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Welcome and Happy Halloween!

Hi, everyone!

Welcome to the Special Education and Inclusion Strategies blog! I am so excited to be posting with you this year. My name is Alyssa Zelkowitz and I have taught in third, fourth, and fifth grade inclusion classes at P.S. 75 in the South Bronx, NY under both general and special education licenses. This is my fourth year teaching and I have found a home in fifth grade literacy… I am collaboratively team-teaching one section of literacy in an inclusion class in addition to teaching a general education section of literacy for my homeroom.

This year, I am looking forward to sharing some strategies for many of the issues that affect special education and inclusion classrooms, including IEPs, differentiated instruction, behavior management, assessment, collaborative team-teaching, and related services.

As the leaves start to turn colors, my students’ (and my) thoughts have been turning to the first ‘major’ school year holiday: HALLOWEEN! I thought I would begin by sharing some of the things my classrooms are doing to celebrate this year.

My reading levels in inclusion range from early first-grade to eighth grade, so our “Terrifying Tales” unit has involved reading a wide variety of books by Alvin Schwartz, our favorite hair-raising writer.  From performing skits and songs from In a Dark, Dark Room to “flashlight frights” with Scary Stories, students read on their level and discussed the author’s tone, suspense devices, “cliffhangers,” and monstrous character development. They’ve used some of these devices in their own “scary stanzas,” with students writing in different poetic styles such as acrostics, limericks, haikus, and rhyming couplets.

It’s been a great opportunity for me to mix up student groups as my students do not necessarily perform on the same level in reading and writing. Plus, I’ve found that mummies, ghosts, witches, gore, and anything to do with candy instantly entices most fifth-graders. This unit has provided a much-needed (although equally valuable) break from the normal test preparation routine as we race toward New York State standardized testing for literacy in January.

I have also set up a simulation of the Salem trials in both of my classes… I created ‘role cards’ and passed them to students at the beginning of the week. These instructed chosen students to do weird things in class, like stand on their chairs and yell at an imaginary mouse or start a rumor about how one student or another is acting creepy. My kids know that we are going to have some kind of trial on Halloween, but so far, my actors and actresses have kept the secret!

I will let you know how it turns out… will my students burn their fellow witches at the stake, or will they show mercy? Will the witches confess and accuse their innocent friends, or will they choose to stand firm in their convictions of innocence?  Most importantly, will my 21st-century witch hunters be able to evaluate the Salem townspeople’s actions in the context of ‘big questions’ about stereotypes and prejudices?   Check back next week for the answers!

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