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Culture

Recognition of the multicultural nature of today’s societies in the classroom leads to understanding of difference and remembrance of similarities for all participants. Therefore, in order for multicultural education to make an impact on how people perceive and interact with others, all perspectives must become valued. www.minedu.govt.nz

 

Students come to us with different life experiences and views. Their cultural background shapes their learning in a myriad of ways. If our goal is to create classrooms that work in harmony with our students’ cultural make-up, and where their experiences are used to facilitate learning, then we need to consider the diversity that our students bring into the classroom.

Keeping Culture in Mind

  • Recognize that culture is dynamic and flexible rather than unchanging and fixed.
  • Build a climate where all students feel safe when voicing their own opinions.
  • Provide opportunities for students to become more accepting of and knowledgeable about each other through talk and inquiry, e.g.explore the way different cultures are represented in the media, help students appreciate similarities between people of different cultures, etc.
  • Plan for students to work in flexible groups but be aware of cultural and individual differences in the way people interact with each other.
  • Teach students strategies for effective group interaction, e.g. asking for and giving feedback, expressing disagreement, etc.
  • Involve all students in meaningful reading and writing contexts that accommodate multiple perspectives and voices. See Reading Response and Writer’s Workshop.
  • Make culturally relevant examples, literature and other materials an integral part of your classroom.
  • Avoid stereotyping, both positive and negative. Students of all cultures are individuals and there is no one way they are "supposed" to act. 
  • Don’t assume deficits. Find out more about the lives of your students outside of school in order to discover their strengths and talents.
  • Allow for more interaction between students when working on learning activities, e.g. pairs or small groups.
  • Consider same gender groups for literature circles or discussions in cases where girls are culturally more likely to defer to boys.
  • Allow students to add dialogue or narration to stories in their own language.
  • Introduce multicultural literature and other materials that highlight and value the cultures and history of your students. For example:
    • Read books with main characters of different religions, race or cultural backgrounds.
    • Compare fairy tales from different places.
    • Look for books that consider different perspectives e.g. stories for Thanksgiving written from a native perspective.
    • Select texts from popular culture that reflect your students everyday lives, experiences and interests, e.g. graphic novel biographies, rap songs, etc.

Consult an expert :

 

 

Francoise Armand of the University of Montreal researches openness to linguistic diversity at the elementary level. Her research includes working with at-risk population groups, such as new allophone immigrants. Armand believes that we must recognize the fact that allophone students bring with them a wealth of literacy experiences to the classroom.

Lisa Delpit, is one of the foremost American educators on culturally relevant approaches to education.
Her article Education in a Multicultural Society : Our Future’s Greatest Challenges provided a reference point for many of the ideas shared above.

As well, Delpit addresses some of the issues surrounding culture in an interview given to Dana Goldstein of The Nation in March of 2012. You can find it here.

 

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