Every year, building a positive and inclusive classroom culture for students takes a lot of dedicated work. This year — whether your class meets in-person or remotely — that work is more important than ever. Students will likely need even more support and encouragement to feel safe and welcome amid all the changes this year will present. So what are some strategies teachers can use to ensure students feel comfortable, included, and celebrated in their new classroom environments? Here are the strategies the TpT community recommends.
1. Build Relationships First
Relationships are foundational to a welcoming and inclusive classroom. “Educators should prioritize building relationships so that students can feel comfortable and secure,” says Angela from Upper Elementary Antics. If a student feels safe, understood, and respected, they’ll be better equipped to learn. Here are relationship-building strategies you can start with:
- Connect with students one-on-one. Teachers need to know who their students are in order to support and motivate them in meaningful ways, so it’s important to get to know each student individually. Tiffany from One Fab Teacher starts building this trust even before day one. “I call each and every one of my students the night before school starts [. . . ] I let them know that I can’t wait for them to be there, I’m so excited for them to be there, but I’m just as nervous as they are.”
- Have wellness checks. Students are under a lot of stress right now, so it’s important to make the classroom a place where they can seek support. Katie from Teachers Resource Force suggests conducting wellness check-ins. “This can be in the form of a simple questionnaire on Google Forms where you ask your students a series of quick questions each day. By offering this, you are providing your students with an opportunity to share how they are doing and raise any issues that they might be having. Knowing students feel listened to helps build rapport, and the responses they provide offer you an opportunity to act on any of their concerns.”
2. Include Every Student in Classroom Culture
A crucial component of an inclusive classroom is ensuring every student is reflected in your classroom’s culture. If students feel included in their classroom community, they’ll feel more invested in their learning and connected to their classmates. Here are some ways you can make sure every student is included.
- Give everyone the chance to speak. Some students are more talkative than others, but every student deserves the chance to share their thoughts. To help give everyone the opportunity to share, Jennifer from Happy Teacher Mama uses a timer so that all students have time to speak without interruption.
- Offer a variety of ways to engage. “It’s important to use a variety of different ways to connect with students so that they have multiple ways to access the content, make their voice heard, and demonstrate understanding,” says Lindsay from Lindsay Ann Learning. “Have discussion threads or posts, use platforms where students can create a video that stars them, or give them the option to not show themselves on camera,” adds Kristin from Samson’s Shoppe.
- Represent students of marginalized backgrounds. Teachers must take steps to actively include students of marginalized backgrounds in classroom culture. As Laura from The Fancy Counselor explains, “Black and Indigenous students of color tend to be marginalized in educational spaces by way of things like disparities in disciplinary practices, curriculum that silences the voices of minority people and marginalized people, policies and services that don’t best serve our minority students. Many times, those policies and procedures ignore racial trauma that comes in the form of daily microaggressions that our Black Indigenous Students of Color tend to deal with on a daily basis.”
3. Celebrate Student Success
With the challenges this year will likely present, celebrating the wins is more important than ever and will help keep your class motivated. Here are some in-person and remote ways you can celebrate success with your students:
- “Using Zoom, we gave each other thumbs ups when a student would share, or we would ‘silently clap’ for our friends when they bravely spoke up and answered questions.” — Amy Lynn from Amy Lynn Teaches
- “[I’m] implementing a house-system to foster teamwork and community. Students will earn points for participation, helping others, kindness, following rules, etc. They can keep earning points even at home so this will help all students feel connected to each other.” — Kate from BreatheSmileTeach
- “I want to try out mini light-up [marquee] signs. I’ll have [the sign] next to me on screen while teaching with the students name on the sign. Everyone will see the highlighted student ‘s name throughout the whole lesson.” — Tanya from Gifted Teacher 305
- “Fun virtual rewards can be in the form of online games that the class can play together. […] I’m trying out a virtual show and tell. The idea works the same as a regular show and tell, whereby students will prepare something they want to share with the class, and they can talk about it in front of their peers: it’s presented online instead of in-person, but the benefits are the same. Students will be learning about one another and hopefully finding things in common as they do these show and tell activities.” — Katie from Teachers Resource Force
Confidently navigate the 2020-21 school year with expert Teacher-Author and educator advice in TpT’s Back to School 2020 Guide: For Teachers Creating Tomorrow.