________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 18 . . . . May 10, 2002

cover Students at Risk: Solutions to Classroom Challenges.

Cheryll Duquette.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2001.
128 pp., pbk., $18.95.
ISBN 1-55138-135-4.

Subject Headings:
Handicapped children-Education.
Mainstreaming in education.


Review by Gary Evans.

**** /4

I found this book very useful for all practicing classroom teachers (K - 12). One of the most important aspects of this book is the framework that has been developed for how to help students at risk. This framework includes: a) observing; b) formulating goals; c) developing strategies; and d) implementing and reviewing the action plan. One of the most important things that we can do as teachers is to get to know our students, their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Much of the advice that is given is appropriate for experienced or novice teachers. For example, the teacher should read the child's file for information about previous grades, speak to the previous teacher, to the student and to the parents, and track the child's performance in daily work and on tests and assignments for a few weeks. One of the statements that is repeated often calls for the teacher to observe over a period of 4-6 months to ensure that the observations are valid. It is definitely important to observe the student throughout the year, but I feel that, after observing and collecting data for 4-6 weeks at the beginning of school, it is important to get the process of individualizing the program underway as quickly as possible so that success could be shown that year. Useful suggestions and actual comments for dealing with parents are outlined, and they would be very helpful for beginning teachers as well as act as reminders for the more experienced teachers.

     The book includes the background of working with students with learning disabilities, behavioural disorders, visual impairment, hearing impairment, giftedness, developmental disabilities, and low-incidence disabilities. Understandable definitions of those exceptionalities (such as giftedness, autism, Asperger's Disorder, and Tourette Syndrome) are given, and excellent suggestions and samples of ideas of how to deal with children with those disorders are included. One chart that I found to be extremely useful and that I would have laminated and placed on my desk is entitled: "25 Ways to Minimize Behaviour Problems in Class." This is a list of ideas that would help develop a positive and trusting relationship in the classroom. The list includes modelling respectful behaviour, understanding the strengths and weaknesses that trigger certain behaviour, and establishing classroom rules, including consequences for misbehaviour.

     So often authors state that they are going to give ideas for helping students at risk, but on reading, nothing specific is ever stated. However, Duquette gives detailed and extremely useful suggestions for how to accommodate students at risk. I would not call it a recipe book to be followed step-by-step, but it does have relevant, practical ideas that help to achieve the most success with all the students in our classrooms, not only with the at-risk students.

     In our present-day classrooms, there is a very good chance that all teachers will be dealing with students who need some accommodations to the curriculum/ program that has been set out by the provincial ministries of education. Samples of charts/checklists that you could use immediately in your classroom to help identify these students include: Screening Checklist; Working with a student whose exceptionalities have not yet been identified; What to look for in students in all grades suspected of having a learning disability; Some behaviours of students who are excessively shy and withdrawn; What to look for in students suspected in having ADHD; Symptoms of hearing loss; Characteristics of Gifted students; How to identify students with mild developmental disability; and Recognizing a child with FAS/E.

     As an experienced teacher, I would recommend this book for the charts and checklists and detailed accounts of dealing with exceptionalities. As a retired teacher, I wish that I had had this book while I was teaching. The ideas are clear, concise and ready to use. As a university instructor of Social Studies to teachers-in-training, I would recommend this book as a "must read" because it contains so many worthwhile ideas that took me years to accumulate and place in my program. Case studies are discussed in the beginning of this book that would be useful for student teachers to relate to their own personal experiences in the classroom. Student teachers would be able to compare these strategies with those that were observed and used in their practicum classrooms so that they could then build a repertoire of their own.

     A basic premise in the book is the fact that caring, committed teachers have a willingness to act on their observations made about their students. The two key principles that are detailed in the book are: 1) that teachers need to work with others, such as the special education teacher, the resource teacher, the principal, the consultant and the parents; and 2) that caring, observant teachers can make a difference to the success of their students. These two principles guide attitudes and actions regarding all students and, in particular, those who require accommodations in class. Teachers have to understand their students' disabilities, and they have to be able to have some observational, assessment and program strategies to help all students to feel that they truly belong in class. This is one book that helps us to try to achieve that goal.

Highly recommended.

Gary Evans, a retired teacher, is now an instructor of Social Studies at both the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364