No single teaching approach will engage each student at once, but building a strategy to consistently deliverculturally-responsive teachinglessons will help you appeal to diverse learners with distinct backgrounds.
Rooted indifferentiated instruction principles, culturally-responsive pedagogy aims to link content — from delivery to assessment — with students’ ancestral and contemporary cultures.
To augment their understanding and responsiveness, this involves:
- Empowering students to share thoughts
- Integrating diverse work and study practices
- Understanding student learning needs and styles
- Emulating culturally-significant instruction styles, such asoral storytelling
To help you plan and deliver lessons that resonate with adiverse classroom, we’ll explain what culturally responsive teaching is and how it is implemented.
We also put together 15 culturally-responsive teaching strategies and examples that will resonate with diverse students and foster an inclusive classroom environment.
These strategies are available as a downloadable list below for quick reference so you can reference them during classroom instruction.
Let’s start with some simple explanation of what culturally responsive teaching actually means.
What is culturally responsive teaching?
Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is a pedagogy that acknowledges and embraces students’ cultures, languages and experiences - and relates them to classroom learning.
Culturally responsive teachers are actively aware of the various cultural backgrounds present in their classrooms, and act as a facilitator of lessons that can resonate with each.
It is not an easy task - creating this learning environment requires not only a high level of cultural competence, but also an intentional effort to learn about students’ backgrounds and cultures.
It can be majorly beneficial to closing achievement gaps between students of different backgrounds and addressing inequities in the classroom. You can also create stronger partnerships with your students by fostering a learning environment where they are represented clearly.
Conditions for creating a culturally-responsive classroom
Reflected in the 15 strategies and examples in the next section, there are four conditions any teacher must fulfill to establish a culturally-responsive classroom, according to an authoritative academic book about the subject calledDiversity and Motivation.
As you prepare and deliver any lesson, strive to:
This starts by highlighting how the topic you’re teaching may relate or apply to students. For example, many societies and cultures have fireworks festivals.
While such a festival runs, you could teach how to calculate speed using fireworks in sample questions. Establishing inclusion also involves regularly grouping students with different classmates, encouraging discussion to solve problems. In doing so, they can share unique perspectives and diverse background knowledge.
Develop positive attitudes
This further focuses on relating content to students. A popular method is allowing them to choose between activities and assessments that let them showcase their values, strengths and experiences.
For example, while providing clear learning goals and evaluation criteria, encourage students to submit their own project ideas.
You can bolster lesson content by drawing connections with real-world issues, asking students to use opinions and existing knowledge to address them.
For example, when teaching about government, you could contextualize concepts through municipal political issues. When appropriate, use student jargon to clarify these issues or improve communication in general.
Make the assessment process less intimidating by offering different ways to demonstrate skills and understanding. For example, avoid handing out quizzes that are purely multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank.
Among other question types, mix in problems that involve writing short- and long-form answers. After, give students time to assess their own progress and performance, helping themfocus on growth.
Meeting these four conditions largely relies on using specific approaches, such as the 15 explored below.
15 Culturally-responsive teaching strategies and examples
1. Learn about your students
At the start of the year or semester, demonstrating a desire toadapt your teaching style to studentscan help them feel valued. Because open communication should uncover their learning needs and preferences, try:
- Distributing questionnaires, asking about interests
- Handing out surveys, gathering information about learning styles
- Holding open discussions, allowing students to talk about positive experiences from past classes
Once you’ve gathered enough information, tell the class you’ll focus on adjusting your teaching approach to help them learn as best as they can. Students should quickly warm up to you.
2. Interview students
You’ll build a stronger understanding of students’ values and habits — as well as strengths and weaknesses — by individually asking them questions. While running a large-group exercise, pull each student aside for a few minutes. Ask about:
- Their favourite lessons and activities
- Which kinds of exercises help them remember lessons and improve skills
Note what each student says to identify themes and different preferences. Then, when possible, relate content to their interests and deliver lessons that appeal to shared strengths.
3. Integrate relevant word problems
Many students will take a greater interest in math if you useword problemsto contextualize equations. Working with 41 7th grade students throughout an academic year, astudy published by the Canadian Center of Science and Educationused such contextual learning strategies toincrease test scores by more than 44%.Create culturally-relevant word problems by:
- Including student names to make subject matter relatable
- Linking to student interests, such as by measuring the shot distance of a famous soccer player
- Referencing diverse cultures, such as by determining the diameter of a specific ethnic food platter
Using these word problem tips will not only help you establish a culturally-responsive classroom, but engage students more than by using abstract questions.
4. Present new concepts by using student vocabulary
Delivering relatable content goes beyond math class. In any subject, you can grab and keep student attention by using their vocabulary to build understanding before moving to academic diction. Let’s say many of your students are sports fans with family from soccer-crazed nations. Use a soccer example to demonstrate metaphors in language arts class:
Andrea Pirlo is an eagle on the pitch, armed with vision sharp enough to detect the smallest openings and recognize opportunities his opposition can’t.
This kind of culturally-responsive language should open the door to presenting challenging skills and concepts, engaging students while doing so.
5. Bring in guest speakers
Guest speakers can bring context and passion to history, geography and social studies lessons, capturing student interest.
A war veteran could deliver a vivid narrative of his or her experiences. A mountaineer could give a striking recount of scalingLhotse. Both could answer questions many teachers would struggle with, while engaging students much more effectively than a slideshow.
Plus, according to astudy by the Economics of Education Review,students are often encouraged to work harder when they share a background with an educator.So, diverse guest speakers may inherently engage and motivate students who share a culture with them.
6. Deliver different forms of content through learning stations
Whether due to culture, socialization, preference or learning needs, students respond differently to different types of content. You can provide a range of material to each student by setting up learning stations. Each station should use a unique method of teaching a skill or concept related to your lesson.
For example, students can rotate between stations that involve:
- Playing a game
- Creating artwork
- Watching a video
- Reading an article
- Completing puzzles
- Listening to you teach
After going through each station, you can help students further process the material by holding a class discussion or assigning questions to answer.
7. Gamify lessons
Want another way to consistently diversify content and its delivery, appealing to different learning styles?Gamify some lesson elements. Easy-to-implement practices include:
- Offering rewards, such as badges, for completing specific tasks or achieving certain scores
- Setting a clearlearning goalfor the lesson, charting progress throughout the class to motivate students
- Creating an "instruction manual" for a project, which contains the rubric and best practices for earning a high grade
Plus, gamifying your lessons is a way of making connections with contemporary gaming culture — helping students within this culture process and demonstrate understanding of content.
8. Call on each student
Call-and-response — the practice of asking students frequent questions while giving lessons — usually keeps them engaged, but also enables them to share thoughts and opinions. Involve everyone by:
- Encouraging the sharing of personal perspectives, when a question allows for it
- Calling on students without their hands up, acclimatizing them to speaking amongst peers
- Asking a question after each new point or thought, having a student teach back the concept you just spoke about
By lesson’s end, this call-and-response approach should allow each student to speak at least once.
9. Use media that positively depict a range of cultures
Children process content more effectively when their cultures and languages have places in the curriculum, according to anoft-cited academic book about teaching in multiracial schools.
Using media, such as books and movies, that positively depict a range of cultures and are relevant to your syllabus can partially address this need. Finding options through databases such asIMDBorAmerican Literatureisn’t a tough task.
As a bonus, using different media should boost engagement levels.
10. Offer different types of free study time
Free study time typically appeals to students who prefer solo learning, but many cultures prioritize learning in group settings. You can meet both preferences by dividing your class into clearly-sectioned team and individual activities, such as the following:
- Provide audiobooks, which play material relevant to your lessons
- Create a station for group games that teach curriculum-aligned skills
- Keep a dedicated quiet space for students to take notes and complete work
- Allow some students to work in groups while taking notes and completing work, away from the dedicated quiet space
Presented with these options, free study time should appeal to a wider range of learners.
11. Encourage students to propose ideas for projects
By asking students to submit ideas for their own projects, the benefits of choice extend beyond free study time. Specifically, they should build confidence by showcasing their strengths and existing background knowledge.
So, encourage them to pitch ideas for taking a project from concept to completion. A student must show how the product will meet academic standards in his or her pitch. If the idea falls short, give the student ideas to refine it. If the student can’t refine the idea, he or she can choose a project from a list of options you provide.
Not only will you be pleasantly surprised by some pitches, butyou may generate ideas for future culturally-responsive exercises and assessments.
12. Experiment with peer teaching
There’ll almost always be some student vocabulary and communal practices you never pick up on. But you can fill these gaps throughpeer teaching. Relatively-simple exercises include:
- Jigsaw activities
- Reading buddy sessions
- Usingeducational softwarein pairs
Students who read and discuss story passages with peers recall more content and score higher on assessments, according anOhio University pilot study. And, according to ascience education study, students who work in pairs and groups typically perform better on tests that involve reasoning and critical thinking.
Such results are largely achieved due to students discussing and rationalizing concepts in their own words, many of which belong to contemporary cultural lexicon and are not academic.
13. Establish cooperative base groups
Cooperative base groups — which come fromcollaborative learningpedagogy — allow students to regularly learn and process content together.
Your roleconsists of creating groups of three or four, scheduling meeting times and detailing agendas for them. Filling knowledge gaps and encouraging communication is also involved.Students’ rolesfocus on supporting each other while striving to meet learning goals over the year.
While working in base groups, students can:
- Review lessons
- Take on guided research
- Address each other’s questions
- Complete in-class assessments
The connection to culturally-responsive teaching is the same as peer learning: cooperative base groups encourage students to make sense of concepts you’ve taught by using their own words and thoughts.
14. Run problem-based learning scenarios
The flexibility ofproblem-based learninglends itself to culturally-responsive teaching. This is because, when presenting a relatable real-world problem for your students to solve,two cultural connections will typically occur.
- First, there will likely be a cultural link in the question, whether it’s explicit or students make it themselves.
- Second, because they can apply different approaches toward problem-solving, they may use unique cultural perspectives.
But if you want to create a scenario with explicit cultural ties, consider:
- Encouraging students to take historical, sociological and anthropological viewpoints
- Framing the problem using ethnic events — for instance, solving logistical challenges of running a heritage festival — in the area
Regardless, the student-centred nature of problem-based learning will allow your class to use culturally-relevant examples and information when appropriate.
15. Involve parents by using take-home letters
Involving parents in their child’s learning is a core part of almost any culturally-responsive teaching approach -- they act as the main educators in many societies and can provide cultural context. When starting a new unit or trying out an education tool for the first time, consider sending a letter home to parents.
For reference,here’s the letter Prodigy provides to its teachers.This opens the door to parent participation. While not all parents will be subject matter experts, most should be able to provide guidance.
Downloadable list of culturally-responsive teaching strategies and examples
Click here to download and print a simplified list of the 15 culturally-responsive teaching strategies and examples to keep at your desk.
Interested in other teaching strategies to deploy in your classroom?
Culturally-responsive teaching strategies overlap in important ways with many other pedagogical approaches. Consider researching other teaching and instructional strategies to help bolster your approach, or combine different elements of each strategy!
- Active learning strategiesempower, engage, and stimulate your students as theyput them at the center of the learning process.
- Experientiallearningactivities, in contrast to traditional learning activities,aimto develop knowledge and skills through direct, firsthand experience.
- Project-based learninginvolves an open-ended approach that sees students workalone or collectively to work on engaging, intricate curriculum-related questions or challenges..
- Inquiry-based learningis broken down into four categories,all of whichemphasize student questions, ideas and analyses.
- Adaptivelearningfocuses on changing — or "adapting" — content for each student on an individual basis, especially with the help of technology.
- Social emotional learning activitieshelp students build social skills, establish healthy relationships and manage their emotions.
Final thoughts about culturally-relevant pedagogy
Delivering culturally-responsive lessons can not only help you engage students, but allow them to make personal connections with content.
Student populations across your school district are comprised of different races, backgrounds, cultural identities and socioeconomic statuses - it’s important that teaching practices reflect and embrace these differences.
Greater student investment should lead to other benefits, such as more rigor and motivation. A happier, focused classroom is the ideal outcome.
Already have an Prodigy account? Log in now!
Prodigy is a digital game-based learning platform that delivers a range of culturally-relevant math content through engaging word and scenario-based problems. Standards-aligned, it’s used by millions of teachers and students across the world.
For example, we might invite families or community members representing the different faiths found in students' communities into school to share their values. Students' family members and community guests can provide firsthand knowledge of the content and add a level of relevance to learning.What are some culturally responsive teaching strategies? ›
- Learn about your students. ...
- Interview students. ...
- Integrate relevant word problems. ...
- Present new concepts by using student vocabulary. ...
- Bring in guest speakers. ...
- Deliver different forms of content through learning stations. ...
- Gamify lessons. ...
- Call on each student.
For example, we might invite families or community members representing the different faiths found in students' communities into school to share their values. Students' family members and community guests can provide firsthand knowledge of the content and add a level of relevance to learning.What is culturally relevant teaching strategies & definition? ›
Culturally relevant teaching or responsive teaching is a pedagogy grounded in teachers' practice of cultural competence, or skill at teaching in a cross-cultural or multicultural setting. Teachers using this method encourage each student to relate course content to their cultural context.What are the 4 characteristics of culturally responsive teaching? ›
These four practices are: (1) that teachers are empathetic and caring; (2) that they are reflective about their beliefs about people from other cultures; (3) that they are reflective about their own cultural frames of reference; and (4) that they are knowledgeable about other cultures.What are 4 strategies that support cultural competence? ›
- Learn about yourself. Get started by exploring your own historical roots, beliefs and values, says Robert C. ...
- Learn about different cultures. ...
- Interact with diverse groups. ...
- Attend diversity-focused conferences. ...
- Lobby your department.
- Provide interpreter services.
- Recruit and retain minority staff.
- Provide training to increase cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills.
- Coordinate with traditional healers.
- Use community health workers.
- Incorporate culture-specific attitudes and values into health promotion tools.
In the classroom, this involves inclusivity, curiosity, recognition, and dignity. Cultural responsiveness is the ability to learn from and relate respectfully with people of one's own culture as well as those from other cultures.What are the three components of culturally responsive teaching? ›
Gloria Ladson-Billings proposed three main components of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: (a) a focus on student learning and academic success, (b) developing students' cultural competence to assist students in developing positive ethnic and social identities, and (c) supporting students' critical consciousness or their ...What are the 8 elements of culturally responsive teaching? ›
- Reflect on one's cultural lens. ...
- Recognize and redress bias in the system. ...
- Draw on students' culture to shape curriculum and instruction. ...
- Bring real-world issues into the classroom. ...
- Model high expectations for all students. ...
- Promote respect for student differences.
- Activate students' prior knowledge. ...
- Make learning contextual. ...
- Consider your classroom setup. ...
- Form relationships. ...
- Discuss social and political issues. ...
- Tap into students' cultural capital. ...
- Incorporate popular culture.
The six themes of CRE from Stembridge include engagement, cultural identity, relationships, vulnerability, assets, and rigor. These six themes overlap but are listed separately to elucidate the connections with classroom assessment.Is culturally responsive teaching a strategy? ›
Culturally responsive teaching isn't just for those students who don't come from white, middle-class, English-speaking families—it's an important teaching strategy for everyone. When done the right way, it can be transformative.”What is at the core of culturally responsive teaching? ›
Culturally responsive teaching recognizes the importance of including students' lives, cultures, and experiences in all aspects of the learning environment, curriculum, and instruction in order to support rigorous learning and keep students engaged and enrich the learning experience.What is a culturally responsive teacher behavior? ›
Culturally responsive teaching is: using students' cultural experiences in daily instruction. embracing native language and students' families as assets. creating a classroom environment that represents and respects all students.What are 3 strategies to adapt interventions to culturally diverse groups? ›
The cultural adaptation process consists of three main steps: 1) assessing the community's cultural beliefs; 2) examining the fit between the community's beliefs and those underlying the EBI; and 3) determining the modifications to make in the intervention protocol and manual.What strategies can be used to develop cultural competence? ›
- Learn About Your Culture and Biases. Many of the biases we hold are unconscious, meaning we're not aware we have them. ...
- Actively Listen. Active listening is a useful tool for practicing cultural competency. ...
- Show Interest Through Participation. ...
- Seek Out Cultural Knowledge.
Have the capacity to (1) value diversity, (2) conduct self-assessment, (3) manage the dynamics of difference, (4) acquire and institutionalize cultural knowledge, and (5) adapt to diversity and the cultural contexts of communities they serve.What are the 4 C's of cultural assessment? ›
These four values or cultural elements are termed as 4Cs of culture, namely Competence, Commitment, Contribution, and Character.What are three 3 work practices that can be considered to be culturally appropriate? ›
Workplace practices that are culturally appropriate and demonstrate inclusiveness include celebrating different cultural holidays, sharing food from other cultures and appreciating art and literature from around the world.
Culturally responsive care includes creating a culturally safe environment, using cultural negotiation, and considering the impact of culture on patients' time orientation, space orientation, eye contact, and food choices.How do you promote cultural sensitivity in the classroom? ›
- Get to Know Your Students. ...
- Maintain Consistent Communication. ...
- Acknowledge and Respect Every Student. ...
- Practice Cultural Sensitivity. ...
- Incorporate Diversity in the Lesson Plan. ...
- Give Students Freedom and Flexibility.
Ladson-Billings (1995) notes that a key criterion for culturally relevant teaching is nurturing and supporting competence in both home and school cultures. Teachers should use the students' home cultural experiences as a foundation upon which to develop knowledge and skills.What is the role of the teacher in a culturally responsive teaching? ›
In culturally responsive classrooms, teachers provide opportunities for choice in classroom activities, encourage child-directed learning, and assist students as they engage in these activities.What are the barriers to culturally responsive teaching? ›
Bias, fear, lack of cultural awareness, the absence of professional strategies and adequate support structures impede the ability of some educators to develop culturally responsive learning environments.What are the four 4 domains of the responsive classroom? ›
This approach to teaching and discipline creates the conditions for social, emotional, and academic learning using practical strategies in four domains: positive community, effective management, engaging academics, and developmentally responsive teaching.What are the 7 guiding principles of a responsive classroom? ›
In order to be successful in and out of school, students need to learn a set of social and emotional competencies—cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control—and a set of academic competencies—academic mindset, perseverance, learning strategies, and academic behaviors.What does culturally responsive instruction look like? ›
Culturally responsive teaching is “a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students' unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student's cultural place in the world.”What is a culturally responsive lesson plan? ›
Matthew Lynch (2011) culturally responsive instruction is, “a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students' unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student's cultural place in the world.” There are several components to a ...How can teachers be more culturally responsive in the classroom? ›
using students' cultural experiences in daily instruction. embracing native language and students' families as assets. creating a classroom environment that represents and respects all students. communicating clear high expectations for everyone.
Culturally responsive pedagogy is often divided into three functional dimensions: the institutional, focusing on the cultural factors that impact the organizational structures of schools; the personal, focusing on awareness of personal biases of the instructor; and the instructional, which refers to the instructional ...What are culturally responsive activities? ›
What is culturally responsive teaching? Culturally responsive teaching is “a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students' unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student's cultural place in the world.”What are different strategies for teaching diverse classroom? ›
- Get to Know Your Students. ...
- Maintain Consistent Communication. ...
- Acknowledge and Respect Every Student. ...
- Practice Cultural Sensitivity. ...
- Incorporate Diversity in the Lesson Plan. ...
- Give Students Freedom and Flexibility.
Gloria Ladson-Billings proposed three main components of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: (a) a focus on student learning and academic success, (b) developing students' cultural competence to assist students in developing positive ethnic and social identities, and (c) supporting students' critical consciousness or their ...What are the 3 levels of culture culturally responsive teaching? ›
In her book Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students, Zaretta Hammond defines culture on three levels: surface culture, shallow culture, and deep culture.