Voices in Education

Strategies for Celebrating World Cultures in Your Classroom

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Classrooms are often microcosms of the world where different backgrounds, cultures and religions come together. Teachers have the unique opportunity to help bridge differences and celebrate inclusion with lesson plans that go beyond basic subjects. Take advantage of the prospect to counter discrimination, build trust and share a willingness to learn about and respect different cultures. The classroom is the perfect place to open doors of understanding.

Teachers from across the country have creative ways to integrate world cultures into the classroom. We asked teachers to contribute their ideas by answering this prompt:

“I incorporate world cultures in my classroom by…:”

Talking about diversity year round. Recently, we were preparing dirt to start seeds for Spring!  Children ages 3+ enjoyed mixing dirt from their school garden and dirt from my personal home garden. I spoke a little about biodiversity and how diversity is good for plants and people.  A diverse garden is a stronger garden. We talked about how it is cool that we have different color skin and different stories and places our families come from, just like seeds and foods that come from different places around the world.  From Native American stories and games to world music dance parties, we especially celebrate on the equinoxes and solstices.  -Andrea Zoppo, Little Ones Learning Center, Georgia

We talk about news or events that take place worldwide. We carry out environmental activities related to global issues with the purpose of developing respect, collaboration skills and real knowledge of the world of which they are a part of. I also love sharing photos, videos, music, and cultural elements from around the world so my students become more tolerant beings who accept diversity and appreciate being part of an interconnected planet."  -Glenda Lozada, First Grade Teacher, Puerto Rico

Reading books representing a variety of cultures and perspectives with my students as the texts we choose to  address literacy standards. Our perspective is not global awareness in isolation but global awareness integration.  You can teach main character, setting, plot and everything else with any text. Choose ones that broaden perceptions and expose students to the world.

Focusing on a different continent each month. Each month, we talk about different countries on each continent and how the cultures vary. Class brain breaks could be a game from a different country on the Continent in focus. Snack could be something from the Continent of focus. Chosen read a loud can be from the Continent of focus. Embedded exposure is not in isolation.

Add music during  writing time. Use a variety of music from different cultures during writing time or any time the students are doing quiet work.  Tell the students where the music is from. "Today's motivation music comes from Mexico, located on the Continent of North America.  Gracias Mexico. Ok authors, begin."  -Mallory Mbalia, Elementary Assistant Principal, North Carolina

Using a huge world map that I hung on the back of my desk.  The students used it interactively with QR codes linked to music from each country. I love to invite guest speakers into my class whenever I can. Now, in my first-grade class, I use my smartboard and Google Street View to visit places around the world. I use music in my classroom throughout the day. I choose a different country each week and use classic music that represents a particular country during our math and writing time. I also search YouTube for books read aloud by people who have accents from different countries. I recently discovered a link to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, read aloud by a Middle Eastern woman and Matilda read aloud by a teacher from England.  

PBS LearningMedia is a great resource for finding media from around the world. The Navajo rug lessonis a perfect example. Students explore the blending of math and art in the geometry of Navajo rugs. Students identify squares and triangles in Navajo designs and combine shapes to create your own patterns. This resource is narrated in Navajo or in Spanish. Our curriculum also has a unit of students going to schools around the world. We read both fiction and nonfiction books about what school is like in different countries. Then we write about how one of the students in the book is like them and how they are different. This year, I  was able to show the episode called Let’s Go Luna!: Luna’s Christmas Around the World. The Let’s Go Luna series is a great new classroom resource me.  -Michelle Garmon, First Grade Teacher, New Mexico

Teachers Voices from Across the Country

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