TAH Teacher Spotlight: Gina’s Comprehensive Classroom

Meet Gina and her Comprehensive Classroom!

My classroom is partitioned into 5 main distinct areas: Choose, independent/work with teacher, work with teacher/group, cozy corner (calm down area) and an area for Occupational Therapy.  Each of my kiddos has a picture schedule that tells them the run down of the afternoon.  Last year my kiddos made so much growth that this year I push into three different grades in the mornings and service them out into the comprehensive classroom in the afternoon!  They run through their routine by picture schedule based on ability and need.  I have a few kiddos who are more experienced start with independent while I work with kids at my table who need more help.  Then the rotation switches so that I may pop up if someone needs help!  The independent station has a red file folder-hanging pocket. My students find their board and attach it to the Velcro on the wall.  Next, they take off the pre chosen independent work tasks and find the matching tag.  It may be a box or a file folder! I didn’t have room for different 3 work bin systems so I just taught them this routine.  I expected it out of ALL my kiddos and they all rose to the task J AMAZING! My students always work for choose which is a time that they get to go in the play area (hello pirate ships and castles!) or use play doh or sensory boxes.

The power of choose time!

Before I actually started my comprehensive classroom I had visions of everyone having a “working for chart” and with 7 kiddos with such a wide range of behaviors I simplified it to working for “choose time”.  Choose time is such a powerful reinforcer in my room that if I have a kiddo having an issue I can simply walk over to their schedule and either ask if I need to take it off or just take it off.  Yikes watch that behavior straighten right back up!  One time I was being observed and I had a kiddo throw a super fun tantrum.  I walked over to the schedule and took off choose and it was like a light switch.   Later my vice principal asked what was on the card that made my student stop tantruming.  He said, “It was like gold!”.

When it comes to your paras, give all the praise!

This year I do not have any paraprofessionals in my room as some students have transferred and my 1:1 assistant services within the gen ed.  Last year however, my one para was INCREDIBLE and went above and beyond.  While I would teach a modified standard lesson, she would run the leveled curriculums and keep independent stations running.  I had a schedule for the week that was broken down into morning and afternoon.  She knew which binder to use and everything was super organized and accessible.  As far as tips for staff training: I am very sensitive to the hard work para’s do in the classroom.  It was OUR classroom and I made sure to touch base, value their work and give lots of positive specific praise! I love my para’s!

Organization makes a multi-grade classroom work!

Being limited on space, help and spanning across 4 different grade levels with varying abilities my motto was to work smarter not harder! Each of my kiddos have a student work binder that houses morning work, leveled language arts and math, fine motor, life skills, and comprehension.  No matter what, I know my kiddos will always be receiving appropriate work.  Recently I was out unexpectedly for a week. I did not have work pulled like I usually do when I am out but I did have my student work binders! The substitute could go to each binder, pull work and it would be right on their level! Anchor charts are located in a separate binder already printed out.  Because my kiddos know their routines so well everything kept running!

Prepare like you will have to run the classroom by yourself.

I never rely on help because well I just don’t have it this year and assistants are always being pulled.  I knew I somehow had to modify 4 different grade levels, meet IEP goals, teach common core standards and organize inclusion time.  While not everything needs to be pinterest worthy (yes I have used post it’s for schedule cards) you should have a good foundation and a great organization system.  Create a student binder, set high expectations, have a good routine in mind, a first then chart and a dry erase board and marker for emergencies! You got this!

My name is Gina Russell and I am in my 7th awesome year of teaching!  I began as a special education co teacher in an inclusion general education classroom in second grade and learned to adapt and help many kiddos within the classroom!  As the years went on our kiddos began coming in with even more intense needs (from behavior to communication) and we soon realized our school needed more!  In 2016 my comprehensive classroom was born and I serviced students from partial to limited inclusion.  It was the most incredible year of my career and my kiddos made remarkable progress.  Everything was modeled after Sasha’s classroom and curriculum.  We focused on core communication, behavior skills training, adapted curriculums and learning to be a student.  I love my job so much because it keeps me on my toes and literally changes every day.


  1. Thank you for sharing your AMAZING classroom and ideas! It is always beyond helpful to actually see another classroom and hear how it runs. It is like an energy boost for me! Thank you!!

  2. Thank you for sharing your AMAZING classroom! It is beyond helpful to see another classroom and hear how it runs. It is like an energy boost for me! Thank you

  3. I am very blessed that i have the opportunity to work with Gina Russell and I can absolutely say she is the most amazing teacher. I am so excited that you shared the wonderful things she does to meet the needs of such diversed students and recognized her for being such an advocate for children with special needs

  4. Thank you for sharing your craft! You are such a great resource for all teachers! I commend you for your passion and dedication as you are an amazing teacher!

  5. So great to hear! Gina’s classroom is amazing!

  6. Ah! You are so lucky to work with her! She is the best!


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