When looking through a window, we have the opportunity to see new things, and when the sun hits the window just right, it turns the window into a mirror where we can see ourselves reflected back. The Windows and Mirrors strategy is a journey both beyond and within and is designed to support teachers to reflect (mirror) and reveal (window) to ensure that students are engaged and empowered learners by providing them with continual opportunities to see their lives, interests, histories, cultures, perspectives, and experiences represented in the content in addition to learning the same about others. The strategy, based on the work of Rudine Sims Bishop, can be used when designing lessons in any content area, and particularly with literacy, social studies, history and/or humanities lessons.
1. Read the Curriculum as Window and Mirror article linked in the resource section below to build your understanding of the concept of Windows and Mirrors. Developing this background knowledge will prepare you to create a Windows and Mirrors learning experience for your students.
2. Using a Google images search, identify 3-5 images that serve as a mirror for you, and select 1-2 of those images to share with your students. Tell the story behind each of the images you select. This will both strengthen a personal connection with your students, and provide a model for them as they engage in their own image search and share.
3. Provide your students with the opportunity to explore and identify 3-5 images that serve as mirrors for them. They can do this through a scaffolded Google images search. Have them select 1-2 images to share with you and their classmates.
4. Select a grade and subject area appropriate text to analyze with your students where they can identify if aspects of the text reflect their experiences or provide them with an opportunity to learn about the experiences of others. You can refer to the Teaching Tolerance Perspective Texts, NNSTOY’s Social Justice Book List and/or Newsela’s Black History and Beyond Text Sets linked in the resource section below for text ideas. Use the BetterLesson Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning (CRTL) Lesson Plan Template linked in the resource section below to create a lesson plan that is responsive to the needs of your learners.
5. Debrief the experience with your students by asking them questions such as, “What were some of your most powerful learning moments during this experience?” and “What was most challenging about this experience?”
6. Plan to implement Windows and Mirrors lessons throughout the school year, ideally at the beginning of new units of study.
When students are not in a physical classroom, finding opportunities to allow students to share about their unique backgrounds may feel challenging. However, even in a blended or distance setting, it is important for teachers to create opportunities for students to identify windows and mirrors that allow insight into students’ backgrounds and interests.
Explain the concept of windows and mirrors to your class using the examples above and your own windows and mirrors images.
Create a slide deck in which one slide is dedicated to each student in the classroom.
Give students time to build out their slide with 1-2 windows and 1-2 mirrors.
Allow students to explain their windows and mirrors either verbally or in writing notes for their slide.
Ask students to apply the concept of windows and mirrors to the next text that you read together.
Again, allow students to share the windows and mirrors they identified within that text.
Explore the resources below to learn more about the Windows and Mirrors in texts that students read, and also about the importance of including diverse texts for students in your classes to read.
Using a strategy like Windows and Mirrors to provide students with rich, inclusive learning experiences that reflect the dynamic perspectives and experiences of those whose lives and histories are not always reflected in the curriculum is an excellent way to support learners with disabilities. Using Windows and Mirrors as a tool for students requires significant executive functioning (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.), emotional regulation, reading, and written expression skills. In order to support students with disabilities in these areas, consider the following modifications:
Use structured handouts that help students with task initiation as well as provide clear benchmarks (bolded words, bulleted lists) to assess task completion when using inclusive lesson materials.
Use visual timers and verbal reminders to help students with task initiation and task completion when using inclusive lesson materials.
Teachers should take care to research resources around teaching disability awareness to ensure that students with impairments see themselves represented in the Windows and Mirrors strategy. See the
"25 Disability Awareness Activities for Kids of all Ages" and the "Mini-Lesson: Understanding Disability" resources in the resource section below for more information.
If multiple teachers are present, careful thought should be put into co-teaching models and how they integrate into a differentiated lesson plan using Windows and Mirrors. See the "Differentiation Within the Inclusion Classroom Model" and the "How to Choose a Co-Teaching Model" resources in the resource section below for more information.
This strategy provides teachers with scaffolds to support learner identity in the classroom. English learners require such supports as they navigate the challenging landscape learning a new language and culture as they acquire academic skills.
English learners may be required to use all four domains of language, reading, writing, speaking and listening when engaging in windows and mirrors activities. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:
Guide image search. Ensure learners at lower levels of proficiency are able to find what they are looking for by providing bilingual dictionaries to search in English or supporting learners in using search terms in their home language.
1. When you were a student in the grade(s) you now teach, how well were you known by your teachers? What difference did it make for you as a learner?
2. What are some ways you can build upon what students share about their identities, histories, interests, and/or experiences to ensure that they are represented in the curriculum?
3. What are some ways you can integrate what your students want to know about other identities, histories, interests, and/or experiences into your curriculum?
Google Images Search
Google Images Search is now embedded within Google Doc and it allows students to search for pictures intuitively by key words.
This features supports this strategy by allowing students to quickly search for imagery representing their windows and mirrors.
Explore the lesson published by Teaching Tolerance included in the resources below to learn more about the Windows and Mirrors strategy.
Explore the resources below to learn more about the Social Justice Standards on Identity, and also to explore a lesson about unpacking identity published by Teaching Tolerance.