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Lesson Design for an Inclusive Classroom

Inclusion is a belief system that values diversity and fosters a shared responsibility to help all students to reach their potential (Villa & Thousand, 2005).

Creating an inclusive classroom requires the orchestration of multiple fundamental practices, including:

  • Flexibility of teaching modes, learning styles, assessment, and grouping;
  • Ongoing assessment, both formal and informal;
  • Grouping by readiness, interests, learning styles, and size – whole class, small group, pairs, individual;
  • Appropriate challenge with interesting and engaging learning tasks that take students from where they are to where they need to be;
  • Student-teacher collaboration where students are consciously providing information about their learning, and making responsible choices, and teachers are assessing, conferencing, and adjusting accordingly.

(Adapted from Fattig & Taylor, 2008)

A well-designed lesson (see Table 1) integrates these elements, addresses specially designed instruction, and intensifies instructional delivery using formative assessment and progress monitoring (Friend, 2014). The teachers in the video clips embedded into each section of the lesson plan are co-teachers within a seventh-grade math class. Within this class of 33, eight students are identified as having disabilities, and four of whom have Individualized Education Program (IEP) annual goals related to math or organizational skills. Of the remaining students, several are experiencing difficulty with the concept being taught – one-step equations.

The lesson plan design, adapted from “The Math Plan That Really Works,” incorporates components needed to practice new learning and review previously taught concepts. A Mental Math section is included to develop automaticity and fluency with math facts. Fluency difficulties were noted throughout the school, so this component was incorporated into the daily lesson plan. The needs of the students in this class are also addressed within the lesson plan format through a structure that provides guided practice and independent practice at the concrete, representational, and abstract level (using the concrete-representational-abstract instructional sequence).

During the previous day’s class period, the co-teachers introduced the concept of one-step equations. Through formative assessment, they were able to determine students’ knowledge of and comfort level with the new content. Based on these formative assessment outcomes, three students were assigned to the concrete (C) level, 18 to the representational (R) level, and 12 to the abstract (A) level of knowing, understanding, and being able to do (K-U-D).

Table 1

Second Day of Instruction on One-Step Equations (Addition and Subtraction)



Materials and Co-Teaching Approaches

7:25 to 7:30 am
(5 min.)
Students enter the classroom:
As students enter the room, Teacher One provides index cards with a yellow dot, blue dot, or red dot to indicate students’ group assignment to complete concrete (yellow)-representational (blue)-abstract (red) (CRA) work on one-step equations.Three students will receive cards with a yellow dot (concrete group and specially designed instruction) and a blue dot. Students’ group assignment was determined through formative assessment built into the previous day’s instruction.

Teacher Two records attendance and monitors the checklist of students with an IEP goal of bringing all needed materials to class.

33 index cards cut in half with yellow (3), blue (18), or red dots (12)
7:30 to 7:40 am
(10 min.)
Review – concept of one-step equations
Vocabulary – equation, variable, balance

Students Enter the Classroom and Concepts Reviewed

(Closed Captioning Available)

Team teaching

Document with the vocabulary and definitions for review;

Middle School Mathematics Wall Cards

7:40 to 7:50 am
(10 min.)
Mental Math

Group for Mental Math (Teacher One) – Card War

Group for Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) (Yellow Dots – 3); one has IEP goal related to single- or multiple-step equations and problems (Teacher Two); two other students are struggling; concrete phase of one-step equations (Mastery: 5 of 5 – Allsopp)

Mental Math – Card Wars and Specially Designed Instruction

Alternative teaching

For specially designed instruction (SDI)  “table” and blocks

For Card War – 20 decks of game cards

7:50 to 8:10 am
(20 min.)
Guided Practice
Students are assigned to representational and abstract groups based on the previous day’s formative assessment. Students will be assigned to groups through blue dots or red dots. Each group will minimally complete two whole-group problems and two problems with partners in this phase.

Representational Group (Blue Dots – 18) (Teacher Two) – complete River Problems

Abstract Group (Red Dots – 12) (Teacher One) – enhanced scope-and-sequence lesson called “Build a Problem”

Guided Practice With Representational and Abstract Groups

Parallel teaching or alternative teaching

Representational group – problems to use during the River Problem visual

Abstract Group – 12 packets of each page of “Build a Problem“; 12 X 2

8:20 to 8:35 am
(15 min.)
Independent Practice

Representational Group (Blue Dots – 18) (Teacher One) – pictorial sheets where students add or subtract items to balance the equations (ESS Lesson 7.14ab)

Abstract Group (Red Dots – 12) (Teacher Two) – set of 8 problems in 6 sets; problems will be placed on each side of a colored page; the page will be cut in half in puzzle fashion. After completing the problems, students check with their partner puzzle piece for accuracy of problem completion and report to the hallway to have their problems placed on the hall wall for display.

Individual for Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) – 5 to 10 minutes of this section of the lesson; fraction work to address an IEP goal designed by Deb.

Independent Practice With the Representational and Abstract Groups and Specially Designed Instruction

Parallel teaching or alternative teaching

Representational group – print (20) the worksheets for independent practice (ESS Lesson 7.14 ab)

Abstract group – practice materials adapted from Math Worksheets 4 Kids

8:35 to 8:40 am
(5 min.)
Wrap-Up: Vocabulary review – variable, etc.

Lesson Wrap-Up With Vocabulary Review

Team teaching

White board or chalk board

Adapted from

Included with this lesson plan are the IEP annual goals to be addressed with specially designed instruction within the inclusive classroom. The teachers progress monitor students’ work and provide the data to the case managers for IEP updates and development.

Table 2

Individualized Education Program Annual Goals Related to the Math Class

Student IEP Goal Related to the Content Area or Necessary to Access the Content






Weekly Measurement

Case Manager

Use problem solving techniques and aids to solve single- and multi-step practical problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with 80% accuracy. (JP) SOL 7.4- Sales tax and tip. Taught concept.Small- group activity with J.P.85% accuracy Additional sales tip activity- 100% on activity with 6 students. 93% accuracy Stowe
Will successfully complete multiplication and division of fractions and mixed numbers with 80% accuracy. (SA) Reviewed the multiplication and division of fractions.SA had 80% accuracy Activity for x and division today. Mensk
With direct teacher instruction and intervention, G will determine the correct order of operation and complete problems using the correct procedure for calculations in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with 80% accuracy in 4/5 opportunities. (GL) Order of operations.Order out of chaos.SOL 5.7GL had 100% accuracy. 100% Silva
Use a checklist and/or other strategies to bring all needed materials to class 95% of the time. (JS) 90% today forgot pencil 80% today forgot pencil and assignment pad 100% today 100% today 100% today 94% average Christmas

  Format developed by the director of special education for the school division.

Glossary of terms are available for reference.


Allsopp, D. H., Kyger, M. M., & Lovin L. H. (2007). Teaching mathematics meaningfully: Solutions for reaching struggling learners. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

Fattig, M. L., & Taylor, M. T. (2008). Co-teaching in the differentiated classroom: Successful collaboration, lesson design, and classroom management. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Friend, M. (2014). Co-teach!: Building and sustaining effective classroom partnerships in inclusive schools. Greensboro, NC: Marilyn Friend, Inc.

Villa, R. A., & Thousand, J. S. (2005). Creating an inclusive school. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.

By Deborah Franklin, M.A.T., Charlene Gray, M.Ed., Catherine Gregory, M.Ed., Mary Murray Stowe, M.Ed., and Heather Thompson, M.A.
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