Culturally Responsive Teaching And Environments

Teacher with culturally diverse children

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.

Personal Inventory

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 culturallyshutterstock_161741426.jpg 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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Cultural Diversity Tips For Teachers

10986943_895728893796197_7564530064451823380_o.jpgEarly learning environments that are culturally and developmentally appropriate enhances the educational achievement and success of young children and encourages them to become citizens of the world who respect and affirm the many ways individuals are diverse.

Children, who become citizens of the world, are empathetic to others. They seek to understand and value the diversity of our community and world while maintaining their own sense of cultural pride and values. Children who become citizens of the world learn to think and act with an anti-bias lens. This means a child will

  • demonstrate awareness, confidence, family pride and develop positive social identities
  • express comfort and joy with human diversity
  • develop deep, caring connections with others
  • recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts
  • demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions

Creating an environment that helps children become citizens of the world starts with creating culturally responsive educational experiences that promote cultural diversity and inclusion. For example, if a visitor was to walk into your early childhood program would they find materials such as books, crayons, and play items that are non-stereotypical and represent affirming and positive images of diverse cultural groups (i.e. a book about a woman firefighter or an educator in a wheel chair)? Would children be speaking their native language and also listening to music or learning another language as well?

As you think about ways you are helping children to become citizens of the world and creating culturally responsive learning visit our website and explore the Cultural Diversity topic area for additional topics and resources. 

Dr. Tonia Durden, Extension Specialist | The Learning Child

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Cultural Diversity Tips For Parents

iStock_000005787060SmallSpecial Note Six months.jpg

“Dad! My skin matches your skin”, four-year-old Mitchell grabs his father’s hand as they wait in line at the local supermarket. “But look, dad!” Mitchell shouts, “His skin is like chocolate milk!”

If you are the parent of a preschooler, like the dad in the scenario above, you may have experienced your child’s natural observations and curiosity about cultural diversity. Although children’s observations and questions about the ways in which we are diverse maybe embarrassing or uncomfortable for you as a parent, know that children’s curiosity is developmentally appropriate and should be welcomed with open conversations and opportunities to explore together their interest and questions.

Children today live in communities that reflect the diversity of our American society. They interact with other families and children who are from different cultures, speak different languages, or may have a special need. Children also see images of diversity each day in books, toys, and cartoon characters. When you consider how diversity in gender, ability, language, culture, and ethnicity is all around us, it is not unexpected that young children, are very curious and excited about learning from the diverse world and people around them.

For this reason, parents have the opportunity to support children’s natural interests and curiosity by exploring with them their own unique culture as well as those represented in the local community.

Cultural Diversity In The Family

Start first with your own cultural diversity within your family. Create or share a family photo album with your child, discussing your heritage and places around the country or where members of your family are from or have traveled to.

Cultural Diversity In The Home

Complete a visual scan of your home environment. Does your home reflect the diversity of the community and country in which you live? Try a new recipe from another culture, listen to a different musical genre, or expose your child to books, toys, and puzzles that are non-sterotypical and represent affirming and positive images of the cultural group.

For more information on ways you can enhance or spark your child’s curiosity about cultural diversity visit our website and explore the Cultural Diversity topic area.

LISA POPPE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

This article was previously published for Nebraska Extension by Lisa as a PDF. It is re-published here with her permission.

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