Managing a Complex Classroom: Impacting Students’ with Disabilities

December 29, 2020 | Focus Areas: | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | 0 COMMENTS

Journey to Proficient 

School Context, 2020

During 2020, I completed a 12-month contract with a year 6/7 mainstream class at a complex site that required EALD, ATSI and trauma informed practice. It is a category 3 school (Department for Education, 2020), located 11 kilometres from Adelaide’s CBD. Most students come from a mid to low socio-economic background. It is a culturally rich school incorporating 11 mainstream classes (Reception to Year 7), 3 Intensive English Language Centre classes (IELC), 3 specialist classes (Science, Performing Arts, Health and Physical Education) and an International Education Program. The school community is made up of over 300 students and there are approximately 57 different nationalities represented. The students, staff, families and the community embrace the diversity within the school. Therefore, there are many students for which English is their second language. There is a strong commitment to ensuring that everybody belongs, and this is supported by a whole school approach, using Play is the Way and the Zones of Regulation. There is a strong literacy and numeracy focus across the school, including the integration of the Big 6. These embedded classroom practices enhance student learning outcomes and improve teacher practice.

Managing a Complex Classroom

Impacting Students’ with Disabilities and Self-regulation Difficulties

I had up to seven students in my class with disabilities requiring One Plans and SSO support at any one time. I used teaching strategies based on knowledge of students physical, social, and intellectual development and characteristics to improve student learning (1.1). I had three students with particularly complex needs (students A, B and C). Student A was visually impaired. Student B had been diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, working memory issues and learned helplessness. I suspect that the student also had Autism and ADHD. However, this was yet to be diagnosed. Finally, student C, suffered from trauma and learned helplessness. I suspect undiagnosed Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Autism and working memory issues. However, this was yet to be diagnosed. These students were academically and socially behind their peers and required individual learning and behaviour plans so that they could access the curriculum. Moreover, these students were often dysregulated and without support had the potential to make the classroom environment unsafe for themselves and others.

For the purpose of this evidence set, I will focus on student A and B.

Student A sat in the front of the class to give the student the best chance of viewing the whiteboard and projected lessons on the television. I collaborated with the South Australian School for the Vision Impaired (SASVI) and his parent/guardian and discussed strategies that I could use to engage him in the learning program.

Student A would often come into class tired (in the blue zone) and I had to regularly ask this student to wash his face or go for a walk to wake up and get into the green zone (ready for learning). He had an I-pad (provided by SASVI) which assisted him in accessing the curriculum. I regularly put his differentiated or at year level work onto TEAMS so that he could access and enlarge the text as required.

I designed and implemented teaching activities that supported the participation and learning of this student’s disability and addressed relevant policy and legislative requirements (1.6). The student would type his work into the Apps that was on his I-pad or take photos of worksheets so that he could answer questions directly onto the image of the worksheets on his I-pad.

ICT Tool to Support Learning (4.1), (2.6)

I established and implemented inclusive and positive interactions to engage and support all students in classroom activities (4.1). I would also enlarge and darken worksheets and I provided him with an exercise book that had darker lines in it and a pen that had a 7mm thickness so that his own writing was easier for him to see.

The impact of this was that the student was able to access the learning, become more regulated, engaged and he gained growth in both his mathematics and literacy skills.

Student B was hardly in the classroom the previous year, spending the majority of his time in the onsite interception room. At the start of 2020 the student would enter the classroom dysregulated and in the yellow zone. The behaviour support phone was called regularly as his behaviour would escalate into the red zone making the classroom unsafe for him and the other students. Therefore, I had to regularly evacuate the classroom. After collaborating with the behaviour coach, the student’s parent/guardian and the wellbeing leader I structured teaching programs using research and collegial advice about how students learn (1.2) and put together some teaching strategies based on knowledge of students’ physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics to help this student to regulate, access and improve student learning (1.1).

These included a daily score card, visual schedule, timers and an individualised self-regulation scale.

I established and implemented inclusive and positive interactions to engage and support all students in classroom activities (4.1). The daily score card was designed to help the student earn a positive reward at the start of the day. The student earnt ticks and stickers for displaying positive learning and social behaviour or for completing learning tasks throughout the day. Therefore, the student would start the day off with a 15-minute break with a friend and the SSO, this would assist the student to get into the green zone before re-entering the classroom to begin learning.

Incentive Chart (1.1), (1.2), (4.1)

I created a daily visual schedule and used a timer to assist student B in self-regulating and to stay on task. Included in the daily schedule where timed non-preferred tasks that needed to be completed before the student could move on to timed preferred tasks.

The non-preferred tasks were his learning tasks that I assigned the student each day in the morning. The student’s non-preferred tasks were agreed upon by the student and the SSO in the morning, signed off and were not negotiable after this. The times were based on how long the student could focus for, broken into periods of manageable time slots. At the end of the day the SSO, the student or myself would sit with the student to discuss how successful the day had been based on a scale of 1-10.


Student B – Visual Schedule (1.1), (1.2), (4.1)

I created an individual zone of regulation scale to assist the student in understanding what his own different zones of regulation looked and felt like as well as manage challenging behaviour. This ensured students’ wellbeing and safety within school by implementing school and/or system, curriculum and legislative requirements (4.4) because the zones of regulation were a whole school approach used to assist students in understanding and managing their own emotions. Therefore, this assisted him in understanding his own emotions and what actions he could take to assist him in returning to the green zone and back to learning. It was placed at the back of the student’s daily schedule folder for easy access.

I managed challenging behaviour by establishing and negotiating clear expectations and addressed discipline issues promptly, fairly and respectfully (4.3).
Personal Behaviour Support using Zones of Regulation (1.2), (4.1), (4.3), (4.4)

Student B was academically behind his peers and began the year working at a Year 1 level in mathematics and a year 2 level in English. It was essential to scaffold his learning so that he did not feel overwhelmed and give up. He also struggled with allowing himself to make a mistake, mistakes or difficult tasks usually meant that the work was screwed up or ripped up.

I was selective in choosing tasks and worksheet that were not too wordy as he found a lot of text overwhelming. I highlighted tasks or certain words on a worksheet so that the student only noticed the essential information required to complete the task. Initially I would give him only half a worksheet at a time to help build his confidence.

Student B Work Sample (1.2), (1.5)

I planned for appropriate and contextually relevant opportunities for parents/carers to be involved in their children’s learning (3.7). I would celebrate his success and share this with his parent/guardian when possible. For example, all three of the pieces of evidence below were sent on two separate occasions by email to the student’s parent guardian.

Awesome Start to the Day – Shared to Parent/Guardian (3.7), (7.3)

I also kept the Wellbeing leader involved by cc’ing her into emails.

Good days this week – Shared to Parent/Guardian (3.7), (7.3)

I made every effort to establish and maintain positive respectful relationships with parents/guardians and to keep them involved in their child’s learning and wellbeing (7.3).

Parent/Guardian response (7.3)

When required, I would also ask parents for assistance to help support their child’s learning and behaviour.

Homework sent home as student B refused to complete it in class time (3.7), (7.3)

I differentiated tasks based on his interests and made it so that he could demonstrate his learning in a variety of ways (1.5). I designed and implemented teaching activities that supported the participation and learning of this student’s disability and addressed relevant policy and legislative requirements (1.6). The student was unable to write down what he learnt very well. However, he was excellent at articulating his learning verbally. He had excellent comprehension. I would write down evidence antidotally of what he said, and I also encourage him to record his learning using the audio tools found in both Seesaw and Word. Therefore, the student was able to demonstrate his learning and I was able to record his learning growth.

Student B Work Sample (1.6), (1.5), (2.6), (5.2), (7.3)

Above is a typical work sample from this student who was able to demonstrate his learning using the dictation tool on Seesaw. I was also able to provide timely, effective sand appropriate feedback to students about their learning goals (5.2). This also gave me the opportunity to

Below is a video of the same work sample where student B was able to record his learning using the audio tool in Seesaw. Therefore, using effective teaching strategies to integrate ICT into learning and teaching programs to make selected content relevant and meaningful (2.6).

The impact of my teaching and learning was that the student learnt to self-regulate more effectively, engage in lessons and gained significant academic learning growth. The behaviour support phone was rarely called, and he was engaging in most lessons.

Student B had started at a year 3 standard in Mathematics to working within a year 5 and would attempt some year 6 mathematics learning (student B’s academic year level).

One Plans were updated regularly. This is one example that demonstrates that I met the code of ethics and conduct established by regulatory authorities, systems and schools (7.1).

First One Plan – Mathematics (2.3), (7.1), (7.2)

Click here to see First One Plan – Mathematics


Second One Plan – Mathematics (2.3), (7.1), (7.2)

Click here to see Second One Plan – Mathematics

In English student B improved from a year 2 standard in English to successfully completing a year 3 English standard.

First One Plan – English (2.3), (7.1), (7.2)

Click here to see First One Plan – English




Second One Plan – English (2.3), (7.1), (7.2)

Click here to see Second One Plan – English

These One Plans were updated regularly after respectful and informative correspondence with parents/carers or services/agencies working in the interest of the students learning and wellbeing. The One Plans were shared with the relevant parents/carers and service/agency. This demonstrates that I understand the implications of and comply with relevant legislative, administrative, organisational and professional requirements, policies and processes (7.2).

Student B’s midyear and end of year reports, displaying a summative assessment statement of the students learning progress. This is given to parents/carers. Hence, I reported clearly, accurately and respectfully to students and parents/carers about student achievement making use of accurate and reliable records (5.5).

Sample of reports

Summative Assessments: (5.5), (7.2), (3.7)


Student B’s End of Year Report Reflection


The impact of all the support Student B’s parent/guardian, myself and the school community gave made a difference the to student’s learning, social and emotional wellbeing.


Email from Student B’s parent/guardian (7.3)

It’s nice to feel appreciated.

In summary, it is rewarding to have made such a positive impact on student As and student B’s learning growth.


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