1 Developing an inclusive environment

Video: Involving all

View the video extract on involving all and, before you do Activity 1, read Resource 1, ‘Involving all’. This will extend your understanding of the key concepts that you need to be consider when you try to make your classroom more inclusive.

Activity 1: My classroom audit

At the end of one day in the next week, take a few minutes to look at the classroom(s) that you teach in. List all the good things about it, for example, whether it is hot or cool, or looks out on the countryside.

Next, list a maximum of ten things that you would like to have immediately for your classroom, for example:

  • a table to display things
  • some paper for drawing
  • chairs and tables for the students.

Which of these are more realistic aims than others? Are there ways that you could acquire these locally for free? And how else could you change and enhance your classroom?

Note down your answers and keep them, as you will need to refer to them later.

Case Study 1: Ms Kabita’s investigations in the classroom

Ms Kabita teaches Class V and is about to investigate germination with them. A few weeks ago she spent some time visiting another school and talking to one teacher, Mr Pathak. She was impressed by his classroom, its impact on his students and her as a teacher. She explains what she then did and why.

I wanted to explore germination with my class using an investigation activity similar to that in the textbook, but I also wanted to use the investigation as the starting point to make my classroom more attractive and colourful for my students to work in. I also wanted to rearrange the room so that when we did group work, which is more often now, the students did not have to move around the classroom as much.

A few weeks ago I visited a school a few miles from my school. I had heard that the teacher, Mr Pathak, had made his classroom more colourful and interesting without having to buy any resources. I looked around his classroom and saw that he had put up on the wall, pictures that he had drawn and his students’ work. He had written labels on the work and put up questions for them to answer as they looked at it. He said the students liked to look at these and often talked about them and their content. He also had resource boxes with recyclable and reusable materials to use in lessons. Over the next few weeks I spent many spare moments looking at my classroom from different perspectives and thinking about what I could do to make it more exciting. A lot of questions came to mind:

  • How could I sit my students so that they were all more involved?
  • What could I do to make the walls more interesting?
  • What resources would I need? Where could I get these?
  • What would the students think about any changes I would make?
  • Should I involve them in thinking about what we could do? How would I do this?
  • How could I start this process with studying germination?

I decided to start my changes by asking my students to help me. I had two large, low, storage boxes under the blackboard that I had not bothered about much. I wanted to move these and use their tops for display, as well as the wall above.

One box would store some of the recyclable and reusable materials that I had been gathering over the months from around the small town where I live. Often shops have old cardboard boxes that are left out and I have asked the shopkeeper for these for school. The man was reluctant at first but when I said it would help the students’ learning, he relented. I had also collected envelopes from the school office when they came and found some big sheets that I could use for posters and for students’ work to do displays and brainstorms, etc. Finally, I decided that I had spent enough time thinking and needed to act if I was going to make a difference to my classroom. At the end of one science lesson I took ten minutes to ask the students three questions about the classroom:

  • What do you like about this room?
  • What do you not like?
  • How do you think we could make it a nicer and more interesting classroom?

As they were used to working in groups, I asked them to talk together and for one person to write their responses and ideas on a small sheet of paper. Each group gave their three responses orally and I listed them on the blackboard. I told them I would read their lists, and in the next lesson we would consider what we will do first and how we will do it, when we began to investigate germination. They left the classroom talking animatedly about what they could do.

Pause for thought

  • How do you react to Ms Kabita’s approach and her reasons for making her classroom more enticing?
  • How could you try some of her ideas?

By asking her students about the changes, Ms Kabita is making a definite move towards including all of them in exploring what they would like to do with their classroom. So she is not only changing the physical environment, but also the kind of interaction in her classroom. This is telling her students that she respects them as individuals and wants to share ideas with them. This is a big boost for all her students on both counts.

Why this approach is important

2 Developing a cognitive space