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Adapting the Physical Environment

One evening I watched in fascination as Itzhak Perlman spoke of his life. The television special startled the viewers by showing Perlman being manually hauled up on to the stage at Carnagie Hall. It had such a demeaning feeling to it. It was a program showing the importance of following the laws enacted to provide public access to our public buildings.

The special faded from that set of images to vignettes of his life as a child, the dignity his parent afforded him - the love with which they handled his physical limitations. The next setting showed him at home with his six children and the facilitating and enabling environment that he set up to enhance and support his life as a father and violinist.

Perlman is possibly one of the most gifted musicians and violinists of this century. Of course, like all of us, he was born with the seeds of greatness and with limitations. His environment has done much to enhance his strengths and minimize his limitations.

When Perlman is seated, playing his violin, none of us are reminded of those physical limitations that hamper his life. We are carried away by the joy of his mastery of the violin, his love for music and the masterful recreation of masterpieces, the ethereal sensation of his work with the strings.

Compare that with the way we approach the classroom and our efforts to help students feel at home. What can we do to enhance each student's ability to work well, to gain the most of each day, and to feel safe in our classes? How can we capitalize on the strengths of each student and bring support and nurturance to the things that are not as strong?

This is where the importance of balance can be used effectively. The graphics in this reading are sea creatures, primarily to remind us of the importance of being fluid in our approach to the physical environment. These two ideas come together to facilitate the most productive environment for all members of the classroom. There are fixed parts to the classroom - the sink, desks, windows, the time scheduling the school requires. These are like the reef. They are the bedrock - the rigid part of the schedule.

How that schedule is used, how we arrange the desks, the type of bulletin boards, instructional centers, transitions -- these are more fluid, moveable, within our control.

Chapter Nine (pp. 224-260) in the Wood text covers the school and classroom environment in detail.

Assignment Array

The exciting thing about an array, is that you choose those that will further your understanding or fit your current situation the best. Give yourself an opportunity to learn new ideas and to strengthen current knowledge by digging deeper and requiring yourself to grapple with complex issues.

Review the accessibility standards in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or get a brief overview by clicking here. The summary of how the ADA applies to schools can also be accesses by reviewing page 227 in the Wood text. [25-100 points, depending on the depth of your research into the subject and prior knowledge about these issues].

Set up three different options for scheduling the day and your current classes. Review the Wood text (pp. 226-240) for options. After outlining each one, put the pros and cons with respect to how it will affect you, the school, specific students. [50 points].

Take the pros and cons you developed in the previous assignment and compare them with the list on p. 240 of the Wood text. List those you did not consider that might impact each of the three schedules. [25 points]

Try using the scheduling checklist provided on p.241 of the Wood text to develop the ideal schedule for one youngster. Keep track of the time it takes and any shortcuts you can see that might be helpful in future scheduling. [25 points for each hour involved in scheduling; 25 points for each shortcut or form developed that would shorten the time involvement and still accomplish - or even enhance the process of individual scheduling].

Table 9.5 (Wood text, p. 242) provides ideas for helping a student move into utilization of a resource room for academic support. Critique the ideas, including ways you would change the suggested process. Feel free to share personal experiences in gaining student acceptance and motivation by writing a vignette in WebCT. [25 points for critique, 15 points for vignette in WebCT].

Table 9.6 (Wood text, p. 243) provides suggestions for enhancing the transition from classroom to resource room. If you have had experiences with these issues, list some of the solutions you used to enhance the transition. [25 points].

Review Table 9.7 (Wood text, pp. 244-247) on transitioning. Identify three things to implement in your own classroom. Try the new solutions for a week. Report successes and insights in WebCT. [50 points].

Obtain material about using cooperative learning in the classroom. Click bibliography for a short list of great reading resources. In addition, many teacher ready materials (example, a math focused cooperative learning book) are on the market that assist educators in setting up cooperative learning and provide activities to teach group skills.

Look around your school and give it a rating for how Perlman would have fared at your plant. [25 points].

Would he have had ample opportunity to play his violin?

Would Perlman have spent time in a resource room? For gifted and talented? Getting OT or PT?


Group or Individual


One fish or the school . . .

What kinds of things help us to balance the needs of the group and the needs of the individual? Write a one minute essay providing your perspective on the importance of meeting individual needs. Give at least three justifications for your position. Now turn it around and write a one minute essay for the other position.

Is there a position in between that would provide the best balance? Be creative as you write that third one minute essay. Feel free to explore these ideas with other students in WebCT or to talk with teachers and administrators to get a wide array of perspectives and ideas. [15 points for each essay].

You should now:

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