Leila Pullum

Building a classroom community where all students feel a sense of belonging is an area most educators spend weeks of school, especially the first few weeks of school, focused on. We know that creating a safe space for different learning styles, genders, racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds goes well beyond the first month back in our classrooms. How can we ensure inclusivity is at the forefront of our daily instruction? Use these inclusive classroom strategies to help get you started with building a positive classroom culture:

1. Get to Know Your Students and Let Them Get to Know You

Establishing a bond with your students takes time. Creating opportunities for students to share their interests, struggles, and aspirations with you and sharing yours with them builds a connection that can continue to grow. Some teachers like to use surveys or journals to find out more about their students. Think about what has worked for you in the past and what hasn’t; what is something you can do consistently to connect with each student?

2. Create a Safe Space for Students to Share

Students also need explicit time to establish connections with their peers. Regularly split students into new small groups and use the “I see, I think, I wonder” strategy to digest something they have learned about or a current event that may be on their minds. By modeling how this should work and creating group norms, students can have fruitful conversations that build empathy and share different opinions in a respectful way. Reinforcing social-emotional skills like empathy and compassion in your classroom fosters positive interactions between your students.

3. Deliver Instruction in a Variety of Ways

There is increasing evidence that shows that gamified lessons positively influence student engagement. To appeal to different learning styles, reimagine existing lessons, especially those that feel lecture heavy, with fresh videos, books, and gamified digital activities. A study conducted by the Canadian Journal of Action Research comparing student engagement with gamified lessons vs. alternative traditional lessons found that students showed higher class average scores for both focus and attentiveness during digital game-based learning six out of eight times.

Varied learning content that appeals to different student interests is just as essential as the instruction style. Provide students the chance to learn about a social justice movement, history or current events through different mediums and have the unit culminate in a team-based project.

4. Choose Relevant Literature

Part of culturally responsive teaching includes providing students with literary works that highlight the human experience. Include indigenous, African-American and refugee stories, as well as stories that include characters with a physical or learning disability. Dig into these 11 Books to Add to Your SEL Lessons for book lists across grade levels for your classroom library.

5. Invite Guest Speakers to Share Their Stories

According to an article published in the Economics of Education Review, when students can identify with a teacher or guest speaker’s racial or ethnic background they are more likely to perform higher and be more engaged as they see a potential role model or mentor in that person. By inviting a guest speaker as a part of an inclusive classroom activity, you are providing your students access to an authentic learning experience they may never otherwise have.

There are many innovative, inclusive classroom strategies to incorporate social-emotional learning and culturally responsive teaching into your practice. To reinforce empathy in the classroom, EVERFI has created another resource to add to your toolkit, Compassion. The Compassion Project contains comprehensive lessons that address social-emotional learning for grades 2-5 and it is available for you to use at no cost.

Inclusive Classroom Strategies FAQs

What Are Inclusive Classroom Strategies?

In the classroom, inclusive teaching strategies include a wide range of teaching techniques that accommodate the diverse backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities of students. These techniques aim to create an inclusive learning environment that recognizes and honors the distinct needs and strengths of each student. Through the use of inclusive teaching strategies, teachers can establish a learning environment that values, supports, and empowers all students to achieve their goals. The ultimate objective of inclusive teaching strategies is to guarantee that every student has equitable access to learning and feels a sense of belonging in the classroom.

Leila is a K-12 Senior Implementation Manager in Calgary, AB. She works with schools across the Canadian prairies in AB, SK and, MB. Prior to working at EVERFI, she obtained her M.Ed and taught elementary school in Baltimore, MD, and Laramie, WY. Leila also served as an online instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth.

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