A topic that has been weighing heavy on my heart lately is the way some adults speak to children. It’s important to remember that these small beings are people just like us, only a smaller version. Teachers do an amazing job relating to children and lifting them up!
As I reflect on our relationships in society my thoughts wander to how humans have an innate need to belong. Students want to feel seen when they enter the classroom, for their identities to be valued, and feel comfortable to engage in a way that fosters personal growth. Right now, social-emotional learning is at the forefront of many discussions in education. When students feel that they belong in the classroom, they are more likely to participate actively, be open to learning, and form positive relationships with their peers and teachers. Take a moment to view this fantastic video on the importance of creating a belonging classroom!
A sense of belonging is one of the most important activators of a child’s engagement in learning. Here are some easy ways to create a classroom where all students feel like they are included:
1. Greet each student by name: Saying hello to each student by name when they enter the classroom and acknowledging them throughout the day can help them feel seen and valued. Our brains receive a hit of dopamine when we hear our name!
2. Encourage students to share their experiences: Create opportunities for students to share their experiences and perspectives, whether through class discussions, writing assignments, or group projects.
3. Create classroom norms: Engage your class in developing a set of norms. By having children work together to create the norms you create a pathway toward belonging for every child in that class.
4. Celebrate diversity: Celebrating diversity helps to build a sense of belonging by promoting understanding and respect for differences. Encourage students to learn about and appreciate different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Check out these 25 Activities to Teach and Promote Diversity in the Classroom!
5. Foster positive peer relationships: Offer opportunities for students to get to know each other. Provide positive conversation starters to help children strike up a conversation and speak respectfully. This article offers a great starting point with 101 Conversation Topics for Kids.
6. Provide an inviting space: Set-up a comfy reading area where students can go to relax. Ensure each child has their own desk space to help them feel more in control and at ease with a private area. Show off student work and accomplishments with a bulletin board. Offer collaboration areas such as a rug spot or large tables. Use lamps to offer a more zen-like atmosphere.
By incorporating these strategies into your teaching practice, you can help your students feel a sense of belonging and create a positive and supportive learning environment for all. If you’re interested in digging deeper into this concept read Micheal Dunlea’s article, “Every Student Matters: Cultivating Belonging in the Classroom.”