What are inclusive classrooms?

No two students are exactly the same and, unfortunately, many students are labeled disruptive, difficult or just bad at learning languages, when in reality they may just have a different approach to learning. 

Inclusive classrooms recognize that each person has a different way of learning and of showing progress. They are learning environments in which each learner’s character and ability is taken into consideration. Although we use the same books and syllabus for all the students in a class, inclusive teachers make necessary adjustments to ensure learning takes place and everyone progresses, whilst also having fun. 

How are students different?

Many learners have a specific learning need. These might be cognitive, behavioural or emotional and can manifest in a number of different ways. For instance, fast learners may get bored and misbehave if the lesson materials are not challenging enough. Shy students could close down and refuse to speak if they don’t understand the task, through fear of embarrassment. ‘Naughty’ students might be telling us, through their behaviour, that they are going through a difficult personal situation and that they need support. Other learners experience memory and organizational difficulties; difficulty understanding visual and auditory input; problems managing their time; being uncomfortable with loud noises and busy places; or being easily distracted. Students may display these issues to lesser or greater degrees. This is why understanding each individual student’s problems, and supporting them in their learning, is so important.

How do teachers create an inclusive classroom?

There are many ways in which both teachers and parents can help students with specific learning needs. First, we must observe and get to know the learner, which is crucial to offering the correct support. 

Small but meaningful gestures such as using the student’s name when talking to them or encouraging contributions from everyone and praising and rewarding positive models of behavior (positive reinforcement) go a long way in building self-confidence and establishing student-teacher as well as student-student trust and a feeling of safety in the classroom. Other strategies include adapting classroom activities or learning outcomes to match each student’s ability to allow them to feel a real sense of progress throughout the year.

Students facing more severe physical or mental challenges in the classroom can also enjoy a flexible environment in which, with the support of the teacher or teaching assistant, they can take regular breaks, choose a more suitable sitting arrangement and use multi-sensory resources or concentration toys to assist with their learning. 

How can you support the learning needs of your child?

Most parents believe that teachers play a key role in their children’s learning. While this is true, children spend an average of 12 per cent of their time at school each year, which means that the majority of their learning takes place outside school. 

As parents, it is important to bear in mind your child’s character and attitude to learning in order to have realistic expectations about what and how your child will learn. Understanding and respecting your child’s way of learning can have a huge impact in their confidence and self-esteem. Praise effort and use positive language when your child encounters difficulties. Allow for breaks when needed and use music or toys if it helps your child focus. 

If you are unsure about how to support your child’s learning at home we encourage you to approach their teacher for ideas. At the British Council, our teachers have many years’ experience creating inclusive classrooms, and are highly trained in how to support all leaners to achieve a mastery of English.  

Visit http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/helping-your-child for more advice on how to help your child reach their full potential.