As educators, we value the importance of inclusion and recognize that each and every student comes with their own gifts, quirks, and challenges. Our kids, who are still discovering who they are, and each other, benefit from classroom activities that foster inclusion, educate and celebrate their unique characteristics, and create better connections between peers.
What is inclusion in the classroom?
Inclusion in the classroom refers to the practice of creating a learning environment where all students feel valued, respected, and supported, regardless of their differences in abilities, backgrounds, cultures, or identities. It involves designing and implementing teaching strategies, curricula, and activities that cater to the diverse needs and interests of all learners, while promoting equal access to education and opportunities for academic and social growth.
In an inclusive classroom, students are encouraged to express themselves, collaborate with others, and learn from their peers, while teachers foster a culture of acceptance, empathy, and appreciation for diversity. Ultimately, inclusion in the classroom helps create a more equitable and inclusive society, where everyone has a fair chance to succeed and contribute to their fullest potential.
Classroom Activities That Foster Inclusion
Affirmations: One for Me & One for You
Inclusion is easier to achieve with a confident and secure student body, and verbal affirmations are a great tool to spread self-love. One by one, allow each kid to stand up and say aloud something they like about themselves. Then have the same learner identify a likable trait about a random classmate, selected by drawing a name from a hat. This allows each student’s inner light to shine, then share that spotlight with a fellow scholar. While many will find it fun to express themselves aloud, some might require a written exercise as an alternative. In either case, appreciation for oneself and each other cultivates a strong sense of community, and mutual support among peers.
Grow a Shade Tree
This is a good classroom activity to promote inclusivity. On a large wall within the classroom, draw or paint a large tree possessing four or five bare branches. Explain to the students you’d love a tree like this in your yard, if only it was a shade tree. Then, allow the class to each grab a leaf shaped paper cut-out from a basket to affix to a chosen spot on one of the branches. The catch is that before they can hang the leaf, they must first adorn it with one of their own unique characteristics. Younger kids may need to think more superficially, perhaps with eye color, a funny laugh, or a one of a kind hairstyle. Guidance from grown-ups can be given for all age groups, helping them think broader to favorite subjects, odd fears, or interesting cultures, for example. This is a great day for parents to visit, who might know more about their extracurricular life that their children may have overlooked, and it fosters an environment of inclusivity where each student's unique characteristics are celebrated.
Show and Teach
This activity promotes inclusivity in the classroom by allowing the student to highlight their creativity or an ability they’re especially proud of. While showing off can be a blast for just about any kid, Show and Teach also includes an instructional segment, where classmates can learn from the expert up front. On a weekly rotation, allow each student to teach the class a secret handshake, a phrase from another language they might speak, a tasteful dance going viral, fun facts about an animal or U.S. state, or magic trick they learned from a cool uncle. Knowledge will grow among classmates, as will an understanding that although everyone may be differently abled, each is an important contribution.
Role Play: You Can Sit Here
To successfully nurture inclusivity in the classroom, divide the class into several groups, each with a good blend of personality types and demographics. Prearrange a handful of scenarios they can act out with a simple opening script, which requires them to improvise a decision to either include or exclude a classmate. Relevant to them might be squeezing a new student into a packed cafeteria table, creating a team for a sport that incorporates someone who has never played before, or allowing a girl to tag along on an all-boy adventure hike, or vice versa. Model how an inclusive scene would play out versus an exclusive one, and ask them to share a time they felt left out because of their own differences, or welcomed in despite them. Activities that reward inclusion like this one really flex the empathy muscle, creating better learners, and human beings.
Club Common Ground
This inclusion classroom activity may require some surveying of the students in advance of the exercise. Ask each child to complete a questionnaire that asks about their hobbies, favorite foods and programs, family structure, and benign physical attributes, such as height, hair color, or cool birthmarks. Then divide the kids up into five or six groups based on their shared characteristics, without telling them why. This activity ensures that all students are included, regardless of their differences. Ask them to list anything they all have in common, whether it be from the survey or not. The caveat is each member of the group must share that same trait, so that all are included and everyone can see what they share that they otherwise might not have noticed. As they present their conclusions, include the reasons from the survey that you grouped them, and watch as their faces light up and high-fives are instinctively exchanged.
Building An Inclusive Classroom
Creating an inclusive classroom involves showcasing each kid as their own combination of special wows. This reminds the class that we aren’t meant to all look alike, act the same, and be capable of everything. All that is required to match within a classroom is kindness, and creating a safe place for children to truly be themselves takes input from the adults and the littlest of contributors.
Among the diversity they just might find their kindred spirit, the yin to one another’s yang, or else a surprise commonality that makes them feel included and enough. Then voila, lifelong friendships achieved. Inclusive classrooms celebrate and value the differences and unique qualities of each student, while fostering an environment where all learners can thrive and feel supported.