As a supply teacher, what steps can you take to foster an inclusive classroom?
Inclusion and supply. Two words which don’t sit neatly together. For a permanent member of staff inclusion can be a challenge. Making sure that every student is able to access, engage and make progress during a lesson takes time: you need to know your students and their needs. When you’re in a class for a short amount of time, inclusion becomes more tricky and no less important. The DANCE acronym can can be a good first step to identifying need as a supply teacher.
D is for... Data
Like or loathe, there is no faster way of picking up on students in need of extra support than looking through a data sheet. Information might be explicit, highlghting students needing extra help, or attainment and progress data can be used to inform your judgement of who to support. Data might be hard to track down or unavailable, but is definitely worth looking at if you can.
A is for... Ask members of staff
If you have a TA you’re in luck. They’ll be the perfect person to ask who might need a little more support. These days the chances of a TA being in a classroom, particularly as a secondary teacher, may be slim. If there is no one obvious for you to ask, be brave. Query the receptionist or business manager for information on the class that you’re going to be teaching. Unless a school has a clear policy on information shared with supply teachers, don’t be afraid to kick up a small fuss - this is an issue important for teacher and student.
N is for… Notice
Let’s imagine you’ve got no info on the class you’re teaching, no data or support from staff. You’ve also, as a supply teacher always does, got dozens of things on your mind. Being aware of need in your class can slip to the back of your mind when there is so much going on. The “Notice” step is simply a matter of remembering that there will be students in class in need of special attention.
C is for… Circulation
In classroom circulation, be conscious and aware of why it is that students that might be struggling. Don’t just look for students who are off task, while moving round the classroom take time to look at their work. If you have data or information about any students, use this to guide your circulation. Go first to the students needing support and use your professional judgement on how best to support them.
E is for… Evidence
Classrooms (particularly primary classrooms) are full of pupils’ work. If you have time before class, have a look through their books and for any student work on the walls. During a lesson, don’t be afraid to have a closer inspection of pupil work or a planner. There may be telltale signs that a pupil might need a little more in the way of support. Use this information.
Remember that DANCE is only for identifying need. Supporting and helping students with specific needs is considerably more complicated. We know that lots of our teachers have experience as SENCOs and have worked closely with SEN students. They’ll have spent years studying and practicing their engagement and support strategies. The first step to supporting students in need is always going to be identification, and here DANCE can be helpful.
We’d love to hear of any strategies that you may have to identify need in the classroom. We’d be happy to include this information in our blog, so do make contact if you’ve any ideas.