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Identity Safe Classrooms

Identity Safe Classrooms
Places to Belong and Learn

  • Dorothy M. Steele - Executive Director, Stanford University, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (Retired)
  • Becki Cohn-Vargas - Director, Not In Our School

Foreword by Linda Darling-Hammond

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August 2013 | 232 pages | Corwin
This practitioner-focused guide to creating identity-safe classrooms presents four categories of core instructional practices:

- child-centered teaching

- classroom relationships

- caring environments

- cultivating diversity

The book presents a set of strategies that can be implemented immediately by teachers. It includes a wealth of vignettes taken from identity-safe classrooms as well as reflective exercises that can be completed by individual teachers or teacher teams.

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

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Dorothy M. Steele

Dorothy M. Steele, Ed.D. is the former Executive Director of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. She is an early childhood educator who is interested in public schools including teaching practices that are effective for diverse classrooms, alternative assessment processes that inform teaching and learning, and strategies that build inclusive communities of learners in schools. Her work with the Stanford Integrated Schools Project was an attempt to look at these various aspects of schooling in a large urban school district. Dr. Steele began her work with teachers and children in 1968 in Columbus,... More About Author

Esther Rebecca Cohn-Vargas

Becki Cohn-Vargas, Ed.D works with educators to create identity safe classrooms and schools. As a consultant, she presents, writes, coaches, and produces films about bullying prevention, implicit bias, inclusion, compassion and belonging. She also leads environmental education groups to the Makengue Reserve in Nicaragua. Becki worked in educational settings for over 35 years as a teacher and administrator. Formerly, as Director of Not In Our School, she published the Identity Safe and Inclusive School Program, a comprehensive guide for creating identity safe secondary schools. She is the co-author with Dorothy Steele, Ed.D of Identity... More About Author

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ISBN: 9781452230900