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Special Needs Teaching

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Ashley Clark

Observation Reflection

I completed my observations at Concord Junior High in Mr. Eric Free's classroom. Mr. Free teaches 7th grade English and Language Arts. While in his classroom observing, I observed 5 different periods paying particular attention to the 1st hour class. Mr. Free's room was decorated and colorful. Above the chalkboard, he had various autographed photos that the students all found interesting in the first few weeks of class. There were newspaper clippings of all students in the school when they were participating in any type of school or non school event Ð'- church, sports, band, community service, etc. I found this incredibly important because not only is he recognizing students in the classroom for excelling in school activities but also in out of school events. It was a real boost to see all the amazing activities these students were involved in at such a young age. Mr. Free also collects tigers so he has a variety of small figurines and sculptures as well as small stuffed animals decorating his room. Mr. Free's room felt very warm and inviting Ð'- It had just enough dÐ"©cor without being distracting or overwhelming.

I liked the way the room was set up, even though the desks were just in traditional rows facing the front. Mr. Free had his desk in the front corner of the room, but sat at it very rarely. He has a small table that he has on the side of the middle of the room that he sits at while students are working so they have room to get extra attention if needed, and he can assist more than one student at a time. While he was in the front of the room talking about lessons or addressing the class in a more formal approach, he stood at a podium in the front of the room.

While observing, I made many notes about students and was surprised at the disposition of students that were so young. Being in 7th grade these students were typically 12 or 13 however dressed and talked like they were in high school. Even though it was fall, the school was noticeably trying to control the student's dress code, as I saw several students receive passes to go to the office and they would return to class later wearing different clothing. After observing the amount of classroom interruptions and distractions that students' attire was causing, it made me realize the controversial issue of school uniforms that many local school boards are now considering. I was also in class the day before a school dance, and after talking to my observing teacher and learning that the lack of attention was not only that day, but at least 3 or 4 days prior to the dance, it made me question the importance of "school dances". I realize that it is a social event for the students and it is good for them to get to know each other and have time to socialize, but with the distractions it causes and the trouble they commonly have at the dances, I question the importance of social issues over education.

Although I observed many students during my hours, one particular student really caught my attention during the first hour class. During this particular day of observing (my second day) I brought my textbook to refer to specific charts and descriptions of different types of disabilities. Vaughn, Bos, and Schumm (2003) listed a chart for signals for possible learning disabilities which I referred to while watching a student named Tim. Even though it was only 1st hour, Tim looked confused and exhausted. He was having trouble following directions even though it appeared that he was listening and trying to make sense of what the teacher was instructing him to do although he was easily distracted by any noise, sniffle or cough in the room. During a quiet time while the students were working on an assignment, I asked Mr. Free about Tim and he told me that not only did he have a learning disability but he also took medication for ADHD. When I went back to sit down and observe, I noticed that Tim could barely stay awake and seemed almost disoriented. Mr. Free signaled for me to go and help Tim one on one. As sort of an "icebreaker" I asked him why he was so tired. Tim then told me that every night its past 2 AM before he gets to sleep. I asked him if he was up playing video games or watching television, but he told me that his parents wouldn't allow that so he just stays in bed for hours before he is able to fall asleep. After reading our textbook, Vaughn, Bos and Schumm state that difficultly sleeping is an obvious sign of ADHD; however if he was taking medication one would think that it should be helping to control it. According to Vaughn, Bos and Schumm teachers should be working with the parents and doctor monitoring the medication. Obviously the medication wasn't working Ð'- and could even be the cause of Tim not being able to sleep at night, and if he isn't sleeping he can't learn to his best potential. After class, I discussed my concerns with Mr. Free, and he contacted Tim's parents to talk to them about the medication he was on, and possibly changing it. I was really pleased that I recognized this situation and helped bring it to the attention of the teacher to help Tim receive the best possible treatment and in turn, a better education.

On my final day of observing, the class worked very well Ð'- they were very focused and had great conversation during the discussion portion of class. The class had been reading the book "Animal Farm" which was a very well-liked topic in the class. One particular thing I did notice was Mr. Free's adaptation of the lesson for the students with special needs and learning disabilities. Mr. Free used what Vaughn, Bos and Schumm referred to as "providing a framework for learning". Mr. Free gave the students with learning disabilities a outline that had partial information filled in and blanks for the students to fill in on their own to help them through the chapters of reading to make sure they were grasping the story and the important parts. These students were also given a worksheet with a list of characters and their description so they could follow along in the book easier and have something to refer back to. I thought this was a really great way to not make it noticeable that the students were receiving extra attention while still keeping them up with the rest of the class.

After completing my observations, I was quite amazed by the students with disabilities. I am familiar with working with students from severely disabled students to mildly handicapped, but I have rarely been an observer in a general education classroom. I have also never been observing



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