How to Respect Individual Differences in the Classroom

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What a boring world it would be if everyone were the same. Help your students learn to respect individual differences in the classroom by celebrating the individuality and unique contributions of each student. Spice up your curriculum, within the confines of your school board’s requirements, infusing it with art, music, drama, poetry, food, games, guest speakers, books and films depicting different types of people, races, occupations, genders, abilities, interests, income levels and other differences.

1 Target different learning styles

Plan lessons that target different learning styles. Use visual aids such as the chalkboard, overhead projector, interactive whiteboard, television, computer screen, handouts, charts and posters to engage visual learners. Use spoken words, music and poetry to accommodate auditory learners, who learn best by hearing. Incorporate movement and touch through dance, hands-on activities, drama, art and science experiments to benefit kinesthetic learners.

2 Provide accommodations

Provide accommodations such as preferential seating; giving cues about what is coming next; reading assignments for students; writing down the student’s ideas; providing handouts of chalkboard or overhead notes; organizational aids and behavior modification programs for special needs students. Consult with and follow the recommendations of your school’s special needs resource teacher.

3 Create an accessible classroom environment for students with physical differences

Create an accessible classroom environment for students with physical differences. Space the furniture appropriately for students in wheelchairs. Consult with your school board’s hearing and vision specialists to provide specialized equipment such as personal FM radio transmitters and receivers, microphone and speakers, magnifiers and Braille materials for students with hearing and vision difficulties.

4 Celebrate cultural differences

Celebrate cultural differences by allowing students to talk about their families and the holidays they observe. Speak with parents about any cultural requirements, such as being absent on certain days, not eating certain foods and not participating in certain activities, and accommodate these requirements for affected students. Sing songs, read books and teach dances from different cultures. Invite parents to send in treats specific to their culture, having previously instructed students on how to gratefully accept or respectfully decline new foods.

5 Model

Model respect for all students by treating students fairly. Meet the individual needs of each student. Speak respectfully of students, their parents and other cultures. Reprimand students in private if possible so they are not singled out in front of their peers. Insist on respectful interactions between students.

Rebecca Jefferson began writing in 1990. She won first prize in the Grand Theater Young Playwrights' Competition for the collaborative effort, "Playing With Drugs." Jefferson holds an honors Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Ottawa.