Building a classroom community where all students feel welcome and a sense of belonging is a task that most teachers spend the first few weeks of school focusing on. But we know that creating a safe space for a variety of learning styles, all genders, racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds goes beyond the first month of school. So how can we ensure inclusivity is at the forefront of our daily instruction? Use these inclusive classroom strategies to help get you started:
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?
Deliver Instruction in a Variety of Ways
To appeal to different learning styles, use books, magazines, videos, gamified digital lessons and lectures to increase engagement. 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.
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. Check out the Inclusive Schools Network for book lists for all grade levels and resources to add to your classroom library.
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, you are providing your students access to an authentic learning experience they may never otherwise have.
Create a Safe Space for Students to Share
Try splitting up into small groups and have the students 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.
There are many innovative ways 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 2-4 and it is available for you to use at no cost.
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.