3 Ways to Incorporate Student Interests in a Special Ed. Classroom

I often have kiddos who refuse to work or to even join the group in my classroom, but incorporating students' interests into the classroom and lessons has really helped with student engagement!  It may seem like a pain or a waste of time, but tapping into students' interests really increases participation and brings so much joy to the kiddos. Another bonus to incorporating students' interests into lessons and activities is that most states/ districts include this as part of a teacher evaluations. Haaaaaay, higher evaluation scores! Get ready for lots of Minions and Frozen characters! :-P

I have found three easy ways to incorporate students' interests in the classroom:
  • Label students' chairs with their name AND one of their favorite characters. This has been super helpful for some of my kiddos who are reluctant to join the group or sit during academic activities. It might sound crazy, but I often say to the kiddos something like, "Go sit with Elsa!" or "Go to your princess chair!" and they are more likely to follow the directions. It's a good step in teaching kiddos to join the group and to sit.

  • Buy materials with students' favorites characters. I know it sounds horrible to hear "spend more money!" but buying supplies saves you time, and if you can get stuff at the Dollar Store or in Target's dollar bin, it's totally work it! I love these Minion and Frozen writing books I found at Target. I have a few kiddos who despise writing time but are more willing to work when it's in their awesome notebooks. 

  • Make academic materials that include students' interests. As special ed teachers, we often have to make most of our academic activities and materials for working on IEP goals. It doesn't take much extra work to make the activities include students' favorite characters! I keep clipart of loved characters (mostly Frozen, Minions, and Micky Mouse) saved on my computer so creating the activities is quick and easy.  I also include students' favorite characters during independent work time/ task boxes.
    If you want to save time and buy some themed activities, check out my Monsters Inc, Frozen and Minion (this one is free) math activities. 

Remember, when incorporating students' interest, you don't have to change the content, but just how it looks! Do you have any tips or ideas for easily incorporating students' interests into your classroom to increase engagement?