Diversity makes students smarter. Studies show that students who attend diverse schools have improved cognitive skills, like problem solving and critical thinking. Students are better prepared for the workforce and navigating adulthood when they have experience interacting with people who are different. For that reason, it’s important to foster diversity by creating an educational space that acknowledges and encourages the unique contributions of every student. At Gateway High School, a culturally responsive classroom values the cultural background of all students and actively incorporates culture into instruction. This student-focused approach helps students feel motivated and engaged in the classroom. Most importantly, culturally responsive classrooms give students of all backgrounds the same opportunities to learn. Below are 4 strategies we use to to cultivate a culturally responsive classroom that will help provide every student with the tools they need to be successful.
Commit to learning about your students, including their families and their interests. Involve families with take-home letters or phone calls. Use surveys and short form assignments to understand their values and habits in their own words. This will help you understand how to adjust your teaching approach so that you can support each student in the best way. Students will also feel important to the classroom when you show desire to get to know them individually.
Classroom discussions or group work can encourage students to share their own perspective and practice interacting with others. Have students submit their own ideas for class projects to give them the opportunity to showcase their own strengths and learn about the strengths of their classmates. Facilitating open and thoughtful interaction will help all students feel safe and that their contributions are welcome in the classroom. Fostering an inclusive educational space by creating equity in the classroom will keep all students engaged and motivated.
Enhance the meaning of your lesson plans by incorporating real-world examples and issues in the lesson content. Reference the diversity that is reflected not only in the classroom, but also in the community and the world at large. Culturally relevant word problems and vocabulary keeps the students’ attention and helps them build on their own understanding. This will allow for students to be able to connect to the curriculum and engage with the concepts on a deeper level.
Explore and reflect on your own assumptions, attitudes, and biases. Understand how your own cultural lens influences your teaching approach, and if that can be misinterpreted by students of different cultural backgrounds. Be aware of your own behavior patterns, especially as it relates to classroom management. Classroom management strategies have the potential to both encourage and inhibit a culturally responsive environment, and it’s important to focus on the best way you can support each student.
The ability to connect with peers of diverse backgrounds is invaluable. Students in diverse learning environments are empowered to become better thinkers that are capable of interacting with others in a positive and constructive manner. While no single approach will empower every student, these strategies will ensure that all students have a chance to thrive in the classroom.
We’re not just a group of buildings where students come to learn. We’re a family that cares about the success of every individual. We’re located in Aurora and welcome all students — those in our district and beyond. We have an open enrollment process and typically take applications from January through May. Visit us and see for yourself why Gateway is a great place to learn!