10 Important Strategies For A Successful Inclusive Classroom

“Inclusive classroom” is not just a buzzword. It holds significant relevance in the field of education. Inclusion primarily means providing equal learning means and opportunities to students of all backgrounds and abilities, so no child is deprived of their right to education and is left behind. 

We may have differentiated learning environments for special needs students, but giving them a chance to mingle and learn with other students in a regular classroom setting would truly be a way of inclusion. Similarly, students belonging to minority communities, different ethnic backgrounds, low-income families, or those who do not have English as their first language may feel out of place in the classroom. Making sure they feel included and develop a sense of belonging is the responsibility of a teacher. And this is not just limited to the first few weeks in school. In fact, it is a long continuous process. 

Teachers can adopt a mix of strategies to create and support an inclusive classroom where all students feel safe and included and get an equal opportunity to learn and develop. In the next section, you will find a few effective strategies to create a better inclusive classroom. 

Inclusive classroom strategies for educators

1. Use diverse ways to deliver classroom instruction

Use diverse ways to deliver classroom instruction

Diversifying classroom instructions by using multiple modes of content delivery, for example, books, games, videos, etc., can improve student engagement. A study[1] published by the Canadian Journal of Action Research mentions that digital game-based learning produced improved scores on focus and attention compared to other strategies. To derive maximum benefit, teachers can choose alternate ways for teaching heavy topics so students of different abilities can learn and comprehend at their own pace.

2. Practice culturally responsive teaching

Practice culturally responsive teaching

When teachers use culturally responsive teaching, students feel valued as they see their cultures being represented in their curriculum. This helps instill self-confidence and develops a sense of belonging in the classroom. To practice this teaching pedagogy, teachers can bring in and read out stories highlighting people of different backgrounds or disabilities, their strengths, and their struggles so kids are better aware of their similarities and differences.

3. Go through IEPs/ 504 plans of special needs students in your classroom

 Go through IEPs/ 504 plans of special needs students in your classroom

Students with different learning abilities and behavioral challenges are also a part of an inclusive classroom. General education teachers must read individual students’ IEPs/ 504 plans so they are aware of their challenges. By doing so, teachers can equip themselves to meet the special needs of these students and support their development by providing appropriate interventions. Simple changes like using different colors on slides instead of plain black-on-white text can help dyslexic students in your classroom. 

4. Adopt the Universal Design of Learning (UDL)

Adopt the Universal Design of Learning (UDL)

UDL is a teaching approach that allows great flexibility in terms of learning and assessment. It acknowledges the fact that not all teaching methods are suitable for all students. It offers varied learning materials so students can access information in the best suitable way for their individual needs. Students enjoy the flexibility to submit their assignments in various formats, such as videos, podcasts, written formats, etc., and also receive regular feedback on their learning goals. UDL brings all students on the same page and removes the sigma of adaptations for special needs students. 

5. Find time for collaborative teaching

Find time for collaborative teaching

Collaboration is the key to the smooth functioning of an inclusive classroom. General education teachers can take time out to discuss with grade-level special education teachers to learn and plan activities that will benefit all students in the class. Depending on the needs and time, inviting special ed teachers, parents, and paraprofessionals to the classroom from time to time can promote collaborative teaching that meets the needs of all students. 

6. Focus on students’ social-emotional learning

Focus on students' social-emotional learning

By focusing on social-emotional learning, teachers can establish inclusion in their classrooms. Students are very observant. They see how their teachers interact with every student in the class. If a teacher can create positive perceptions in students’ minds about kids with learning disabilities, it will create an inclusive environment where every member is equally valued and supported. A few ways to instill social learning and ensure that all students are valued include complimenting good work, providing positive feedback, saying “hello” to every student in the morning, and so on. 

7.Tailor student assessments 

Tailor student assessments 

Just as all students do not learn well with one kind of instruction, they do not perform well in a single way of assessment. How well students perform is not only dependent on how much they know about the subject but also on how they are assessed. Some perform well orally, while some are good at projects. To ensure inclusion, teachers can use multiple ways of assessments such as tests, projects, and written, or oral assessments so students can demonstrate their subject comprehension in a way they are comfortable with. 

8. Use tools to teach students the importance of embracing diversity 

Use tools to teach students the importance of embracing diversity 

Embracing cultural and physical diversity and having compassion for others must be encouraged in inclusive classrooms. Expecting students to have these traits without giving them a chance to understand why it is important is not fair. To imbibe important qualities such as these, teachers can use literature, stories, books, and videos about diversity and introduce them to influential people of different backgrounds so they become responsible and better citizens in the future. 

9. Develop a plan for behavior management

Develop a plan for behavior management

Behavior is one of the main reasons why people feel included or excluded. Having simple and clear rules for behavior management in class helps teachers control unruly and disrespectful behaviors in class. A good idea to achieve this is to display the rules in class so that everyone can see them and review them every day before the lessons begin. Rules like being kind to others, using respectful language, keeping hands and feet to themselves, etc., can ensure no student is ridiculed or hurt by peers.

10. Make the classroom accessible for all students

 Make the classroom accessible for all students

For developing an accessible learning environment where students can comfortably learn without any hindrance, teachers must begin by evaluating how accessible the classroom is. It is essential to check if all tools, including digital learning tools, are easy to operate, have understandable content, and can be construed by assistive technologies such as screen readers. Teachers can also move the furniture around to make it more accessible for a student using a wheelchair or a walker. 

Concluding thoughts

It is nice to see how the world is slowly leaving behind past beliefs and is opening its arms to embrace diversity and inclusion. To ensure our kids grow up in an inclusive world where no one is left out, we must do our best to build more inclusive classrooms, as it helps in creating a sense of belonging and togetherness right from childhood. Teachers can use the above strategies to expose kids to an environment where every child is cared for and respected. It will sow the seeds in their hearts and minds that will eventually grow and turn them into kind individuals who love being a part of this diverse world. 

References:

  1. DOES DIGITAL GAME-BASED LEARNING IMPROVE STUDENT TIME-ON-TASK BEHAVIOR AND ENGAGEMENT IN COMPARISON TO ALTERNATIVE INSTRUCTIONAL STRATEGIES? (2012). The Canadian Journal of Action Research, 13(1), 50–64. https://doi.org/10.33524/cjar.v13i1.30

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