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Identity Safe Classrooms, Grades K-5

Identity Safe Classrooms, Grades K-5
Places to Belong and Learn

  • Dorothy M. Steele - Executive Director, Stanford University, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (Retired)
  • Becki Cohn-Vargas - Curriculum Consultant and Educational Coach

Foreword by Linda Darling-Hammond

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October 2013 | 232 pages | Corwin

Identity Safe Classrooms, K-5, focuses on a set of strategies that have a positive effect on student learning and attachment to schooling, in spite of the very real and powerful social inequalities that currently exist in today’s classrooms. It is a book based entirely on evidence, revealing how to set up a stereotype-threat-free environment in which students from all backgrounds learn better and value school more.

How do identity safe classrooms work? Teachers strive to ensure students view their identity as an asset rather than a barrier to school success. They teach prosocial skills and cooperative learning in the context of high expectations and challenging curriculum.

Using these strategies—rooted in social psychology research and child-centered teaching practices—reflective exercise, and practical advice, you’ll discover how to create an academically challenging classroom where students come to understand the empowering message that who they are and what they think matters.

Foreword by Linda Darling-Hammond
About the Authors
Part I. Getting Started
Chapter 1. Welcome to Readers
Chapter 2. How to Use This Book
Part II. Child-Centered Teaching
Chapter 3. Listening for Students' Voices
Chapter 4. Teaching for Understanding
Chapter 5. Focus on Cooperation
Chapter 6. Classroom Autonomy
Part III. Cultivating Diversity as a Resource
Chapter 7. Using Diversity as a Resource for Teaching
Chapter 8. High Expectations and Academic Rigor
Chapter 9. Challenging Curriculum
Part IV. Classroom Relationships
Chapter 10. Teacher Warmth and Availability to Support Learning
Chapter 11. Positive Student Relationships
Part V. Caring Classrooms
Chapter 12. Teacher Skill
Chapter 13. Emotional and Physical Comfort
Chapter 14. Attention to Prosocial Development


"In this timely, engaging, and needed book, Steele and Cohn-Vargas describe creative and captivating ways in which teachers can construct identity safe classrooms in which students from diverse racial, social, economic, and linguistic groups can learn and flourish. The voices of classroom teachers that are interwoven throughout the book enliven and enrich it, as well as make it especially appealing and helpful to teachers and other school practitioners. A unique strength of this book is the way in which it effectively and seamlessly blends theory, research, and the wisdom of practice of veteran teachers. It deserves a wide audience."

James A. Banks. Founding Director
Center for Multicultural Education, University of Washington, Seattle

"The authors combine their scholarship, experience, and wisdom in this amazing book. We all want to know: How can we help students enjoy school and become eager learners? Educators, read this book and find out!"

Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology
Stanford University

"Identity Safe Classrooms is an indispensable resource for every school and educator interested in ensuring a robust and equitable education for all of our nation’s youth.  Steele and Cohn-Vargas help us understand, in clear and compelling ways, how students’ opportunity to learn and the identity they develop as learners is inextricably tied to the learning contexts of which they are a part. This timely and pragmatic book thoughtfully lays out a new vision of education with design principles for inclusive, respectful, and rigorous classroom environments that promote expansive and culturally validating forms of learning."

Kris D. Gutierrez, Inaugural Provost Chair, Professor of Learning Sciences and Literacy
University of Colorado at Boulder

Sample Materials & Chapters

Front Matter

1. Welcome to Readers

For instructors

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ISBN: 9781452230900