How to create an inclusive classroom

How to Create An Inclusive Classroom - Miss Jacobs Little Learners

When we’re talking about inclusivity, we need to go deeper than just asking ‘what does an inclusive classroom look like.’ Inclusivity means an environment where students with all backgrounds, abilities, learning styles, special needs, genders and religions feel celebrated and supported in their learning journey. 

Recent studies show that benefits of inclusive classrooms go far beyond academic success and can benefit students with or without disabilities. Better relationships between students, teachers and families, fewer absences, critical thinking and better understanding of each other's differences are all benefits of inclusion for every student.

As teachers and educators, we have a lot of work to do when it comes to creating truly inclusive spaces. Inclusion is up to all of us, and for those of us with privilege, we need to be unpacking it and actively dismantling systems that promote exclusion. 

I’m a big believer that details matter. Sure, the look of a classroom is just one small part of the puzzle, but our classroom decor and displays can show kids that all learners, cultures and identities are welcome, celebrated and safe. And it’s something I can absolutely help with.

In this article I talk you through the resources I’ve created that could be helpful for you. I’ll go through the thinking behind my designs and explain some features within the resources that you may not be aware of. I’ll also share some of the amazing professionals with years of experience in research-based inclusive practice.

Miss Jacobs standing in front of a Modern Jungle affirmation station mirror.

Affirmation stations can help you foster a positive classroom environment. Products: Modern Jungle Affirmation Station.

The basics of creating inclusive classrooms 

The truth is, everything in our classrooms - from the books we keep in our library nooks, to the gendered language we use with students - can either foster inclusion and support student learning or fuel exclusivity. 

While this post is focusing more on the aesthetic side of an inclusive classroom, it’s worth mentioning some of my blogs that explore inclusivity more deeply. These posts include:

Creating inclusion in a general education classroom also means special education students should primarily spend time in their general classroom, and not spend all their classes separated from their classmates in a special education classroom. As a teacher, you can offer student support with differentiated instruction and considering the different learning styles in your classroom.

Nothing will foster inclusion like your lessons and activities. And no display or classroom aesthetic will be effective without the right teaching and learning approach to go with it. Using a framework like the Universal Design for Learning, for example, can be helpful to ensure the needs of all students are met, and diversity is front of mind when crafting lesson plans and curriculum.

With all of that said, my general approach from an aesthetic perspective is - less is more! 

It’s so important that classrooms are not overstimulating for children. It’s why I don't go for too many obnoxious prints or add too much text in my designs, and it’s why I only choose fonts that are clearly legible. 

I try not to overcrowd wall spaces or mix and match too many themes - it just becomes all too much for students. Visual noise is especially loud for neurodivergent kids and students with special needs, so a clean, clear and consistent classroom is key.

Keeping it simple allows kids to meaningfully engage with a select number of powerful displays, instead of getting lost in the visual confetti.

Boho Rainbow visual timetables.

My Boho decor themes are great if you want to avoid bright, overwhelming colors. Product: Boho Rainbow Visual Timetables

Use different displays to celebrate our differences

There are so many gorgeous ways your displays and decor can visually celebrate diversity and inclusion within your classroom, and create a sense of belonging to your students. Here are some ideas:
  • Create a family tree display showcasing the beautiful variations in family types. 
  • Visually articulate your classes’ values like inclusion, kindness and tolerance. 
  • Use word walls to explore new terms and ideas around inclusion and spark conversation.
  • Use visual displays to celebrate a variety of ethnicities, cultures, languages and multicultural occasions within your school community (e.g.- Diwali, Eid, Chinese New Year, Greek Easter etc).
  • Create growth mindset and affirmation station displays. While these tools aren’t strictly about inclusion, they help foster a supportive and safe learning environment, and are great positive behavioral tools in teaching our students the value in positive self-talk, celebrating our differences and embracing a growth mindset and self-acceptance.
  • Create visual displays within both special education classrooms and general education classrooms that normalize different abilities, learning styles and celebrate the many different ways students learn. 

One thing you might not know, is that almost all of my resources are fully editable. You don’t need Photoshop or anything fancy - just Powerpoint. 

This means you can customize my door displays, word walls, bunting and lettering packs, welcome posters, motivational posters, or any other MJLL resource, to decorate and design with inclusion in mind.

Boho Vibes growth mindset display by

Boho Vibes Growth Mindset by teaches your students about active learning and positive mindset.

Auslan and ASL posters

Since the dawn of time, teachers have hung alphabet posters in their classrooms. (Okay, slight exaggeration, but they really are a classic!)

These humble little posters, available in both Auslan and American Sign Language (ASL), offer a simple but effective way to encourage students to learn about the deaf and hard of hearing communities. 

Of course, not all deaf and hard of hearing communities use sign language, and there’s so much more to inclusion than just posters! That’s where organizations like the Victorian Deaf Education Institute can help. They offer a huge range of presentations and courses, covering everything from teaching strategies to practical advice about deaf-inclusive learning environments.

Spotty Neutrals AUSLAN posters

Auslan posters can help spark conversation about deaf and hard of hearing communities. Product: Spotty Neutrals Auslan posters

Hand signals and voice level displays

There are many kids who really thrive in a quieter classroom - including neurodivergent kids, kids facing anxiety or trauma and kids who are hard of hearing.

By using a simple hand signals display, you can help encourage non-verbal communication in your classroom.

Graphic with text: My tip? Print the display as big as you can and make use of the icons and words, for kids who are still learning to read.

Voice level displays are another great tool for a quieter classroom. They teach our students about silent ways of asking for things during class to make for a less overwhelming and interrupted learning experience for everyone.

For a deeper look into supporting autistic kids and neurodiversity in the classroom, there are exceptional professionals in this space, including autistic educator Sonny Jane Wise (the @livedexperienceeducator) and Neurodivergent Psychologist Sandhya Menon.

Daisy Gingham hand signals display.

Daisy Gingham Hand Signals Display teaches your students about alternative silent ways of communication.

@mrs.kenningtons.kiddos standing in front of her Spotty Rainbow voice display wall.

Laura from @mrs.kenningtons.kiddos beautifully utilizes my Spotty Rainbow Voice Level Display in her classroom.

Visual timetables, home routines and daily schedule cards

Many of the same kids mentioned above thrive with visual aides that map out their day. My visual timetables are fully editable and can be customized for individual students, small groups or the whole class. They can also be fantastic for helping kids work independently and move from one task to the next when they’re ready.

For younger children and kids who do best with non-verbal instructions, home routines and daily schedule cards can be helpful too. They break routines down into simple steps and provide a sense of ease both at home and in the classroom.

All of the illustrations of kids within my resources are racially diverse. And while that’s just the bare minimum we should expect - our industry is rife with resources featuring only white kids, which is so disappointing.

Daisy Gingham Visual Timetable display.

Visual timetables and daily schedule cards are great visual aids in supporting independent learning. Product: Daisy Gingham Visual Timetable Display

Next steps in creating a truly inclusive classroom

I can’t say it enough - when it comes to creating genuinely inclusive workplaces and classrooms, we need to go deeper and take a look at our classroom climate, and make sure we are doing everything we can as teachers and school communities to create an inclusive school environment where all students thrive.

A great way forward is to work with professionals who are experienced, knowledgeable and are led by lived-experience.

Here in Australia we’re lucky to have an Inclusion Directory Network, which offers a comprehensive directory of service providers in the inclusion space. It includes people like Tasneem Chopra OAM, who offers practical and effective Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training

Creating real inclusion in classrooms requires collaboration between teachers, principals, education services, families, professionals and students. I hope my resources can help you spark that conversation with your students and fellow teachers on building an inclusive environment where there are no ‘others’, but a group of students supporting, listening and celebrating each other.



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