10 ways to make your classroom more inclusive of black students

It’s hard to begin this list in light of the events that have transpired over the past week. First, we have a major fashion retailer producing a decisively racist advertisement featuring an innocent young black boy and then president trump, lower case “t” at this point, speaking on immigrants as if…Geez, I can’t even compare a group or characterize a person because I feel that it would be insulting to them. Nevertheless, we must continue to work and move forward. We must take care of the children whose parents or grandparents may have come from some of these so-called “shithole” countries. So here are my 10 ways to make your classroom more inclusive of black students:


  1. Include materials that are reflective of black culture, for example, books that have a black person as the protagonist or history assignments that highlight the impact that black people have made.
  2. Instead of displaying generic posters with positive slogans, create posters that feature significant figures of black culture with quotes from them and display those.
  3. Create student to teacher connections by talking to your black students about things outside of the curriculum you are teaching them. Ask them what they ate for breakfast, how their family celebrated Thanksgiving, what music artists they currently like.
  4. Do not be afraid to hold a dialogue with your black students concerning topics on which you are not the “expert”. This strategy is both culturally and generationally relevant as it deepens relationships and fosters more relevant teaching practices in the long run.
  5. Let your students teach. Create a structure where you moderate students in the creation of a student-led lesson. You will be amazed at the ways your own students can create relevant examples of concepts in math or science that make the learning easier for everyone involved.
  6. Turn parts of your classroom into parts of their community. For example, at the intermediate level, instead of naming a corner of your classroom the “reading corner”, label it an intersection within your community. This small gesture creates a context where the neighborhood and community of the school are seen as part of the classroom.
  7. Instead of diving into curriculum during the first week of the school year, use this time to engage with students in ways that create authentic relationships.
  8. Be humble. Acknowledge the limitations of your knowledge and provide opportunities for your students to help you build your expertise.
  9. Foster a classroom environment in which students have a role in how the class operates and in what is taught. Examples include creating “classroom duties” and outlining the curriculum with your students and then allowing them to brainstorm ways that they could possibly demonstrate their knowledge (for projects, assignments, and presentations).
  10. Hip-hop Education. Provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of the content through written songs and hip-hop performances.


Ironically, it seems like we have to be more explicit and diligent with our teachings to black students than anytime in recent memory. It’s a sad statement but it’s a fact. Way number 11 would be to “just try”. Take a step, try something from one to ten out. Trust me, it won’t hurt anywhere close to the pain they already feel or will eventually feel once they leave school and get into the so-called “real world” of today.



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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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