I read somewhere that when you are choosing a career, you should find something you hate in the world and try to fix it. I think this reasoning is a big reason why I went into teaching. As a child, I was very smart but not very cool. Here I'll share a few of the most memorable scenarios of my elementary life:
As you may have guessed, the problem I've set out to try and fix is inclusion. I've had so many experiences (as I'm sure you have too) where I have felt left out or unimportant, that I would hate for more children to live through the same problem. I've also been on the other side, where I was included but someone else was not, and I felt so lucky like at least I'm safe this time.
With that in mind, here are things I do in my teaching practice to make everyone feel valued and included.
At the beginning of the year, I make all the teams. I explain my reasoning to my students like so:
Some students will then bring up that when we do the Daily 5 component Read to Self it's not a good idea to be beside a friend, because they would distract you from your work!
Oh, I love birthdays! It's such a great opportunity to celebrate every child in the classroom! Here are some of my traditions:
Snack & Lunch times
I have an important rule for snack and lunchtime: no one can sit alone.
It's everyone's responsibility to ensure everyone has someone. This means if you see someone sitting alone, you have to either go over to them and sit with them, or invite them over to your table. easy peasy.
Once I explain why this is important, that sharing meal times is good for your brain, and helps you feel better, the kids just get it. This is one rule I have never needed to enforce. In fact, a few kids even transfer this rule to the playground, and go ask kids who are alone to join in on their games (which brings tears to my eyes, but I can't let them see it!).
Setting up play dates
When I've taught younger grades (grade 1 & 2), I sometimes 'takeover' their play time by setting up play dates. I am constantly surprised by the amount of kids who don't have play dates on weekends or week nights! So many of my students are surrounded by adults and screens...they miss out on great opportunities! With that in mind, I make up teams of 2, and remind them that I put a lot of effort into making these teams, so no complaining please!
We begin with a whole group discussion about what makes a great play date and what makes a good friend. Here are some of the answers we always come up with:
And I then send them with their partner to begin their play dates. If they are going particularly well, I stop it immediately- and tell them to exchange numbers to continue at home!
After 15 minutes, we pause, and do a whole group reflection. What am I doing to be a good friend? How could I make this play date better? These play date practices are a great opportunity for students to get to know one another, and practice communication skills, work their imagination and sense of humour and patience...I love it and so do the kids! I've had kids ask for more play dates instead of free play time.
As I am teaching a grade 2 & a grade 3 this year, I want to step up my play date game to hands-on team-building challenges. More on this when I get started!
How do you make sure everyone is included?
These are just a few of the ways I try to make all my students feel welcome in class and at school. It's so important for me to make sure my students feel safe and important- I don't think learning can take place without taking care of the basics first. How do you make sure everyone feels welcome in your class? I can't wait to see how others do it!
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