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Culturally Responsive Practices

What is meant by "Culturally Responsive Practices?"

Culture is defined as the system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and artifacts with which the members of society use to understand their world and one another (The National Center for Culturally Responsive Education Systems.

Dimensions of Culture include:riley elementary students

  • Language
  • Space and proximity
  • Time
  • Gender roles
  •  Family roles
  • Taboos
  • Family ties
  • Grooming & presence
  • Life cycles
  • Status of age
  • Autonomy
  • Education

Cultural Responsivity refers to the ability to learn from and relate respectfully to people from your own and other cultures.

How do you become Culturally Responsive?

  • Develop cultural self-awareness
  • Appreciate the value of diverse views
  • Avoid imposing your own values on others
  • Examine your own teaching for cultural bias
  • Build on students' cultural strengths
  • Discover your students' primary cultural roles; incorporate culture into your teaching
  • Learn what you can about various cultures

Some Guidelines to help incorporate all cultures in your classroom:

  • Be aware that your attitudes and beliefs are influenced by your own culture.
  • Make it clear to students that all students in your class are expected and able to succeed.
  • Continually expose your students (and yourself) to a wide variety of cultures.
  •  Engage in icebreakers, team-building, and other structured activities as a class so everyone can learn about and appreciate others in class.
  • Create a culture bulletin board with common phrases in other languages, photos, and fun facts from around the world. (encourage students to bring these in from their own backgrounds)
  • Pay attention to your interactions to families and communities who come from a different cultural background from your own.
  • Have activities within the class that will increase the students' self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Provide more positive feedback to all students.
  • Continually differentiate your instruction and be sensitive to a variety of learning styles.

 Culturally Responsive Classroom Management

  • Definitions and expectations of appropriate behavior are culturally influenced, and conflicts are likely to occur when teachers and students come from different cultural backgrounds.
  • Understand that problems arise when teachers do not understand and include students' cultural values in curriculum and instruction.
  • Components of Culturally Responsive Classroom Management (Curran: "Toward a Conception"):
    1. Recognition of One's Own Ethnocentrism and Biases: Teachers must understand their own motives, beliefs, biases, values, and assumptions about human behavior.
    2. Knowledge of Students' Cultural Backgrounds: Teachers must develop skills for cross-cultural interactions.
    3. Awareness of the Broader Social, Economic, and Political Contexts: Teachers must be aware of how individual prejudices based on norms of the dominant groups become institutionalized. Schools can privilege some groups while marginalizing others.
    4. Ability and Willingness to Use Culturally Appropriate Management Strategies: Teachers must understand how their classroom management practices promote or obstruct equal access to learning. We must be alert to possible mismatches between conventional management strategies and students' cultural backgrounds. (Source: Curran, M. Tomlinson-Clarke, S. Weinstein, C. "Toward a Conception of Culturally Responsive Classroom Management." Rutgers University. Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 55, No. 1, January/February 2004.)
  • Teachers should work to bridge the gap between home and school and should validate students' cultures in the classroom. This is an ongoing process in which teachers incorporate different aspects of different cultures in each lesson and actively validate students' backgrounds each day.
  • Restorative practices emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime. The focus is on the relationship between the offender(s), the victim(s), and members of the community. For restorative practices to be effective, we must first acknowledge the effects of the offender(s)'s action and then take action to transform the emotions surrounding the event. (

Questions to Ask:

  • What is the nature of my school’s diversity?  Do we take into consideration the cultural backgrounds of all our students when planning policies and practices?
  • Who are the students for whom English is not their first language?  Do we account for that?
  • Do we have a community of respect where we learn to accept and appreciate one another’s variances?  Do we celebrate one another’s victories and support one another’s efforts?
  • Do we know our students well enough to build on their individual strengths?  What can I do to support the needs of students and staff to build that respectful community?
  • Have we run the MPS "PBIS School Culturally Responsive Lens" report in Data Warehouse

Teacher questions to ask:

  • Do I know the cultural background of each of my students?
  • Do I integrate literature and resources from their cultures into my lessons?
  • Do I consistently begin my lessons with what students already know from home, community, and school?
  • Do I understand the differences between academic language and my students’ social language, and do I find ways to bridge the two?

Classroom-level Ideas:

  • Star Of Day/Week - Parents help children fill out a questionnaire about their life, likes and dislikes.  They may also send pictures of the child/family for the Star of the Week bulletin board.  When it’s Star of the Week time in class, children can talk about themselves, their family and customs of their family.
  • Family Treasure Box - Each child has the opportunity to bring a shoebox filled with examples of favorite things, family artifacts and family celebrations.
  • Family Of Week - Invite any/all family members to come and share a family album or a favorite book with the class. This activity highlights the customs and traditions of the family that enhances extended conversations. The family is encouraged to volunteer in the room as much as they can that week.
  • In Their Own Words - Document the stories that children come up with throughout the day. Have clipboards available in all areas and model how the children can record through drawing or writing what they do. Take time to write down what the children say or have them draw/write about their play activities. Their stories can be reflective of what is going on both in and outside of school.



Director of the Department of Research, Assessment, and Data:

Dr. Melanie Stewart
Phone: 414-475-8751


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