Embrace Differences and Establish Community

Find resources and strategies to help you embrace differences in your classroom and promote equity.

Grades K-12 7 min Resource by:
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Once you start increasing your equity awareness, you will see that your life experiences and understandings about the world can differ dramatically from many of your students. It is quite likely that you will have a different cultural identity than many of your students, and they may have very different cultural identities from one another. We cannot separate students from their cultural identity when we teach them and support their learning. We can, however, embrace our differences and work with our students to establish a shared and safe learning environment and community.

10 Strategies to Embrace Differences and Establish Community

1. Foster a growth mindset in yourself and your students.

Use a growth mindset to help you and your students develop and grow new understanding around equity, differences, and how to work together.

2. Build relational capacity and classroom culture through shared dialogue and collaborative experiences.

Students will be better able to collaborate and have deeper and more meaningful discussions if they have engaged in a shared experience and developed positive relationships with one another.

3. Listen to your students.

Hold class meetings and have students practice speaking and listening to each other. Teach students how to engage in different collaboration and communication protocols. Provide students with sentence stems. Students who know how to ask and respond to meaningful and deeper-level-thinking questions will learn more and be more engaged.

4. Gather student input and voice to create routines and traditions that support a culture of learning.

If you use your students’ interests to create and deliver lessons, students will be more engaged and feel like their interests and opinions matter.

    • Use Google Forms, Microsoft Forms, or SurveyMonkey to create a survey and gather written input and feedback from students. Some example questions are:
      • What is something you are proud of?
      • What are you interested in?
      • What kinds of music do you like?
      • What was one of your favorite lessons in school? Why?
      • If you could add a rule to our classroom, what would it be?
      • How do you like to take notes? (This could be a multiple-choice question.)
      • How do you like to learn? (This could ask students to check all that apply and offer answer choices like: watching video, searching on the internet, reading, listening to a lecture, working with others, working alone, and other: _____.)
    • Use Flip (Tips) to gather video input and feedback from students.
    • Have students create a digital All About Me T-shirt to share with you and others. Here is an All About Me T-Shirt Template that you can use with your students.

5. Use what you know about your students in your teaching.

Create opportunities to get to know your students, their likes, and their interests, and then use that information to support learning. Using what you know about your students will help them feel valued and create a stronger classroom community.

    • Use the information you gathered from your student input survey, Flip video, and/or their digital T-shirt and incorporate their likes and interests into your teaching. For example, use the information you gathered in a word problem, scenario, or even questions. Play the music that they like when having them rotate stations or while waiting for everyone to gather in an online space during remote learning. In your self-paced remote-learning platform, include content-relevant and appropriate video clips that you know your students will enjoy.
    • Be honest with students about how you are trying to incorporate their likes and interests in what you are teaching, and then elicit feedback and suggestions from students to see if you have met your goal and/or how you can improve.

6. Design and build lessons, activities, and assignments based on students’ strengths and identities.

Students will be more engaged and learn more when they are able to feel successful and empowered through their strengths.

7. Help students develop a positive self-identity and mindset.

This is especially important for students who are working remotely and may not have a lot of contact with others. When students feel good about themselves and the work they are doing, they will learn more and be happier. Check out the following collections for strategies to cultivate relational capacity and a positive classroom community in your virtual-teaching environment:

8. Provide supports and encouragement for students to take ownership of their own learning.

Students care more, are more engaged, and learn more when they feel ownership over what they are learning. Explore our collections below for strategies to support you.

9. Try to use bias-free language in your classroom.

Using bias-free language will help establish and develop a more inclusive and safe classroom environment.

10. Create more opportunities for all students to be successful.

If every student has a pathway to success, students will learn more and have a more positive attitude toward your class and school.

    • Provide many low-stakes opportunities for students in their learning.
    • Use student voice to drive what is happening.
    • Make sure to have visuals, charts, and lots of models for what being successful looks like.
    • Consider applying the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) process when planning. You can learn more about UDL and accessibility in our collection, Design With Accessibility in Mind.