As a teacher of the 21st century, there are many factors that you need to consider when it comes to your classes. You might remember your time in school and those teachers who managed to create a welcoming environment where everyone would feel comfortable and willing to partake in discussions.
Creating an inclusive environment requires some planning that can later contribute to the retention and success of your students. You might not even be aware of the fact that some students feel marginalized. Therefore, when implementing these strategies, you need to consider religion, low-income environments, developmental disabilities, English as a second language, not being able to learn for one reason or another, etc.
Since more and more schools are trying to upskill their teachers to create more inclusive environments where everyone can learn and thrive along with their peers, this is a good time to make some changes to the way you teach, be it online or in-person.
5 Strategies to make your classes more inclusive
An inclusive classroom provides a comfortable learning environment where there are no limitations. Students are not afraid to speak up, no matter what abilities they might possess. These strategies make social integration an easier topic and remove labels and barriers.
Kids thrive in environments where they don’t feel ridiculed, punished, or rejected when expressing their opinions. Although empathy and mutual respect are vital for any classroom, collaboration remains one of the main skills that 21st-century students need to develop.
Since every single person and class is different when it comes to their needs and personal preferences, you can’t follow a “standardized” approach. However, these strategies are worth trying since they can be easily adapted for any class type.
Promote a positive classroom environment
A positive environment has a direct impact on your students’ engagement and learning throughout the year. The first day of school is a great opportunity to make everyone feel welcome, no matter their economic background, religion, or ethnicity.
You can plan to come ten minutes early and greet students one by one. Make an effort to remember their name and ask them informal questions that are not necessarily related to school. This could lead to more in-depth conversations and stronger relationships over the course of the academic year. While respect is important in all classes, a sense of personal connection makes class participation more enthusiastic.
Pay attention to students who misbehave
When a child misbehaves, writing their name down on the board is not a good way to go about things. This is an insensitive way of dealing with the issue as it makes that student “different” from the crowd. Writing their name on a piece of paper lets them know they have misbehaved and gives them some time to think about their actions, even though they might not show it.
When you write their name on the board, making it visible to everyone, you give them a hard time, and they most likely won’t change their behavior. Their name will stay on the board no matter if they start to behave better or not. This is a form of humiliation, especially for students who have a hard time focusing in class.
Encourage student interactions
When they feel socially connected to their peers, students tend to enjoy their time at school. School institutions can support teachers’ efforts of creating connections by providing opportunities for students to meet and interact. Some strategies include helping them learn each other’s names or giving them a chance to move to different parts of the class and interact with students other than those they would normally interact with.
Talk to them before making the changes and explain that you are trying to make them interact with students who have different life experiences or come from different backgrounds. This can be achieved even when learning online through the school learning management system (LMS). You can either create forums or special live lessons where everyone can share facts about themselves.
Make sure field trips are accessible
The temptation of going on a field trip is great, especially if we were to think about how much children enjoy them. However, there are certain circumstances when they could do more harm than good. You may not have students who have visible disabilities, but you might have someone who’s got a phobia or a bad knee. In that case, climbing 400 stairs to get to a famous monument is off the list, and so can be a narrow cave that you were planning to explore.
At the beginning of the year, you could take a few steps with your students to see how they feel about them. If not, you could look for alternative ways to go on field trips. Virtual ones or a visit to the local museum could work just fine.
Don’t compare your students’ progress
There is no secret that all students are different when it comes to their learning. Some can understand lessons quicker, while others might require some additional explanation. On top of that, assessing children should also be based on personal preference. Give students the freedom to choose how they’d like to be tested. It could be a written test, a blog, a PowerPoint presentation, a video, or a poster.
When you get the results of their work, try not to compare them to one another. After all, learning is a journey, not a competition. Some key questions to ask would be: “Can you do better than last time? ” or “What’s changed from when we first started learning about this topic to now?”.
As already stated, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that you can follow to make your classes more inclusive. Instead, you should focus on each individual need and try to create strong relationships with your students. Try to get to know your students personally and make everyone comfortable to talk and express their ideas both during class and break time.
Andreea believes that everyone should learn something new every day. She finds it easy to express herself through writing, and she is just as passionate about learning about edtech, e-learning, and more.