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Demonstration of Illinois Professional Teaching Standards

7. Communication:
The teacher uses knowledge of effective written, verbal, nonverbal, and visual communication techniques to foster active inquiry, collaboration, and supportive interaction in the classroom.

There are two items in the section.


Language in the Classroom

Smith, Robin M., Spencer J Salend, and Sarah Ryan. (2001). Watch Your Language: Closing or Opening the Special Education Curtain. Teaching Exceptional Children. Apr-May 2001, vol. 33, no. 4. pp. 18-22.


This article explores the effect of language and attitudes toward students with disabilities in the classroom. Two approaches to dealing with students with disabilities in the classroom are contrasted in this article: the competency-oriented approach and the deficit-oriented approach. Through explaining and contrasting the two, the article shows the negative effects of the deficit-oriented approach and the positive effects that the competency-oriented approach brings to the classroom. This article gives an abundance of realistic classroom examples of how (and how not to) effectively include and work with students with disabilities.

As inclusion becomes more and more popular, it is important for educators to better understand how to work with students with disabilities. One aspect of teaching students with disabilities that can be easily overlooked is simply the language that is used with the students. Not only language, but the attitude of the teacher towards both the students with disabilities and the rest of the class makes a big difference in the success of the students’ education.

The article presents two very different ways to talk to and about students with disabilities. The first is the deficit-oriented approach. Essentially, this is where the teacher focuses more on the disabilities of the students rather than the progress that they have made and their contribution to the classroom. These teachers focus on what the students can’t do as opposed to what they are able to do. Deficit-oriented educators treat students with disabilities differently from the other students. Sometimes, they treat them like babies or even ignore them all together. This could make the student feel insignificant or like he or she isn’t on the same level as the rest of the students. This can lead to a lack of effort and social isolation. Another major fault of deficit-oriented teachers is that they do not encourage students with disabilities to do the work or share with the class. They accept the student’s lack of effort or participation because of their disability. These deficit-oriented educators need to assess all of their students needs and work towards self-improvement in all students.

The second approach to working with students with disabilities is the competency-oriented approach. Through positive language and focus on the individual, inclusion can benefit not only the students with disabilities, but the entire class. Instead of focusing on the disability at hand, focus on each student as an individual who works, learns, and acts differently. By assessing each student individually, teachers can track their progress and learning. The important thing is not how students with disabilities rank among the class, but how much they have improved personally. Through accentuating students with disabilities’ achievements, the educator will help motivate the student rather than reminding them of their problems. Another important aspect to the competency-oriented approach is setting a tone in the classroom that shows that all the students are equals. Educators should let it be known that there will be no put-downs or negative attitudes or comments toward anyone in the classroom. If there is an incident of this type of inappropriate behavior, the teacher must address it immediately. Educators must also allow for all students to contribute to the class and be a leader. If the teacher has a positive attitude about the students with disabilities, chances are, the students in the class also will. This in turn leads to more social acceptance by the class of the students with disabilities. The social interaction is beneficial to all students. It can help boost the students with disabilities self esteem and make them feel more comfortable in the classroom. The other students can learn how to interact with people that may be different from themselves. All of these things will lead to a happy and productive class.

I enjoyed reading this article and took a lot out of it. I think that it is something that can be used in any class at any level. I never really thought about how big of an impact my language could have on my classroom. Using the right words is very important when dealing with students with disabilities. I think that the main point is to make everyone feel like they belong to the class and that they are each special in their own way. I really like the way in which this article was written. There are a lot of short realistic examples of different ways of speaking to or treating students with disabilities. The examples were very concise. This made it easy and fun to read. Also, at the end, there is a checklist of things that a competency-oriented teacher would do in his or her classroom. This is a short summary of all the examples given in the article to promote a good environment for students with disabilities. I think this is a good way to see how I am doing, as an educator, to accommodate to all of my students.

I would definitely recommend this article to others. I found it to be a very easy read. They way that it is organized, it is easy to get a lot out of it. Also, as I said before, I think that this issue is important for all classes at all levels. There are concrete examples of what to do and what not to do in your classroom when dealing with students with disabilities. It is also an important issue that every educator should be familiar with. This article is by no means the complete guide on working with students with disabilities. It does, however, lay a framework of things that should and should not be done and said when working with students with disabilities.



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