Windows and Mirrors

Building empathy and perspective for both you and your students
385 teachers like this strategy
Windows and Mirrors Strategy

About This Strategy

Windows and Mirrors provides the chance for everyone to share and bring their culture into the learning space while providing opportunities for others to have insight into someone else’s lived experience. Using this strategy creates a low risk way of sharing because we are all experts of our own experiences so we are able to share that perspective from a confident place.  It also allows us to see, hear and learn to appreciate others' lived experiences and see the similarities and differences to our own.  This strategy provides a safe way to connect and ask questions that we may not otherwise feel comfortable asking. 

The Windows and Mirrors strategy is a journey both beyond and within and is designed to support you as the teacher 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. 

Implementation Steps

Plan It

Before you implement take some time to reflect on what you want to accomplish through using the strategy and how it would be best to create a meaningful learning experience for your students.

  1. Decide what you want to highlight through the activity

    • Team Building

      • Students present pictures or objects that give others windows into their lives

      • Find someone who activity

        • Allows students to find someone with similar or different experiences from their own

    • SEL Development

      • Explicitly teach SEL competencies

        • Self Awareness

        • Self Management

        • Social Awareness

        • Relationship Skills

        • Responsible Decision Making

    • Incorporate CRTL or SEL within content (examples below)

      • History - use the story or conflict being studied

        • Help students find commonalities between themselves and those in history where they may not have known they existed 

      • Science - explore socioethical issues

        • Induces critical thinking skills

        • Builds students speaking/listening skills

        • Supports argumentative perspective taking

        • Empathy building for others’ perspectives

      • Art - elements of art

        • What elements speak to you?  

          • Line, color, value, shape, form, space, texture

        • Helps students identify those with similar interests

  2. Gather student interests through an interest survey

  3. Use this template to think through the objective, instructional sequence, procedures and resources you will need to create an impactful learning experience for your students


Practice It

  1. Set the tone and expectations for students

  2. Highlight the lens that students will use to take in the information they are presented with

  3. Use a displayed timer set for 5 minutes per person

  4. Partner A shares their items highlighting the following:

    • Why they chose it?

    • What it means to them?

    • How it makes them feel

  5. Partner B actively listens, takes notes and asks clarifying questions when necessary

  6. Switch Partner roles

  7. Provide students an opportunity to reflect (this can be done on paper or electronically through a tool such as jamboard or padlet, allowing students to see each other’s responses in real time):

    • What did the experience feel like for you personally?

    • What did you learn about yourself when selecting your item or while sharing?

    • What did you learn about your partner?

    • What did you all have in common?

    • What differences stood out to you?

    • What did you enjoy about this learning experience?

    • What made you feel uncomfortable during this learning experience?


Reflect and Refine

  1. Review student reflections to determine if students met the goal you set for the activity

  2. What went well?

    • How did students feel about this experience?

    • What trends do you notice in what students enjoyed?

  3. What would you tweak for next time?

    • What made students feel uncomfortable?

      • How might you use this information in the future?

  4. How can this lesson be used as a springboard for other learning?

Special Education Modification

Nedra MassenburgDEMO
Special Education Specialist

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:


  1. 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.  

  2. Use visual timers and verbal reminders to help students with task initiation and task completion when using inclusive lesson materials.  

  3. 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.

  1. 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.

Questions to Consider

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?

Tech Tools

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.