Creating An Accessible Classroom
Making sure your classroom is accessible to all learners is a crucial step in creating an inclusive learning environment. In part one of our posts, we explored the importance of setting up the right physical environment for all learners. From flexible seating options to visual aids and organization methods, there are various ways to make the physical space inviting and accommodating to diverse needs.
However, it is equally important to acknowledge that the human aspect plays a significant role in transforming a room into a true learning space where every child feels welcomed, valued, and supported. As an educator, you have the power to make a positive impact on your students’ experiences. We have just also published a post on Autism and Sensory Processing friendly classroom design. Here, we will delve into 20 practical ways to foster inclusivity in your classroom:
Making your Classroom Inclusive: Approach (Culture)
- Invite other educators into your classroom. Model collaboration & positive communication. Guest speakers, Co-teachers, parents, siblings, admin, speech teacher, custodial staff…anyone who has something to contribute. (Wendy Murawski)
- Adapt your interactions to suit the communication style of your learners, if they are noise sensitive make sure you lower your voice/tone If they find eye contact painful don’t make it.
- LOTS of “Positive Talk” Affirmations and recognition of success. (Marie Brilly)
- Build safety. Inclusive classrooms are safe spaces. This may be a space, a person, an object etc. Learning, relationships, and exploring the world requires a certain amount of vulnerability. If children don’t feel an element of safety, they stand less chance of taking the risks needed to learn and discover. (Mike Armiger)
- Allow shoes off if wanted. (Elly Chapple)
- Allow plenty of time for discussion and talking about ideas before starting to write (Paul James)
- Optimism – I think is essential in the classroom especially for children who have been made to believe that they will amount to nothing. Giving them hope is a game changer. (OLSJHealthy Heads)
- Don’t talk too much! Let the children lead the learning. Let the kids get involved rather then watching you demonstrate. (Frankie)
- Sit in every seat to understand why a child might be fidgeting or distracted. They may not be able to see you or hear you properly. They may be wary of a peer. (Dan Whittaker)
- Share success not failures. No traffic lights, sun/clouds or names on a board. A learning environment is not a place for shame.
- Calming visual backgrounds on walls can foster focus on the tasks and you. (The Orchid Practice)
- Teach how to find safety and allow it. i.e have headphones available, acknowledge feelings. “You look like you need a break.”.
- Regulate, relate, reason in that order. (Heather Lucas)
- Model expectations at all times, if you don’t want shouting dont shout!
- Always try to react to negative interactions with a positive reaction. It takes time but is works. If a child lashes out verbally respond by validating their feelings and directing to a behaviour you want. “I can see you are angry, can I help.”
- Any addressing of unproductive behaviour is done away from the group. (see point 10)
- You need to be a calming, engaging and stimulating presence in the learning environment, learn what approach works for your learners and when you need to change it.
- Find a role for each child and know the value each child brings to the group. Are they the trustworthy one, the good listener, the relentless optimist, the creative one.
- Ride the wave of energy in the classroom. (Katie Hook)
- Get out of the classroom as much as possible. (Speckyduck)
Thank you to all those who contributed to this post. If you are on twitter follow them all. You can also read their blogs/books on a range of education topics, autism, teaching, SEN, parenting and life.
Heather Lucas Supports SEMH (& therefore behaviour)in primary schools, contact at email@example.com
Marie Brilly is the Author of Positive Talk – A Conversation with Myself: (A Book of Affirmations for ASDs and Beyond.) ( Find it here.)
Mike Armiger is a Teacher, Trainer, Speaker, Rugby Coach, Passions – Mental health, trauma, athlete support, behaviour & curiosity. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul James is an Assistant Headteacher and teacher of Computing in a special school. SLE (SEND). He blogs here.
The Orchid Practice – provide person-centered, holistic speech & language therapy services in Hertfordshire & Essex for children with a wide range of communication difficulties.
Wendy Murawski PHD is the CEO and Founder, 2 Teach, LLC. An awesome keynote speaker.
Frankie is an Asst.Head(Inclusion & SEN). Former LEA SEN/SLCN Advisory Teacher.
Katie Hook is an Artist check out her instagram here.
OHSJHealthy Heads is a school counselor, mental health lead, passionate about all things mental health and creating healthy communities founded on compassion, kindness and equality.
Elly Chapple is passionate about ensuring children have a voice. Support her petition here. Speckyduck is a adoptive mother of three ducklings who are now in full flight despite the damage to their wings. The world needs to be a comfortable nest for everyone.
Dan Whittaker is a doctoral researcher his research based infographic on classroom design was invaluable to this post. (Find the full version of it here)