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  • The Engaging Classroom
  • Teaching Tips

Part 3: Classroom Inventory

By Dana Stachowiak
 | Jul 26, 2018

classroom-libraryThis is the third installment of a five-part series on cultivating gender-inclusive classrooms. It was written as a complement to “The Power to Include: A Starting Place for Creating Gender-Inclusive Literacy Classrooms,” an article that appears in the July/August issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.  

It’s common for literacy educators (and educators in general) to do a general classroom inventory at the end of each school year. This is an important proactive move, as it helps us to determine how we need to prepare for the upcoming year.

When working to create a gender-inclusive literacy classroom, educators need to be especially conscious of the questions they ask about their classrooms and procedures. The following inventory offers you some questions to consider when thinking about what type of community and physical space you provide your students. This classroom inventory should be ongoing throughout the year; there will be guaranteed learning opportunities along the way. Don’t be afraid to invite your students to teach you and learn with you.

Posters and displays

  • Do they reinforce normative and/or negative gender stereotypes?
  • What could you replace them with, or how might you use them to teach about gender equity and inclusivity?
  • Find posters that include gender nonconforming people to add to (not replace) your existing posters.


  • What messages are being sent about gender in the pictures, word choice, and content?
  • What might you bring in to supplement/extend the textbook to promote gender equity and inclusion of transgender, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming people?
  • How might you encourage students to challenge the text?

Picture books

  • How many of the books in your classroom library promote traditional gender binary rules and roles?
  • How can you teach gender equity with these?
  • How many books include transgender, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming individuals? What books could you add?

Word choice

  • Do you use phrases such as “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen” when you address your students? If so, consider saying “students,” “classmates,” or “citizens” instead.
  • Do you know for certain what pronouns your students prefer? Make sure you ask. If you don’t know, use they/them/their until you do.
  • What salutation do you use? Consider Mx. (pronounced “miks”) in place of Mr./Miss/Ms./Mrs.
  • How do you refer to your spouse? Consider using partner instead of husband or wife.

Rules and procedures

  • Do you split tasks between boys and girls? Do you ask your students to line up according to gender?
  • When asking for volunteers, instead of saying, “I’m looking for a boy…,” say, “I’m looking for a person…”
  • When asking your students to line up, encourage them to stand where they feel most comfortable.
Dana Stachowiak is an assistant professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she coordinates the Curriculum Studies for Equity in Education Master’s program. Dana is also a literacy consultant with The Educator Collaborative. She holds a doctorate in educational studies with a concentration in cultural studies from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Winthrop University, and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Western Michigan University. Follow her on Twitter @DrStachowiak.
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