Inclusive Schools Network recognizes the importance of promoting peer relationships. One important aspect of peer relationships involves peer tutors or peer assistants in the classroom. ISN offers a variety of resources for establishing a formal peer tutoring program in your school. As we visit schools around the US, we find very few with formal peer tutoring programs that have procedures for selecting peer tutors, providing training needed to fill the role of peer tutor, or for evaluating the success of the program. We have several free tools to help you and your school cross these hurdles.
Another aspect of peer to peer relationships is the instructional avenues for promoting more peer interactions, such as cooperative learning, pair learning, and other collaborative learning opportunities that are easily imbedded into a good lesson design. You will find several tools that provide for more frequent peer interactions around instructional tasks.
Finally, we have a great new blog that addresses the parent’s role in supporting natural peer relationships outside of the school environment.
When preparing for this particular newsletter, I was reminded of my teaching career with students who were either blind or had very low vision. Not a day went by that one or more of my students didn’t ask: Ms. Stetson, what do I do when my classmates offer to help me and I don’t need it? What do I do when they don’t offer help and I do need it? I thought about these very real questions from children, some of whom may have a lifetime of offered assistance or the lack of it. My response today is the same as it was then.
We live in an interdependent world. To be successful in relating to people, we should be comfortable both giving help and asking for or receiving help. Certainly I had these conversations within the context of avoiding ‘helplessness’ but in self-advocacy for respect both received and given. I think that every teacher should consciously plan for these reciprocal interactions on a daily basis.
Think of the many ways in which this can be accomplished. Just a few ideas include:
- Working with other students to locate reference materials in the library for class study;
- Distributing assignments or graded work to the class, just as typical peers fill this role;
- Assisting fellow students in checking their work with a teacher-provided answer key;
- Calling out spelling words to individual students in preparation for a test;
- And many more ways linked to classroom tasks and learning assignments.
Help us add to this list of ways all students can find meaningful roles of helping and being helped in an inclusive classroom. Please send your ideas and suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each of us has a need to help and to receive help throughout our lives. The inclusive classroom is an ideal place to learn these lessons and to gain deeper relationships and valuable assistance for all of our peers. Successful adults have certainly learned these lessons and practice them daily.
Resources and Strategies
This brief defines peer tutoring and provides a brief description of three examples of peer tutoring, including how it promotes access to the general education curriculum and evidence of effectiveness.
Newspaper Article: Special-needs students named homecoming queens and kings
Cross-age peer tutors should complete a form like this one to document their support sessions and provide the teacher with information about student participation in this instructional process.
Use this guide to assist teachers in considering appropriate collaborative activities to supplement and enhance classroom instruction.
Use this six step process to plan and implement successful peer support systems in your school.
This site hosts several lessons and innovative ideas of how to create a socially inclusive environment.