By Anneke Forzani
As communities in the US become more diverse, there is also a growing need for more Culturally Responsive Teaching in our schools. What is Culturally Responsive Teaching, and how does it enhance the educational experience of all students?
What is Culturally Responsive Teaching?
Culturally Responsive Teaching presents learning within the context of culture and uses student-centered instruction to celebrate diverse cultures and languages.
This method of teaching involves incorporating a broad range of diverse cultural learning into all aspects of teaching. Culturally Responsive Teaching recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusion. A welcoming learning environment celebrates diversity and multiculturalism. As a result, students feel safe, valued and respected.
Why is Culturally Responsive Teaching needed?
The most recent count by the US Census shows that immigrant families make up roughly 27 percent of our population. Along with this positive growth in diversity, the US has unfortunately seen a rise in nationalism and empowered anti-immigrant groups. In recent years, incidents of discrimination, racism, and hate crimes have increased.
Clearly, there is an urgent need to mitigate the negative effects that racism can have on the lives of immigrant students. At the same time, we must increase our efforts to raise all children to be better global citizens. Culturally Responsive Teaching aims to instill an appreciation and respect for diverse cultures and languages in all children.
A balanced approach
A Migration Policy Institute report offers numerous strategies to help educators create a more culturally responsive environment. Here are some key strategies discussed in their report.
Incorporate Cultures & Heritage
Incorporate a community’s diverse cultures and linguistic heritage into class instruction by utilizing lesson plans, games, and crafts. Emphasize the value of speaking other languages and maintaining a connection to one’s traditions. These efforts will encourage children to be proud of their heritage, and make them more likely to engage in classroom discussions.
Highlight Diversity Without Judgment
It’s important to take a balanced approach when implementing Culturally Responsive Teaching. Yes, negative assumptions about immigrant families or cultures are clearly detrimental. However, it is equally important to not be “colorblind,” by pretending that everyone is exactly the same. Instead, teachers should familiarize themselves with the immigrant families in the school, and find out what is important to those families culturally. Taking these steps will open the door to celebrating differences and highlighting diversity without judgment.
Welcome Parents Into the Classroom
Parents can play a valuable role in enhancing learning in the classroom and at home. Demonstrate the value of diversity by inviting parents to share a particular aspect of their culture and heritage with the class. Educators can also encourage reading in the home language by using classroom lending libraries.
Work in Groups
Encourage students from diverse cultures, and with different language skills, to work in groups on projects and games. Choose activities that allow immigrant children to use examples from home and their culture to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. By working together, children will experience different ways of thinking and varied approaches to problem solving and communication, while learning more about their diverse peers.
New teacher’s manual: Celebrate diversity with lesson plans and activities
Building Bridges with Bilingual Books and Multicultural Resources: A Practical Manual of Lesson Plans, Literacy Games, and Fun Activities from Around the World to Celebrate Diversity in the Classroom and at Home is a teaching manual that helps educators incorporate Culturally Responsive Teaching into their lessons.
Thispractical manual saves teachers and homeschooling parents significant time by providing numerous ready-to-use lessons and activities that:
- Build culturally responsive classrooms
- Create positive connections with dual language students & families
- Teach children about other languages & cultures
- Support literacy development among English language learners
- Foster a welcoming and inclusive learning environment
Building Bridges is also available in a complete teacher’s set. These sets are available in Spanish and Arabic, as well as a set with assorted languages. Each teacher’s set comes with 10 picture books that pair with the multicultural lesson plans and diversity activities contained in the Building Bridges English-only teacher resource guide.
Anneke Forzani is the President and Founder of Language Lizard, which provides multicultural books, audio resources, and posters in over 50 languages to schools, libraries, and literacy organizations. She actively promotes the use of multicultural resources to develop literacy skills among language learners, build inclusive classrooms, and celebrate cultural diversity. Anneke has presented workshops about using multicultural resources in diverse classrooms at educational conferences, and offers free multicultural lesson plans on the Language Lizard website to support culturally responsive teaching. She is the author of the teacher resource, Building Bridges with Bilingual Books and Multicultural Lesson Plans, and the forthcoming children’s books, Happy After All and With Flying Colors (a multicultural book to teach English idioms). She also enjoys writing for the Language Lizard blog to support parents and teachers who work with language learners and culturally diverse students.