Featured Community Aug 24

5 ways to build an inclusive classroom this school year

Two females students happily talking

It’s the start of the year, and you have a crowd full of unfamiliar faces staring back at you in the classroom. Each of those students is eager to get to know their new teacher. At the same time, students may also hesitate  to jump right into ice breaker activities and openly share until they feel a sense of trust in your classroom. 

So, what are some ways that you can kickstart meaningful connections with students that make everyone comfortable while the school year is still young? And, how can you keep an inclusive classroom going all year long?

Check out these 5 ways to build an inclusive classroom this school year:

  1. Learn how to pronounce each student’s name. For some students, having to correct their teacher about how to say their name can be distressing. So, it’s important that educators make the effort to ask their students directly, showing that they respect each person’s identity, culture, and heritage. We’re inspired by the “My Name, My Identity” initiative in Santa Clara County, Calif., where thousands of students and teachers have pledged to respect the names and identities of the county’s students. Read more in NEA Today.
  2. Build a warm relationship by inviting students to share about themselves. How do you make students feel known and valued in your classroom? Start by sharing something about yourself by modeling an Along reflection question. Within Along, you send students a question and model your answer, and then students can reply back via video, audio, or text. You can select a question from the Heritage and family collection within Along such as, “What is something you usually do after school?”or “What is something that your family or your community values? Why is it important?” After you share your response, encourage students to do the same. You can remind students that within Along, only you can view their answer—not the whole class—which helps with  building one-on-one trust. These questions offer a way to connect and learn more about your students’ cultural backgrounds.
  3. Engage in a class-wide activity that encourages inclusivity. Creating a sense of community throughout your classroom is just as important as building one-on-one connections. One way to encourage an inclusive classroom is to do some team-building that is fun and a low lift for students early in the year. Along offers a variety of classroom activity resources, such as “Circles of Identity,” which encourages the examination of identity. Students draw a web of circles and write down a word or phrase to describe an element of their identity in each of the circles. After students engage in several rounds of peer-to-peer dialogue based on a provided prompt, the class comes together to share their reflections.
  4. Create daily opportunities to check in with students. While the start of the year is a great time to start building connections, maintaining trust with students is a year-long endeavor. Think about how you can establish connections with students in small ways on a regular basis. Whether it’s having a quick conversation before or after class or in the hallways or actively following up with a student who is less talkative to show that you care, consistency is key when it comes to teacher-student connections. And, you can use a tool like Along to help!
  5. Talk to fellow teachers about how they are building inclusivity this year. Check out the Along Facebook community — a valuable, live-time resource for getting the very latest tips and tricks about what is working in classrooms around the country. Feel free to post a question or start a conversation at any time. 

The team here at Along is wishing our educators a wonderful 2023-2024 school year! 

If you have other tips for building connections and inclusivity, let us know. We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to media@gradientlearning.org with your thoughts on this topic, or if you have ideas for other blogs you’d like us to post.

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