Every day is an opportunity make your classroom environment more culturally responsive! Culturally responsive teaching starts with having an affirming relationship with students and their families. This teaching respects the languages, cultures, and life experiences of your culturally and linguistically diverse children and incorporates them into your teaching. Having a positive attitude toward the cultural experiences that each child brings to the classroom can enrich a child’s learning experience and that of other students.
So how can you take your classroom to the next level to instill a greater value and understanding for various ethnic groups every day? It starts with an inventory of your attitudes and beliefs towards students that differ from you and recognizing how that can impact teaching. Some questions to consider might be:
- What is my definition of diversity?
- What are my perceptions of students from different racial or ethnic groups? With language or dialects different from mine? With special needs?
- What are the sources of these perceptions (e.g., friends, relatives, television, movies)?
- How do I respond to my students, based on these perceptions?
Engage Students and Families
Another way to start culturally responsive teaching is to get parents involved. Getting to know your culturally diverse children’s family can help you incorporate their cultural/ethnic heritage. This can be done through a parent inventory/interview to gain greater insight into the cultural heritage of your students. You might ask parents to describe the following:
- Customs that are important to your family
- Special foods your family eats
- Eating and cooking utensils you use that are unique to your culture
- Special or traditional clothing you wear
- Which language(s) is spoken in your home?
- Which holidays specific to your cultural heritage do you celebrate?
After taking a closer look at each child’s unique cultural experiences, you can begin to incorporate these into your classroom! This can add to your classroom and impact learning for all students.
Creating a Culturally Responsive Classroom
How can you create a culturally responsive environment? Start with the way you see your classroom. Here are some tips:
- Take a look at the bulletin boards, centers, and other materials where you teach. Are they reflective of the diversity that exists in your classroom?
- Check out the photos you use. Do they reflect diversity? Make sure they include a balance of various cultures, males and females, and people with special needs. Be certain to include people in non-traditional roles for example, you might have a photo of a female fire fighter.
- Do your play centers reflect different cultures? In a kitchen play center you want to incorporate eating utensils and foods that reflect the cultures you have in your classroom. For example: chopsticks, tortillas, nan, etc. In your dress-up area, include clothing from other cultures for children to try on.
- Music from different cultures is also a nice addition to the classroom. Have children be exposed to music they may not hear at home from different countries around the world. In a music center, adding musical instruments like rain sticks, chimes, and bongo drums let children express themselves.
- Try labeling everything in two languages or make your classroom reflect the languages of all the children you teach. Labeling things in English and Spanish for Hispanic Heritage Month is a great place to start. You might want to get parent volunteers to assist you in this task which is a great way to engage parents in your classroom.
Do you have any great tips to make your classroom more culturally responsive? If so, we would love to know in the comments below!
Author: Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child
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