Promoting inclusion in the classroom is crucial for creating an equitable, safe learning environment for all students. The good news is that intentional inclusion is instrumental to being trauma-informed. The key lies within the Circle of Courage. This model for positive youth development provides four critical areas to explore, but for now let’s focus on the universal need of generosity. By focusing on and practicing generosity, we can create a more inclusive classroom, where students feel a sense of belonging, can gain mastery over the material and develop independence. In this blog post, we will explore how incorporating acts of generosity in the classroom can promote a more inclusive environment for all students.
Strategies for inclusion and generosity in the classroom
Effective efforts to teach generosity don’t need to be grand or complicated. When properly structured and monitored by teachers, it can be as simple as everyday group work! Help your students enrich their sense of generosity with these fun activities:
- Collaborative Learning: Create small groups of students with diverse backgrounds (which can be as simple as their background in your classroom—what skills can you pair/group together who don’t normally interact to accomplish a challenge together?) Encourage students to share their unique perspectives and skills, and to rely on one another for support. Provide an opportunity for groups to share what they appreciated about what others brought to their team.
- Random Acts of Kindness Challenge: Encourage students to perform random acts of kindness towards their classmates, such as leaving a positive note on a classmate's desk, offering to help a struggling student with their work, or sharing materials with someone who forgot theirs at home. Students should be intentional about helping those who they don’t regularly play or study with. Have students reflect on the impact of their actions and discuss as a class how these small acts of generosity can promote a culture of inclusion and belonging in the classroom.
- Generosity Day: Set a day of the week where students can come in and share something with their classmates, it can be an item or a skill. Incorporating items/skills important to family traditions or cultural background can help further promote inclusion. Exit notes for the day can challenge students to celebrate their favorite contribution and what they learned about their fellow student who presented it.
- Empathetic Icebreakers: A tried and true staple throughout classrooms, icebreakers are fun—and can be powerful tools for connection. Challenge your students by designing your icebreaking topics around opportunities for inclusion. From familial trivia to hopes and dreams for their futures, these icebreaker discussions can peel back guarded layers of students to celebrate their true selves with their peers. As students get to know each other better, the icebreakers can shift to challenge students to seek out and compliment students for their uniqueness or perhaps what they’ve noticed that student does well.
- READ!: There are thousands of age-appropriate books to help students be more sensitive about their classmates’ lived experiences. A quick Google search for “books to teach diversity and generosity” is a great starting point.
No matter the activity, it’s critical that teachers set up their students for success. Use your knowledge of each kid that the rest of the class might not have that will help celebrate their skillset. Afterward, always be intentional about debriefing activities to gauge what impact these activities might have on your class and adjust moving forward.
What other activities do you find help students explore their sense of generosity through an inclusive lens? No matter your approach, the first step should always be the bond formed between the teacher and every student. You can learn more about breaking down barriers to learning and relationships through 10 Steps to Create a Trauma-Informed Resilient School.