Ensuring your students feel seen and included in the classroom is one of the most important things you can do as a teacher. Quality education for all students, especially those with a learning difference or more significant disability, should be top of mind. As should ensuring a safe learning environment for all diversities and backgrounds. Creating a curriculum based on diversity and inclusion is crucial. Here’s how to promote inclusion in the classroom to ensure your students thrive.
How to Promote Inclusion in the Classroom
1. Get to Know Your Students
All students are unique individuals, and getting to know each of them is the first step to ensuring all of your students feel included. Take time to learn about them- where do they come from? What language(s) do they speak at home? Do they have a learning difficulty or disability? Are they strong academically or are they struggling? When you know your students and understand their strengths and weaknesses, you can build a safe and secure learning environment where they can flourish.
2. Talk About Their Differences
Your classroom is likely filled with children from different backgrounds and abilities. School-aged kids typically think that it’s important to have commonalities in order to fit in. Try to dismantle this way of thinking. Give them a project where they share information about their cultural backgrounds and traditions. Allow them to do this in their preferred format, whether it’s a slide show, oral presentation, or video presentation. It will help students see how culturally diverse their classroom is and be proud of their cultural traditions.
3. Make a Diversity Tree
Start by drawing a large tree on a poster-sized sheet or on the chalkboard. Draw branches and leaves on the tree, ensuring there are enough leaves to represent all the students in your class. Ask each student to grab a pen or piece of chalk and write down how they are different from their peers. When they’re all done, explain that even though they have individual backgrounds and characteristics, they’re all connected to each other and responsible for keeping the tree growing. This will teach them that they’re all equally valuable and important regardless of their differences.
4. Encourage Student Interaction
The more connected students feel to each other, the more they’ll empathize and want the best for one another. At the start of the school year, have them participate in activities to learn each other’s names, as well as different things about them. Try moving their seats throughout the year so they get to sit with different classmates. This will help build respect among students, which is key to an inclusive classroom.
5. Create a Diverse and Inclusive Curriculum
Build in diverse perspectives, cultures, and experiences into your curriculum. Incorporate materials that represent a wide range of identities, backgrounds, and abilities to help students see themselves and others in the content you’re teaching. This can help improve academic outcomes, get your students to appreciate different perspectives, and help students feel represented and included.
6. Make Accommodations to Meet Individual Needs
There are a number of things you can do to ensure your students are all accommodated in the classroom. Differentiate your lessons so that all students can participate; develop individualized learning plans with achievable goals; use appropriate assessment approaches for each student; and make sure you have suitable expectations for students based on their unique learning needs.
7. Celebrate Cultural Holidays and Traditions
Another great thing you can do is celebrate your students’ cultural holidays and traditions to create a sense of belonging and pride. Make a list of holidays based on the cultural backgrounds of your students and celebrate them in class. Students can choose a tradition or festival, research it, and share about it on the day of the celebration to the rest of the class.
8. Assess Your Resources
Educational videos are often outdated and could possibly be offensive to students in your classroom. For example, a video about someone getting into a car accident, leaving them to use a wheelchair and portraying having to use a wheelchair as one of the worst things that could happen. Even if you don’t have any students in a wheelchair in your classroom, this can create pity and fear among students. Take stock of your resources before showing them to your class. If they portray people with disabilities as “other”, get rid of them.
9. Cultural Cook/Bake
One of the best things about learning about different cultures is trying the foods that come from those cultures. Ask your students to bring in a dish or dessert that represents their cultural background. If they have multiple ethnicities, they can choose one! They can work with their parents, aunts, uncles, or grandparents to provide a treat to the class. Choose a day for them to bring them in, and all the kids can try their classmates’ creations and get a feel for their cultural cuisine!
10. Be Open to Learning
The pressure to ensure all of your students feel included can be overwhelming, but remember you’re not alone. It’s a learning process and the most important thing is your openness to understanding your students. Tailoring lessons, changing the layout of the classroom, and having open communication will ensure your classroom includes all students and encourages their success. There are tons of resources to support you in being the best leader you can be for your students!
Being a teacher can be challenging, but it’s also one of the most rewarding jobs out there. Use these tips to promote inclusion in the classroom and ensure the success of your students!
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