Our classrooms are a tapestry of students with different cultures, socioeconomic circumstances, race and abilities. Whether intentional or not, there is social, emotional, physical and intellectual diversity even within the most seemingly cohesive group of students. How then can teachers ensure that all students feel involved and appreciated? How can we make our classrooms more inclusive?
In order to create an inclusive classroom environment, teachers should consider multiple methods for students to engage in a lesson, as well as opportunities and ways to share what they have learned. One of such ways is the use of visual and audio in the classroom to cater for visual/auditory learners. One fault with the traditional methods of teaching is their appeal to auditory learners at the expense of other types of learners. Charts, posters, diagrams and maps can be used for successful instruction. However, visuals can also be used to make the curriculum more accessible beyond the subject areas. In fact, visuals in the classroom can create smoother transitions between activities. Students can predict and prepare for change, know where materials are located when needed as well as find direction independently.
In line with the principles of inclusivity, providing students with choices can equally be all-encompassing as it provides students with the opportunity to freely express their skills, talents and preferences. By providing students with options, teachers can create lessons and experiences that are engaging, leading to more motivated students. Teachers can do this when responding to subject matter or assessment, embedded in daily routines or even homework. In addition, teachers can offer students choices based on ability or interest. For example, students may choose five activities from a set of 10. Or, a student may choose a topic for a research-related assignment. Student choice, when balanced with teacher-directed instruction, is good way to facilitate inclusion.
Another way to ensure an inclusive classroom is by switching up seating. Too often, students are assigned seats at the beginning of the school year and then are expected to remain in the same spot until the last day of school. With that type of classroom management strategy, students are restricted to interacting with only a few surrounding classmates for the majority of the day and opportunities for group work, cooperative learning and peer relationships become limited. To facilitate the inclusion of various learning styles, teachers can plan to re-assign student seating on a regular basis. It is important, however, that the teacher be aware that this type of change may not be beneficial to all students and make accommodations when necessary. For the large majority of students, though, changes in seating can successfully facilitate inclusion on academic, intellectual and physical levels.
Conclusively, inclusive environment in the classroom gives every learner an opportunity to realize their potential and to bring out the best out of themselves. Teachers should therefore vary their instructional methods, constantly change the seating plans and develop questioning techniques that gives choices to students.
The writer is a Language Consultant