so far I am excited by how naturally the group flows and incorporates everyones’ individual needs.