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6 Ways to Bring Culture Into the Classroom

Oct 2, 2018 by

More than ever, classrooms are a diverse melting pot of students from different cultures, backgrounds, and upbringings. Incorporating culture into the classroom has become a necessity, not only to make all students feel welcomed and comfortable but to also expose students to other ways of life outside of the world they know. This melding of cultures and traditions is a beautiful way to connect students and create an inclusive atmosphere of acceptance. If you’re unsure how to successfully achieve this, read on! This article will offer suggestions on incorporating different cultures into the classroom in fun and interactive ways.

1. Send Home a Survey

The first step to incorporating different cultures and traditions into the classroom is to identify what holidays, beliefs, and ethnic backgrounds are present in the family’s of your students. A great way to discover this information is to create a “Getting to Know You” questionnaire that is sent home with the children at the beginning of the school year. On this survey, ask parents to detail what holidays they celebrate and which they don’t, if a second language is used at home, what traditions are their favorite, and if parents would be willing to make an appearance in the classroom as a special guest (more on this later). This doesn’t mean that you can’t explore cultures and traditions outside of those represented in your classroom, but acknowledging your own student’s beliefs is the perfect place to start.

2. Get Cooking

Food is the main staple in many cultures and traditions. Some of the more basic and easy to identify foods connected to certain cultures include rice as a main staple in Asian cuisine, pasta and bread for Italians, and more spicy recipes for those of Mexican descent. What better way to help students understand the traditions of different countries and cultures than to taste some of their foods? And what makes this lesson even more beneficial is that your students can help cook and create their own dishes! Find recipes that are easy to create in the classroom. If you have access to an oven or stove, you can bake breads, cookies, and desserts. If possible, start your day with a cooking lesson so that the students can enjoy their creation before they go home at the end of the day. Try making French crepes filled with fruit, butter, and sweet treats! Get some pizza dough from your local pizzeria and create your own personal pizzas. You can even have children try to use chopsticks when eating their lunch. Not only are they being exposed to another culture’s utensils but this is a great fine motor skill exercise.

3. Invite a Special Guest

There’s no better way to teach students about something new or foreign than by using first-hand experiences and encounters. Invite a special guest into the classroom who is an expert in the culture you are exploring. This may be one of your student’s parents or another local community member or family member. Have the guest visit and bring along any displays, materials, or stories that they wish to share. If the culture you’re learning about is connected to a particular way of dressing, see if your guest can wear the traditional clothing from that region. Any opportunity to give students a first-hand look inside a different world is an experience they will surely remember.

4. Speak the Language

Many schools and institutions incorporate a second language into the classroom. Most often it’s Spanish or French, while some schools teach different forms of Chinese or Mandarin as well. Whether this is taught in the classroom or as an extracurricular activity or special, try incorporating these words and phrases into your daily routine. As children are completing activities and using their manners, try saying “please” and “thank you” in different ways. When discussing the calendar or the days of the week, count in a different language. Another great way to reinforce foreign languages is to label different items in the room using these words. For example, label the door, chairs, books, wall, and table using both English and another language. Have students name the items using both languages as well. Songs are another great way to explore the language and phrases used in different cultures. Plus, singing is a fun activity that actually helps a child’s memorization, while teaching patterns and rhythm. If you want to know more about the slang phrases certain languages use, click for more suggestions here.

5. Celebrate

Who doesn’t love a good party? Most traditional classrooms celebrate the widely recognized holidays with parties and treats. These often fall at the end of the calendar year. But what about celebrating the holidays of other countries and cultures? The Chinese New Year falls on February 5th. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on May 5th. And the Diwali celebration changes based on the phase of the moon. Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights. Learning about this colorful and fascinating festivity will be great fun for students. It will also expand their minds and help them acknowledge those holidays that are celebrated around the world.

6. Research and Read

The more you read, the more you know. Whether you hit the library or turn to the internet for your information, have students research the topic of your choosing. Maybe it’s a particular country, their history, architecture, traditions, languages, people, foods, or holidays. There are endless ways to learn about places and people around the world. Challenge your class to find a fact about the topic that no one else has shared or discovered. For young learners, read stories about the culture. Both nonfiction and fiction stories can help drive home concepts and ideas that might be too abstract for young students to grasp. Books with real photos and illustrations will also help students envision what’s being discussed.

When done right, you can transport students around the world without ever leaving your classroom. Using food, experts, music, books, and hands-on activities, you can expose students to the culture, people, and language of countless countries and regions. By doing so, you are fostering acceptance and understanding of things that are foreign or different – lessons that will carry young learners through life.

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