Creating an Inclusive Classroom Environment

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Creating an Inclusive Classroom Environment

Inclusion is a word that gets thrown around a lot in education. But what does inclusion mean? What does it look like? How do you create an inclusive classroom?

What Does Inclusion Mean?

Simply put, inclusion is ensuring that every student gets equal access to learning and the same opportunities in education regardless of their potential barriers to learning. Some of these barriers can include disabilities, English language learners, and students with culturally diverse backgrounds.

What Does Inclusion Look Like?

Inside inclusive classrooms you’ll see groups of desks placed around the classroom. Grouping students allows for socialization and is a great opportunity for peer learning. It allows students to get to know other students they may not be close with. You may also see visual learning aids like daily schedules, timers, posters, and charts to assist in teaching. About 65% of students are visual learners so this will be very beneficial for them. You can also include developmentally appropriate learning materials such as leveled books. Inclusive classrooms also look like having a classroom social skills program. This helps guide students in the development of their social skills and therefore supports communication between students and helps grow students’ self-esteem and confidence. An inclusive environment will also use technology available to students to support their teaching. These are a few examples of what inclusion can look like in the classroom.

How Do You Build an Inclusive Classroom?

  1. Define clear minimum standards of behavior. Keep these short and simple so they’re easily understood. Some examples of rules could be: be kind, keep your hands and feet to yourself, use kind words at all times, always respect the property of others, everyone has the right to feel safe and respected, and everyone has the right to express themselves and be listened to.
  2. Enforce your standards. You must also agree to consequences of breaking your rules and stick to it.
  3. Deal with low level disruption sensitively. Be sure not to humiliate the student.
  4. Focus on how you personally experience empathy. Educate yourself on some of the ways inclusion is not being enforced. Put yourself in your students’ shoes and withhold your judgement.
  5. Use social media to learn. Stay up to date with influencers like Joy DeGruy or Professor Christopher Emdin and honest news sources that inspire you to confront difficult conversations on race and bias. You should also limit these so you don’t get overwhelmed and shut down.
  6. Build your social justice vocabulary. Learn the definitions and applications of words like false equivalency, microaggression, Jim Crow, culturally responsive, white privilege, and allyship. Learning about these terms will help you to be able to have knowledgeable conversations about race without being fearful.
  7. Learn to pronounce all students’ names correctly. Many teachers may have students from culturally diverse backgrounds, with names you don’t hear often. Making the effort to say their name correctly will really make them feel included.
  8. Relax and focus. Using mindfulness in your teaching prior to having a difficult discussion can really help to center yourself and prepare yourself.
  9. Have high expectations for your students. Research shows that students respond better when their teacher has faith in their abilities instead of focusing on their inabilities.
  10. Switch up who’s teaching. Try having the Special Ed teacher to deliver the lesson, a co-teacher, the principal, a parent, or another student.

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