The Building Equity Awareness and Capacity strategy contains tools to help teachers explore their perceptions about students and then learn about what it means to be an equitable educator.
Background knowledge, what students have learned both inside and outside of the classroom, is the foundation for learning new information. All learners have diverse cultural and educational backgrounds that are directly related to topics taught in math, language arts, reading, social studies, science, art, music, and physical/health education. It is important for teachers to activate students' prior knowledge in the classroom in order for students to build upon the background knowledge that they already have.
About This Strategy
Students often need space to discuss the issues that face them on their developmental journey as they grapple with a range of emotions, navigate peer challenges, and consider their place in the world. No matter the content area, teachers can support productive whole-class discussions by establishing a practice of Class Circles or Class Council. In Class Council or Class Circle, students sit in a circle, pass around a talking piece, and respond to questions posed by the teacher. This community-building practice can help students address hypothetical conflicts in a safe space, explore encounters and moments that stem from class conflict, and reflect on shared and personal experiences.
Teachers can also use circles for academic content by eliciting prior knowledge when launching a unit or reflecting on a new class practice. As students become comfortable with Class Council or Class Circle, teachers can gradually release control of the circle to students, identifying peer leaders who eventually facilitate the circle and contribute topics and questions.
Class meetings or morning meetings focus on supporting students to reinforce the positive behaviors of their peers, reflect on previous learning, and preview new tasks weekly, daily, or at the beginning or end of class. With established norms for the meeting, this strategy can be used with students in all grades and across content areas. To begin the class meeting, the teacher can ask students to share celebrations or praise for a peer or peers based on the work they most recently completed independently or in groups, and students respond with a celebratory clap. Shout-outs can be followed by updates, a problem or question for whole class discussion, and future plans. The organization of a class meeting can be modified based on the teacher's goals for the meeting.
When pre-service teachers learn about the key elements of teaching, whether in traditional or untraditional teacher preparation programs, one of the main areas of focus is classroom management. While it's true that it's important for a classroom to be well-managed, sometimes the rules that schools and teachers establish focus more on compliance than community building and are not considerate of students' ways of being. Additionally, when students violate school/class rules, the response can sometimes be to exclude the students from the learning community instead of exploring the reasons behind the misbehavior and finding ways to restore relationships damaged by students' choices. This way of responding to students breaks down the connections in a learning community and can contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. In addition to helping teachers employ classroom management strategies that help create and sustain effective and inclusive learning communities, this strategy also includes ways to reroute the school-to-prison pipeline.
This strategy will support teachers to learn about the importance of making time to connect with families to form a partnership in support of their children. This approach can help teachers to form positive connections with students and their families, and maintain a holistic/asset-based perspective about each student.
Parents and/or caregivers are experts on their children, and should be engaged as key partners in supporting each student to excel. Connecting individually with your students' parents via phone calls or text messages shows respect and care for each student and their family, ensures the parent/caregiver has the necessary information about their child's progress, and allows teachers to gain invaluable feedback and information from parents. This strategy will help you prepare for a variety of types of parent/caregiver phone calls and give you tips to enlist all parents/caregivers as partners.
This strategy provides teachers with the opportunity to learn about and value the richness of their students' communities and support students as they identify ways to contribute to their communities. Spending meaningful time in students' neighborhoods and inviting community members into the classroom provides educators and school staff with the opportunity to learn from those they teach as well as those who care for their students and support their communities. In addition to experiencing an increase in student engagement, teachers will learn more about their students' caregivers and communities. This will create a stronger and more responsive school community.
According to the Clover Model of Youth Development published by the PEAR institute, a sense of belonging is one of the four essential elements that people of all ages need in order to thrive, learn, and develop. It is also a fundamental part of establishing a welcoming and inclusive learning community. This strategy provides the support needed for teachers to create and sustain such an environment, not only for the students in their classrooms, but also to represent the diversity in society.
Designing a Family Partnership Plan helps teachers to explore the assets that families bring to the table and the qualities of ideal partnerships. Learning about what it takes to develop effective partnerships will provide you with the support you need to create your own partnership plan. Strong partnerships with students' families can help teachers to optimize student achievement. This strategy will help you to assess your level of family-school partnership and provide you with the opportunity to focus on asset-based narratives as you explore critical considerations when engaging with families. Recognizing that parent involvement is a key factor in student success and considering the perspectives of your students' families about their involvement will make you a more effective partner.
An effective meeting, or any group activity such as a classroom discussion, requires more than publishing an agenda. To support the purpose of the gathering, and honor its participants, it is important to collaboratively establish norms for group behaviors. They are the "secret sauce" to a productive meeting. There are a variety of protocols that support the norming process, some of which are included in this strategy. All of them, however, adhere to value that the expectations need to be created by the group. Slowing down to review, select, and then implement a norming protocol is a critical, and primary step in organizing for effort.
The Examining Stereotypes strategy supports teachers to equip students with the ability to analyze how stereotypes are reinforced or challenged in texts, and to understand the importance of challenging stereotypes.
The Exploring Multiple Perspectives strategy is a resource containing the tools needed to help students build critical thinking skills through exploration and discussion. It is designed to support teachers to provide students with opportunities to develop their own perspectives as well as empathy for, and understanding and appreciation of, the perspectives of others. This strategy can be used throughout the school year as students continually explore points of view and expand their own thinking.
Designing and facilitating effective parent-teacher conferences is an important skill which requires intentional focus. This strategy provides you with guidance and resources regarding how to productively prepare for, engage in, and follow up on parent conferences. The parent-teacher conference can be an opportunity for you and families to co-develop goals for students. This strategy also provides you with an opportunity to explore the effectiveness and impact of goal-setting parent conferences where you value parents as partners and important contributors to their child's academic success.
This strategy provides teachers with the support needed to prepare for and facilitate the different phases of successful conversations about challenging and controversial issues with students and colleagues. It provides guidance about how to transition the conversation itself to being thoughtful about learning and norming activities that can take place prior to conversations. This will help students to have a framework and the mindset to be able to push each other's thinking in a constructive way. This strategy provides techniques to help teachers and students approach challenging conversations about issues of social justice more effectively.
The I Wish My Teacher Knew strategy is a resource containing the tools teachers need to build a strong foundation for the classroom. It supports teachers to connect with their students on a personal level. When students feel known by their teachers, they are more likely to feel authentically connected to the learning community. Ideally, this strategy would be used in the beginning, middle and end of the school year to begin and maintain a meaningful connection with students.
The Identifying and Addressing Implicit Bias strategy contains tools needed to discover and explore unconscious biases, and to develop ways to respond to those who act on prejudices. It is designed to support teachers to create safe, considerate and successfully collaborative learning environments. The strategy can be used in the beginning of and throughout the school year as students explore new content that may uncover new biases. When students have opportunities to transform their own thinking and plan ways to transition from bystanders to upstanders, the learning community becomes a place of empowerment.
Identifying Marginalized Students is a strategy that educators can use in order to know which students in their classroom may need additional support and teacher advocacy. When teachers allow students to share their experiences through writing and discussion, teachers gain insight into which aspects of the school structure or curriculum can be improved to better serve all students. Identifying marginalized students is the first step in advocating for a more inclusive classroom and school.
Identity charts are a graphic tool that can help students consider the many factors that shape who we are as individuals and as communities. Use identity charts to deepen students’ understanding of themselves, groups, nations, and historical and literary figures. Sharing their own identity charts with peers can help students build relationships and break down stereotypes. In this way, identity charts can be used as an effective classroom community-building tool. This strategy can be used in grades 3-12 in any content area.
The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report called "Teaching Hard History: American Slavery" which explores how little American high school students know about the origins of American slavery and the government's role in perpetuating it. Teaching History and Social Studies in an accurate and inclusive way is particularly challenging because most educators' understanding of American History is unfinished/incomplete. The Integrating Inclusive Content strategy is a resource that contains exemplary lessons and content that venture beyond what's usually included in the curriculum. It supports teachers to provide students with rich, inclusive learning experiences that reflect the dynamic perspectives and experiences of those whose lives and histories are not always reflected in the curriculum.
All teachers want to foster a community of learners who are thoughtful, kind, and proud of who they are and what they contribute to the class. Positive News Board is a strategy that makes space for students to pay attention to and publicly recognize what others are doing well. As students notice their peers engaging in positive contributions such as helping explain directions, going out of their way to be kind, or engaging in any action that aligns to their class values, they write a note about their peer's behavior and post it to the board on their own initiative. The teacher reads the news slips that include the name of the student being celebrated and a description of their positive contribution as part of the routine and ritual of class, and they can even consider including the slips as part of a report to parents. Focusing students' attention on positive contributions encourages their energy to be directed towards empathy and celebration.
We encourage students to adopt a growth mindset about their own learning, and at the same time, in support of school accountability and standards-based instruction, we are also faced with identifying learning gaps and deficits. Unfortunately, once those gaps are identified, we tend to focus on what students are not capable of. This strategy will help you to truly value students by shifting the focus to their strengths and how those assets can help students to develop further. Modeling a growth mindset by identifying, highlighting, and building on students' strengths, and authentically celebrating their successes helps students to continually focus on what's possible as they set goals, and decide next steps as they pursue learning opportunities.
This strategy will support teachers as they incorporate elements of social justice into their instruction. Implementing the steps outlined in this strategy will help teachers develop lessons that allow students to explore bias and social justice. Teachers can use literature, activities, and discussions to engage students in the practice of accepting and appreciating diversity in the classroom and in the their communities.
The transition into class can feel hectic and disorienting for students, especially if they are coming from an unstructured time like lunch or recess, if they struggle to stay organized during transitions, or if they're just having an off day. The thresholding strategy has teachers stand in the doorway of their classroom to greet students, build relationships, and provide consistency by reminding students of expectations and what they need to do to be ready for class. While each teacher should be themselves and authentic when interacting with students, this strategy will provide some tips for how to quickly connect with students and set them up for success at the start of class. This will help students feel recognized and message to them that their presence and participation in class is valued.
Creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for newcomers (any recently arrived foreign-born student) is the very first step in establishing a supportive school culture for newcomers. This strategy is for both teachers and leaders who hope to create a welcoming environment for EL newcomers to their school. In this strategy, teachers and leaders can learn five actionable steps to take to create a supportive environment for all EL newcomers.
When looking through a window, we have the opportunity to see new things, and when the sun hits the window just right, it turns the window into a mirror where we can see ourselves reflected back. The Windows and Mirrors strategy is a journey both beyond and within and is designed to support teachers to reflect (mirror) and reveal (window) to ensure that students are engaged and empowered learners by providing them with continual opportunities to see their lives, interests, histories, cultures, perspectives, and experiences represented in the content in addition to learning the same about others. The strategy, based on the work of Rudine Sims Bishop, can be used when designing lessons in any content area, and particularly with literacy, social studies, history and/or humanities lessons.