Inside: Every student should feel included at school. However, inclusion goes beyond the classroom, and it really begins with the teacher’s influence. This article will discuss an overview of how to promote inclusiveness at school.
It’s mid-year re-boot time, and one thing you might like to think about is making sure that your classroom and school are doing a good job of including each and every child. Here are some ideas you can reflect on as you take stock and look for areas where you can improve.
1. Make Sure You Offer an Inclusive Environment
It’s important to include all your students and be sure that everyone feels welcome. This is especially true for our little learners with disabilities. In order to include these kids as well, you need to figure out how to create a school environment that seamlessly handles their needs.
Be Sensory Friendly
For children with sensory issues, one way to promote inclusiveness at school is to eliminate things such as fluorescent lighting, loud noises, and clutter in the classroom. Instead, try to use LED lighting and minimalist décor – Yes, I know that’s hard for primary teachers!
You might also make adjustments to increase sensory input in targeted ways.
Setting up a quiet corner and offering flexible seating may also be beneficial. A less stimulating environment may also help children with ADHD focus better.
Ensure Physical Accessibility
To create an inclusive environment for children with mobility challenges, think about all the places in your school that would be difficult to navigate by wheelchair or with crutches. This goes beyond stairs and restrooms.
For instance, consider how narrow walkways are and whether or not there is space for a wheelchair to turn around. Think about the placement of items that students need to access – are they too high or too low to reach from a seated position?
You should also think about surfaces. Wheels and crutches can get caught on throw rugs. Outside, sidewalks that are in poor repair are also a challenge.
Consider the playground too. Talk to your school’s administration about the feasibility of installing rubber playground surfaces, which are more accessible for children in wheelchairs. This is one of the best ways to increase inclusion at recess.
2. Encourage Student Interaction
There are many ways to get students talking more at school, and it’s especially important to encourage an engaging environment when you have children with special needs in your classroom. Some of these methods include:
- Icebreakers: choose icebreakers that are accessible to all children.
- Group work: for children who need a less stimulating environment, place them in a smaller group in a quieter location.
- Daily check-ins: use circle time or class meeting time to give each child an opportunity to interact in a structured, scaffolded way.
- Buddy system: giving special needs students a buddy is a tried and true tactic that can be beneficial to both children. However, do take care not to use this as the only enrichment for gifted learners and fast finishers though.
- Read-alouds: if you have one child in a wheelchair, place at least a few other children in chairs too, rather than on the carpet.
3. Embrace Diversity
One of the most important ways to promote inclusiveness is through diversity. Diversity embraces little learners from all backgrounds. This makes kids feel comfortable being who they are. I could write an entire blog post about just this, but here are some points to think about:
Books: Choose books with diverse characters that reflect all children in your classroom. In addition, select stories that model how to include classmates with special needs. You may want to read books about friendship in general too.
Learning Materials: Does the clipart on your literacy centers and worksheets show a variety of children? If you have a favorite center that doesn’t, consider modifying it with additional clipart. For instance, I love this free kid-in-a-wheelchair clipart on Teachers Pay Teachers (and I need to include it in my next project!)
Classroom Décor: As with learning materials, ensure that children featured in your classroom décor reflect the actual children in your classroom!
4. Learn About the Needs of Your Students
Go beyond just reading IEP’s and 504 plans. Ask questions of campus and district specialists, parents, and even students themselves. When possible, talk to the child’s previous teachers and caregivers too. If you’ve never before taught a child with a particular type of disability, talk to other teachers who have.
All of this said, figuring out how to promote inclusiveness at school really comes down to knowing your students. Open communication with all your students and their families is critical. You can foster this by creating a welcoming and engaging environment for your kids. This way, your students will naturally feel more inclined to include everyone around them—and they’ll feel good doing it.
Whether you’re making corrections mid-year or planning for a brand new school year, inclusiveness matters. Taking the time to think about how you can improve can bring renewed joy into your classroom – and into your heart.