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How can I create a classroom that represents the lives of all my students?

october 20, 2020

If we want every student to feel a sense of belonging, our physical classroom environment should reflect the diversity of our class roster. When a student sees a representation of himself, he experiences an important “mirror” effect that conveys I belong in this space.

Beyond posters, book covers, and decorations displayed in the classroom, look for opportunities to have your students’ actual lives represented.

This might be as easy as creating a bulletin board of student-submitted photos. Or, if you want to use a digital format, a rolling slideshow of student photos could be played during transitions or breaks. (The digital approach also offers an effective way to include students who may be working remotely.)

To obtain authentic photos that represent each student, start by asking students to submit photos based on a category or theme you want to display. For example, you could have selfies, pictures with pets, pictures with grandparents, etc.

Knowing that some students will not have support from home to supply these types of pictures, also look for opportunities to shoot candid photos of students while they are at school. And, if students are working remotely, take screenshots of them while participating in virtual meetings.

Students love to see themselves as a part of the classroom. The picture of them with their favorite aunt, hanging out at their grandpa’s farm, or playing on the baseball team becomes a point of pride.

Inviting students to share a piece of their “real life” with their classroom helps build ownership and create a more inclusive classroom community.

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