Cultural Relevancy for Diverse Learners (GED 500/400, Section 04)

diverseGrowing up, do you remember being introduced to other cultures as part of your schooling in any class besides social studies? Do you remember being asked to talk about your family and cultural customs as part of a classroom lesson? Did you have homework assignments that required you to speak to people in your family or community to learn more about your personal history so you could share that information with your class (again, in any class except social studies)?

Cultural inclusion or inclusion of the diverse learner is an important approach to reaching your students in a context that they can understand and in a way that interests them. Read this article on Strategies for Working with the Diverse Learner from Montgomery County Schools in Maryland, watch this video on culturally diverse learners, and contribute the following to the discussion: For those of you who have you had an experience where your culture was included in a classroom lesson: Did your teacher honor your culture and accurately represent you or were you embarrassed or uninspired by how the lesson was delivered? What can you offer as a learning opportunity to your teacher-classmates from that experience? If the experience was miserable for you, what could have changed it? How would approach the same or similar topic as a teacher? If the experience was great, what made it wonderful?

Make sure to include your first name and last initial to get credit for this post in GED 500.
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29 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jake Ryan Magnant on October 30, 2009 at 5:37 am

    During my time at the elementary level I had several teachers embrace the cultural diversity that field the classroom on a daily basis. Our school eventually created Cultural Diversity Day. Throughout the year administration would bring men and women from a variety of cultures and areas to discuss their experience with the student body. This gave us an insight of cultures foreign to our own.
    Special lessons were created that depicted the cultures. Parents would bring in food from that area to allow the students the opportunity to experience the food of the culture. The teachers also provided enhanced text that included visuals. These visuals took us on a virtual field trip of the part of the world we were learning about. This experience allowed me to interact with my fellow classmates about subjects other then school.
    As a teacher I would hope the school has similar events. If not I would like to start one to ensure students are exposed to the wonderful cultures that may not be there own. This experience can provide them an insight that will make an impression on them. Having administrative and parental support will further the growth of this experience. By presenting cultural diversity in a way that benefits students and staff will lead to less tension among the student population. It will also bring a sense of home to the lesson plan for the students of the culture being taught for that day.

    Jake M.

    Reply

    • Posted by William M. on November 5, 2009 at 7:29 pm

      My first elementary school was very involved in diversity, even in the early 1980s. My kindergarten teacher was an exchange teacher from England, Ms. Downing who taught us the difference between Banana and Bah-nah-nah. I also remember that when I was in kindergarten and first grade the biggest hit of all time was the celebrity record “WE ARE THE WORLD.” This record was HUGE!!!! Bigger than anything you could imagine today, bigger than American Idol or anything. I remember seeing Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Willie Nelson and Bruce Springsteen on the cover – it was SOOOO COOL!
      But anyway, I have memories of us, maybe once a week, standing in a circle and holding hands while singing along to the We Are The World record.
      “We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving . . . there’s a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives . . . its true we make a better day, just me and you!!!!”
      Kinda cheesy I guess, but we must have looked so cute to all the teachers who were having us do it. This was my first introduction to diversity. (parachute pants and breakdancing were also VERY COOL at that time FYI) so as a young kid i can remember being exposed to hip hop culture that was emerging then. I traded an LL cool J tape for two tennis balls only to have the tape confiscated by my parents once they picked me up from school (this was like 3rd grade). They picked me up and I was singing: “you think you can out run me, boy i bet, i haven’t met a motherf****** who could do that yet, i’m bad, i’m bad, i’m bad . . ..” very upsetting for my parents i’m sure.
      Also that school had something called Multicultural Day once a year. Parents from different ethnicities would all arange booths with food and other cultural representations, then the students of the school would all go around to the different booths checking stuff out, kinda like a street fair. I remember making flags out of paper plates and trying Indian food for the first time, very cool.
      Anyway, by the time I had got to fourth grade I moved to a school on the other side of the tracks which was less diverse, but I will always remember those first experiences in a multicultural school in southern California in the early 1980s!
      Since I would like to be a social sciences teacher, I don’t think that I will have much trouble incorporating culture and diversity in to my classroom. The technology for diverse learners rubric will be a useful tool for me. thanks

      Reply

  2. Posted by Brett Jensen on October 30, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    As a student, I only had one activity that I can recall where I talked about my cultural history outside of social studies. In my English class, the project was to research and share about my family history and culture. Personally, I felt pretty neutral to the whole experience within the classroom. I didn’t get embarrassed, nor did I think the project was amazing. However, I did notice something about a few of the students. For a few students, as they shared about their culture you could see them get excited and come out of their shell. They were very excited they had an opportunity to teach people about their culture.

    I think the project is a great idea to be built upon and implemented within the classroom. I think cultural diversity is a growing change in classrooms and this is great way to embrace it. Presentations like this help break down stereotypes and educate students in the classroom. As a prospective math teacher, I do not see a lot of direct applications of a project, but instead increasing awareness and acceptance of all cultures.

    Brett J.
    GED 500

    Reply

  3. Posted by Mark K. on October 31, 2009 at 4:07 am

    Growing up I actually learned about many cultures other than social studies, but then this was also in elementary school. We all brought information about our families culture, and the teacher wrote a list and tried to teach all of us numbers from each of our cultures. Other than that my classes up to high school never covered different cultures. Though in a few classes in my undergraduate studies we have practiced activities to help students become more understanding with each other’s diversity.

    The teacher that did this activity in elementary school did honor my culture and accurately represented it with good information. I think introducing cultural diversity will depend on the class. I have seen classes that have full mutual respect for one another, and others who seem to hate each other’s culture. In my experience it all depends on the dynamics of the class, and with proper introduction to cultural diversity the class can really collaborate and work with one another. I have seen that with interactive activities students can learn to work with one another and begin to understand that differences of cultures do not change whom a person is. After this has been done students seemed to enjoy all activities with one another and learned to respect one another’s culture.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Bryce E. on October 31, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Looking back during my elementary and high school days, I can’t recall that any teacher asked me about my own cultural. The only time when I was really introduced into learning about different cultures extensively was in college. However there was one project in sixth grade that my teacher picked a country and made us learn about their culture and made us make a dish to bring to class as a potluck. Unfortunately that would be the closest thing in my life to learning about other cultures in my K-12 days. I was glad that I finally got the experience here at cal poly, because I feel that it is important to learn about other cultures, but again I’m a social science major.
    I would definitely do a similar project to the one I did in sixth grade. It was fun going around the room and reading about the other countries and then sampling a native dish. As a teacher, I do plan on teaching about different cultures because I think it’s important and it also allows the students to learn the history of a certain group. Also, when we make the assignments a little bit personal, it makes the learning process to be interesting. This also allows the students to be more understanding of other cultures, especially since we live California as we see an abundance of diversity.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Kristopher Asuncion on November 1, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Looking back at my elementary school education, I am not sure the teachers made an effort to introduce other cultures in classes other than social studies. Math, science, art, music, and physical education were more about learning concepts than sharing our cultural experiences within the respective subjects. However, I believe that there were probably activities in language arts that allowed students to share their own cultural perspectives. However, for the most part, American culture was the dominant culture at my elementary school. Teachers taught with American views and values. I did not have the impression that the teachers were interested in who I was in terms of my culture. This could deal with me being overlooked many times, because I was one of the top students at my elementary school and required less attention from the teachers. Still, I believe that Asian culture, among others, were not brought to light as much as they could have been. If Asian culture was highlighted, the teachers did not highlight the diversity within Asian culture. As we know, Asians are not just “Chinese”; Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Indian cultures were hardly distinguished or discussed. It was not until being around these cultures in a more diverse high school that I was fully aware about the differences among the various Asian cultures.

    In elementary school, I could only think of one distinct activity that allowed students to share their family history. The activity was to create a family tree. This activity was a great learning experience for me. My teacher was amazed when I was described my family as having 25 uncles and 25 aunties. I stated this because it is a Filipino custom for kids to address family friends as “uncle” and “auntie.” At the time, I was not aware that most of these people I have met were not blood related. I just understood that these people were part of my big family. Filipino culture has a different idea of family, and I’m not sure my teacher understood this or even tried to understand this. It was a great experience for me, but it could have been a good learning experience for her as well. From what I remembered, I was somewhat confused and a little embarrassed because everyone else had smaller families. Understanding that cultures can have a different perception of certain concepts could be a great learning experience for teachers and classmates. My understanding of “family” is a great example of how other cultures have a different view of certain concepts. I do not believe that this was a miserable experience since it was a learning experience for me as a Filipino-American. There is nothing I would change about the topic; creating a family tree was a great way of understanding my family. As a teacher, I would approach this assignment with an open-mind and understand that students are going to have different concepts of what defines a family. This assignment was great because I developed a realization that families were different for everyone.

    Kristopher A.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Karina R. on November 2, 2009 at 12:25 am

    In my elementary and high school years I can not recall very many cultural diverse activities. I am sure we can all remember the “student of the week” poster each student eventually was able to create. Looking back I now have decided this is an attempt to get students to talk about their family or cultures, but the requirements were vague and most students just talked about who was in their family, what pets they had, and what their favorite color was. The only project I can really remember doing outside of social studies, was a family tree in high school spanish and another time in art. I had to explore my background and explain different values and practices we did in my family. In spanish it was very generic, but in art the focus was on the content versus the actual art (ironically). Other then this, I agree with Bryce, I was more so taught about cultural diversity in college. I have been given several different ways to teach in regards to culture and plan on using them in the classroom.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Tracy Smith on November 3, 2009 at 5:00 am

    I don’t remember having cultural diversity included in my classroom experiences. Maybe the teachers just disguised them. The only thing I can really remember Is in the fourth grade we did a family tree. Where were supposed to learn about where we came from. At the end of the family tree activity we were supposed to bring something in that helped represent what we found.
    This activity really stuck out in my mind. It is the only activity I can recall that had anything to do with cultural diversity. I remember being really excited to share what I brought and to hear and better understood where other children came from. I think it is very important to bring this into your classroom. Teaching children to acceptance and to be proud of where they came from. Cultural diversity is not something I really came into contact with until college. However, I found it really interesting and I think it’s something you should definitely include in the classroom.

    Tracy Smith
    Ged 500

    Reply

  8. Posted by Kristin on November 5, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Unfortunately, I do not recall any projects or research assignments that allowed me to dig deeper into my family roots and my cultural background. It was never a subject at the school until International Day when people would come together and present their culture to the entire school. I am not sure the behinds the scenes to this event, but I do know that it was every year while I was in High School. Unfortunately, looking back now, the school only presented specific cultures and did not give the entire school inclusion to involved; that may not be right. Even though I took no offense to this, I could see a student that may have taken offense as their culture may not have been one presented. They may feel that we have no interest in their culture which can be disheartening.
    I believe that culture diversity needs to be identified especially at the educational level. This will allow students to give inclusion to those that may have different cultural values than themselves. It allows students to open their eyes to see what else is out there.
    GED 500 Kristin Hicks

    Reply

  9. Posted by shanna scott on November 5, 2009 at 12:19 am

    There was a lesson in our English class that required us to interview a member of our family and find out about their lives. I interviewed my grandfather and learned how his parents came from Italy on a boat when he was just a few years old and made many self- sacrifices so my grandfather could have a better opportunity in life than they had. My best friend Melanie interviewed her father who traveled from the Philippines on a boat when he was 17. Her father did not have a childhood, but worked very hard from a young age, and became very successful and provided well for his family. Our class grew up together from kindergarten and now we were in the eighth grade. This exercise brought all of us even closer together. We even started talking to the family members of our classmates asking them more questions when we would see them during holiday festivities or be over a friend’s house for a birthday party. A few parents and grandparent volunteered to come to our classroom and tell their stories to us and brought pictures and delicious food. In religion class we celebrated the Jewish holiday, Hanukah, and learned about the fast, and tried the food of their culture.
    I was moved by the experience because I realized how alike we all are, even though to many people we were considered so different. I remember a reporter coming to our school and asking me what it was like being a minority; most of our school was Philippino. I told the reporter that we were the same and I didn’t feel different, I felt normal. The reporter became frustrated because she wanted me to feel “different”, but that is not the way our school was run. From kindergarten we were each other’s family, and we went to each other’s birthday parties. We called our friend’s family our Auntie’s and Uncle’s. For people outside of our school it was difficult to understand, and many other white families had a confused look on their face when I would call the Philippino mother of my best friend “Auntie”. They were not aware that in the Philippine’s it was a sign of respect and great love to call your friends parents, “Auntie and Uncle”.
    I want my class to view one anther as family. I definitely want to have discussions like the video, “where does your family come from…what are your aspirations, and what would you like the class to know about you?” I want my class to celebrate in one another’s differences, and to realize that we are all the same in many ways.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Brian Beukelman on November 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    While it is quite vague I do remember some sort of cultural integration present in my K-12 classrooms. The majority of this exposure occurred as the teacher would ask certain students from different cultures such as Pakistan, India & China to get up and talk about their family life and customs. Occasionally, some students would bring in props, pictures, family or other people to help explain the important points of their respective culture. I recall learning about other cultures on a one-on-one basis with my fellow classmates. I would be invited to visit and participate in their customs at their homes. One thing that stays with me, in the back of my mind, are the scents, aromas and ambience of the home setting. The different kinds of food and cooking native to that culture create a sense of the homeland in my estimation. As others have mentioned, I believe my elementary school in particular, had a cultural day where students, teachers and staff would dress up in clothes that respresented their cultural backgrounds. In the evening, the entire school would get together in the quad, set-up “cultural stations” and sample food, examine artifacts and share customs. This integration is particularly helpful in creating a platform in which students, teachers, parents and the community can work together, find common ground, and enrich the learning environment.

    I was also given the opportunity to design a family tree to organize my cultural origin. This process involved speaking with my parents, sharing family stories of relatives living in their native countries and looking at pictures dating back to as far as the mid 1800’s. I believe knowing where you’re from is almost a vital entity because it shows you your roots & foundation, and explains what place and people that you’ve come from. It can also help you find out how you are similar and different to those around you. For example, on my mother’s side, my grandmother was from Spain & my grandfather was a native of Italy. On my father’s side of the family, both of my grandparent’s families are from Holland and immigrated here at the turn of the century. With this knowledge I occasionally find myself thinking about my genetic makeup and where it originated. As I have never been to Europe, I desire to travel there to meet extended family and explore my heritage and homelands.

    Brian B.
    GED 500

    Reply

  11. Posted by William M. on November 5, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    My first elementary school was very involved in diversity, even in the early 1980s. My kindergarten teacher was an exchange teacher from England, Ms. Downing who taught us the difference between Banana and Bah-nah-nah. I also remember that when I was in kindergarten and first grade the biggest hit of all time was the celebrity record “WE ARE THE WORLD.” This record was HUGE!!!! Bigger than anything you could imagine today, bigger than American Idol or anything. I remember seeing Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Willie Nelson and Bruce Springsteen on the cover – it was SOOOO COOL!
    But anyway, I have memories of us, maybe once a week, standing in a circle and holding hands while singing along to the We Are The World record.
    “We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving . . . there’s a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives . . . its true we make a better day, just me and you!!!!”
    Kinda cheesy I guess, but we must have looked so cute to all the teachers who were having us do it. This was my first introduction to diversity. (parachute pants and breakdancing were also VERY COOL at that time FYI) so as a young kid i can remember being exposed to hip hop culture that was emerging then. I traded an LL cool J tape for two tennis balls only to have the tape confiscated by my parents once they picked me up from school (this was like 3rd grade). They picked me up and I was singing: “you think you can out run me, boy i bet, i haven’t met a motherf****** who could do that yet, i’m bad, i’m bad, i’m bad . . ..” very upsetting for my parents i’m sure.
    Also that school had something called Multicultural Day once a year. Parents from different ethnicities would all arange booths with food and other cultural representations, then the students of the school would all go around to the different booths checking stuff out, kinda like a street fair. I remember making flags out of paper plates and trying Indian food for the first time, very cool.
    Anyway, by the time I had got to fourth grade I moved to a school on the other side of the tracks which was less diverse, but I will always remember those first experiences in a multicultural school in southern California in the early 1980s!
    Since I would like to be a social sciences teacher, I don’t think that I will have much trouble incorporating culture and diversity in to my classroom. The technology for diverse learners rubric will be a useful tool for me. thanks

    William M.

    Reply

  12. Posted by David C on November 5, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    The K-12 schools I attended were made-up of about 80% Latino students, which is considered a ‘minority’ school (though 80% is a majority) but i wouldn’t call it diverse, persay, as there was a one majority culture, rather than a mixing of cultures.
    Personally I have never had a cultural discussion outside of the Social Sciences classroom, or at least none that I remember. My family is of Spanish ethnicity but we have been living in New Mexico, when it was still old México, and then the U.S. for a few hundred years, and don’t really have any culture at all from the ‘old country’, though we do still eat NM green chile.

    Though not personally cultural to me, I do remember our ‘culture days’ in elementary school. Each friday we would visit a different country, eat their foods, watch videos (usually “Sesame Street visits ___ ” ) and make a colorful project/art piece relating to the country. We visited France, Italy, China, Mexico, India, the UK and probably more that I cannot remember. For the entire week the room would be decorated in colors and flags (which must have been a lot of work on the weekends!) and we would try to figure out which country it was (some were easier than others, for example, Mexico > India). We LOVED this, and wish we could have trips in every class!

    Reply

  13. Posted by David C on November 5, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    /\ /\ /\
    DAVID C.

    Reply

  14. Posted by Audrey Hall on November 5, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Unless my memory is horrible, I can’t ever remember a time when my elementary school acknowledged or represented a diverse culture outside of social studies. Maybe this was because all of the teachers were American and of white ethnicity and because most of the students were white. There was no Multicultural Day or any day where foods from different countries were brought in or ehtnic outfits were worn. Maybe this is because the issue of different cultures was not so noticeable as it is now? Twice, we had to interview family members and write about their life but we never presented our reports. In middle and high school the demographics changed with more diversity in students, but the main time we addressed this was in my Spanish classes when we had to bring in some type of food from a South American country. Students embraced their diversity with peers, but it was never brought up in classes.

    I think the lack of cultural experience can be almost as negative as bad cultural experience. True, ignoring diversity lessens the chance of saying something offensive about a culture, but it could also make students feel left out and uninformed. Without any knowledge of the different cultures, students can grow up not knowing the unique traits from people all around the world and students may feel shut down or unacknowledged if their own culture is never brought up. There were many times I would have liked to address cultures like when reading the “Joy Luck Club,” “Bless Me, Ultima” or “Raisin in the Sun” because those would have been opportune times to do so, but it was like we just read the story for the sake of reading it and then moved on. I feel students in my class could have shared some wonderful insights and information during the readings and I could have learned so much.

    As I was reading the responses of other people, I started thinking of all the things I might try doing as a teacher to incorporate diversity in fun ways, not just through reading history books and watching old history videos. I would like to listen to ethnic music during class, have students bring in objects from their own backgrounds, like foods, clothing, trinkets, music, etc., for show and tell, and If reading a story dealing with a culture, I want to show parts of the culture after the reading because I think that could make students more interested and connected with the material. Since there are more and more cultures in class, hopefully teachers will address this appropriately because I believe it can make students feel good about themselves and create better understanding and thus acceptance of differences.

    Audrey H

    Reply

  15. Posted by Andrea B.- GED 500 on November 6, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    I believe that cultural inclusion is extremely important. The most effective way to reach students is to draw upon prior knowledge. Students will be able to make the connections needed to learn specific content.
    One of my favorite memories from elementary school was a cultural feast. Everyone was asked to bring a dish from their culture. This was a great way to learn about other cultures. Some children even went so far as to dress in traditional clothing. As a child I always enjoyed learning about other cultures and seeing my own represented. It made me proud and motivated me to learn more. As a teacher I would implement these same strategies. I agree with the reply from Audry H. who said that “ignoring cultural diversity can made students feel left out”. Feeling left out can contribute to an unmotivated student.

    Reply

  16. Posted by Frederick Cedar on November 7, 2009 at 5:47 am

    I grew in Anaheim California in the 1980’s. From what I can remember of my school, I would say it was very diverse. I can remember to specific events that I will share. The first event was in second grade and the second was in 6th grade.
    My second grade teacher had a full on production at the end of the school year. The students in the class had to learn dance routines, skits and sing songs with choreography. After we learned all the material from the school year and all the routines, songs, etc., we were given, what she called, the “Snoopy Follies” card. This card was our “license” to perform in the show. This was a huge event. At our school we had what I remember to be a Multi-purpose room. All the families showed up to watch as we sang songs about nutrition, danced to hip, sang with puppets “The Rainbow Connection.” I had a partner named Alma. We danced the “Mexican Hat Dance.” We looked good I must say. As I watched the video, I noticed that at least Alma and I had a good sense of rhythm. As a class, we counted to ten in Spanish, French, German, and Japanese. The climax of the show was our whole second grade class singing “We Are The World.” In my classroom we truly were the world. We had a very diverse group of students including South American, African, and Middle Eastern.
    When I was in second grade, my class had a student named Moon. She was from Afghanistan. What I can remember about her was that one she was very pretty and all the boys liked her, but also I remember her specifically sharing her culture with the class. One time she presented in front of class information about her culture and lifestyle. She brought in a copy of her religious text “The Koran” and explained a little bit about what their beliefs are.
    As a musician and band director, I have and will work with a diverse group. Music sees not color or race. We as musicians all speak the same language. Thank you!

    Reply

  17. Posted by Jaime N. on November 8, 2009 at 12:11 am

    I grew up in the 80’s in a town in Wisconsin of about 7,000 and surrounded by farms. My school was not very diverse. At all. Diversity was not really a topic we even discussed in elementary school (or even high school), but we did learn a lot about France (in all of our classes) in the 5th grade. When I moved to Minneapolis for college, however, I worked in after-school programs in some inner-city schools with high immigrant populations. Somalian and Hmong populations were the largest among them, and I felt like I was in whole different world. I learned a lot from these students, and I couldn’t believe I had never even learned about those parts of the world in my K-12 education. One thing I have noticed, though, is that the lack of diversity in our early education seems to have encouraged most of my friends from Wisconsin to explore the world on their own.

    Reply

    • Posted by Cristal Garcia on November 9, 2009 at 1:55 am

      That is interesting that the immigrants that you dealt with in the after school program were Somalian. I think that the majority of immigrants we see or discuss are hispanics (geographically easiest to immigrate here) but there are other immigrants too. In my experience i have began to see an increase of arabic speaking immigrants and I am sure that if I went to other places i would see higher concentrations of other immigrants.

      Reply

  18. Posted by Cristal Garcia on November 9, 2009 at 1:51 am

    The kids in the video are speaking very good english for just being in the US for 1 year. It seems that they are all eager to learn. They know that learning new school subjects is a challenge in itself but they are forced to learn new subjects in a language that is foreign to them, that is admirable. I attended school with a high percentage of English learners. Fortunately there were a lot of hispanic teachers at my school who encouraged us to celebrate our culture. There was an after school club that taught us how to dance the mexican folklorico dances, also the spanish speaking teachers were able to communicate with the spanish speaking kids and their parents. The time of year that is most conducive to sharing our culture with others is Christmas. I remember having round-table discussions about our families holiday culture many times while going to school. It was always nice because no matter what our culture is, most people celebrate something in December.

    Reply

  19. Posted by Chelse Stanton on November 10, 2009 at 4:37 am

    When I was in elementary, I every Monday and Friday for the whole month of January was “Culture Learning Experience.” Each student in the class was to sign up for either a Monday or a Friday (2 would sign up for one day). On those days, my classmates would bring in one of the following: clothing, food, dance, or music from their family’s culture or background. Since I am half Cuban, I remember bringing in a Cuban dish as well as music from Havana, Cuba. I was always so excited to see what other classmates would bring in. Along with my classmates bringing in certain things, my teacher would also tell us some facts about wherever the student was from. This was in 3rd grade, and still very much remember it. Looking back, I am totally shocked that my teacher spent that much time to get every aware of our cultural differences.

    Reply

  20. Posted by Brian Yu on November 11, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    In Jr. High school, I clearly remember this very unique project that everyone had to do. It was a kind of International Fair. Everyone had to pick a country and create a presentation representing and showcasing that country. Most everyone picked their home countries, so it was very interesting to know and understand the different cultures that my classmates were a part of. After the projects were completed, we would present them to the class and educate them about the culture, language, foods, holidays, etc. Then at the end of the week, we would have a Fair, and all the families would come in and observe our tri-fold projects. We were even required to bring food that represented our countries.

    Thinking back, I know realize the importance of doing this project. I didn’t truly understand the importance of diversity and learning about other cultures. This project was a great idea for several reasons. Firstly, it helped students ask questions about their culture and heritage. Many times today, students don’t care or they are not in tuned with their ancestry. Also, this project helped educate the entire class the idea of diversity and very specific cultures.

    Reply

  21. Posted by Adan V. on November 12, 2009 at 1:52 am

    When I was in elementary we had a cultural appreciation week every year. I use to love these days because we would learn about different cultural traits including food, customs and music. Every day of that week we would cover a different ethnicity. I remember we covered my culture (Mexican) and we had a bit of history on Mexico in class and the teacher brought in a Mexican hat and a pancho. However, best of all we ate Mexican food for lunch that day.
    Studying diverse culture is essential to education. It not only promotes understanding and toleration, but it gives the student appreciation for the unique characteristics of a culture. I will defenitely incorporate diverse learning in my classroom. I believe that a teacher must be familiar with at least some of the customs of a culture to better help and teach a diverse classroom.

    Reply

  22. I recall having cultural appreciation week or day as I went through my K12 years, but all they taught were the stereotype of each culture, with food and clothing. Most of my cultural learning came from me going to different schools every year in Elementary. I went to schools where majority were Hispanic; or majority Asians; or majority white and African Americans. I even went to school in Mexico where I actually learned more about my own culture, interacting with students that were similar to me. I also had to teach my classmates about the American culture. When I entered middle school. I attended a school that was very diverse with large population of Asian. I learned about the different cultures of different parts of Asia. I learned more from talking to classmates who came from different backgrounds. I do remember that in high school, i learned in depth about the French culture in my French class; and Spanish, Mexican,and Puerto Rican culture in my Spanish class. I learned about the Peruvian and the German culture from two exchange classmates.
    Learning about cultures was not really enforced in my school years, but i did my own learning myself by talking and getting to know the person and its individual culture. When I become a teacher, I want to encourage my students to get to know classmates from different cultures. Having all students be knowledgeable of all the cultures in the classroom can lead to a more understanding environment. It would promote a community of diverse students.

    Reply

  23. Posted by Sousa Ghazarian on November 12, 2009 at 7:04 am

    I attented my elemetary years of school in Syria, where being multicultral was looked upon as a positive thing. From first grade we were encouraged to take three languages and also learn about every single culture. It was very important to our school and community to include multicultural education in the educational system. We were always encouraged to speak about our own culture and also take the language of our culture as part of the language requirements. We were given many assignments that required us to search about our cultural background and learn about it from our family or elders.
    From my personal experiences cultural inclusion is very essential. We live in a state that is so diverse and in order to reach these diverse groups of students, we need to understand and respect every culture. My teachers have always praised my culture and have shown me that I should be proud of my culture because that is part of who I am as a person. I would for sure respect and include multicultural education in my classroom and help students feel proud of who they are.

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  24. Posted by Jennifer Ashrafnia on November 12, 2009 at 8:00 am

    I remember many of my teachers including “multicultural” lessons into our classes. The schools I went to had a fairly diverse student population. In elementary school we were often encouraged to bring in foods from our differnt cultures when there were class parties. I even remember having a multicultural potluck in fourth or fifth grade. Everyone brought in a dish from their families country and then we shared it with the class. The teacher turned the party into an opportunity to learn about our classmates’ cultures. It was fun for us as kids because we got to try new foods and have a party.

    Another very vivid memory I have of a teacher embracing cultural diversity is my sixth grade history teacher. She was one of my favorite teachers because she was always able to relate to the class and turn what could be boring lessons into fun activities. Every year she took on the responsibilty of putting together a Multicultural Week for the school. She encouraged the students to bring in clothing, instruments, food and any other items that represented their culture. That week she would turn the multi-purpose room into a gallery filled with things from the students. I brought a traditional dress and scarves from Afghanistan, where my father is from. She displayed it on the wall and I felt so proud. I recall her telling me how beautiful it was and she asked if I would bring it back in next year so she could put it up again.

    These experiences enforced for me the importance of celebrating students’ diverse backgrounds. When I was younger, I often felt a little embarrassed about where my father was from for the simple reason that no one knew anything about the country. It was different and therefore I felt left out and weird. When my teacher embraced those difference though, I felt honored to share my family’s stories with my classmates. It is so important to give students the safety in class to share their stories, and encourage their participation in celebrating eachother’s diversity.

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  25. Posted by Mamie Lai on November 12, 2009 at 8:36 am

    I am a product of the California public school system, so naturally I have seen plenty of cultural diversity in my classrooms. And because I grew up in San Gabriel Valley, where there is no shortage of Asian students, I remember Chinese New Year being a big deal in school. We would bring Chinese food from home. We cut, paste, and colored the Chinese Horoscope. And from the part of San Gabriel Valley I grew up in there were also lots of Hispanic students, so Cinco de Mayo was celebrated in school. I remember learning the Mexican Hat Dance as part of a school-wide Cinco de Mayo assembly. Come to think of it, there weren’t many non-Asian or non-Hispanic students. But there was a greater number of Caucasian teachers and faculty members. I rarely felt out of place because I was mostly surrounded by people who looked just like me. I don’t remember having any young teachers. So I would assume that these veteran teachers had experience teaching in a multi-cultural classroom because instruction was always seamless. I never noticed any difficulty in instruction.

    A moment of discontent for me was every time I had to do a family tree assignment. My parents were never great at remembering their parents or grandparents names. It was very odd for my teachers to see that those names had not been filled out. My parents knew last names but never knew first names. Actually, it is not odd for Chinese people to not know their parents’ names. Chinese people refer to each other by their last name or by their position in the family. Sometimes parents would refer to their children by their name but a child would never call their parents by their name. Actually, my parents call me Fifth Daughter because that is my position in the family. Out of respect, a child always calls their parents, Mom or Dad and their grandparents, Grandmother or Grandfather. So I assume that the issue of knowing your parents’ or grandparents’ names never comes up because it is not important. But it was hard to explain all this to my teachers.

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  26. Posted by Lauren D. on November 12, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I attended a private, Catholic elementary school and high school. It has been very interesting because working in public schools during this past year because it has made me realize how little cultural diversity was discussed during my school years. I cannot remember any time while I was young where teachers brought our culture into the classroom. There was very little discussion time during class instruction. I realize now that the teachers did a lot of speaking to the class as a whole and very little instruction based on individual needs. We hardly ever worked in small groups or with partners. Independent work and silence at all times was standard. This had an interesting effect on my perspective actually. I never considered myself different from other students. I assumed other students were a lot like me. Only once I would talk to them did I realize that their traditions and family lives were different from mine. It is rather fascinating how I never preceived differences between people, even though I was well aware that our skin colors and accents were different. Hind sight is 20/20 and now I know that this method was not ideal. I watched as many of my classmates struggled with the work, and year after year I could see they disliked school more and more. It makes me wonder if things have changed at my old schools. I hope they have. I wonder how my perspective would have been different if my culture had been part of my classes.

    Lauren D.

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