Culturally Responsive Teaching for ELL Students

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  • 0:00 Culturally Responsive Teaching
  • 0:48 Create a Welcoming Environment
  • 2:26 Reading Material
  • 3:09 Fostering Relationships
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Mills

Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a master's degree in both Literacy and TESOL.

In this lesson, you will learn about the importance of valuing and respecting students' cultural backgrounds as well as strategies for incorporating culturally relevant teaching into your classroom.

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Culturally responsive teaching is a teaching philosophy that emphasizes incorporating elements from students' culture into the learning environment. This is especially relevant for English language learner students (ELLs) because it can be difficult to assimilate into American culture while maintaining ties with their native culture. When teachers take an interest and show respect for the diversity represented by the students in their classroom, they foster relationships of mutual respect. This rapport, in turn, motivates students to become fully engaged in the learning process. Culturally responsive teaching is an essential component of a student-centered classroom. Let's look at some specific strategies that teachers can use to make their ELL students feel valued in the classroom.

Create a Welcoming Environment

Teachers should avoid making judgments about students' backgrounds based on their own culture's norms. ELL students come from a variety of cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The goal for teachers is to make all students feel welcome, regardless of the differences that inevitably exist.

Teachers might consider learning a few words in their students' native language and using them in class. At the beginning of the year, all students can share how to say a simple word or phrase, such as ''hello,'' in their native language. Teachers can then practice greeting students on a daily basis in their native language. Teachers can also take an interest in students' backgrounds by spending time learning about their culture, either by doing personal research or by inviting students to share. For example, when teaching a unit on holidays in the U.S., teachers can invite students to share a favorite holiday tradition, including foods and/or decorations, from their own culture. Teachers can even extend this into a formal lesson by having students compare and contrast holiday traditions around the world.

Another way to create a welcoming environment is through the classroom decorations. Students can make flags of their native countries to display around the classroom. Teachers can create labels for different items in the classroom, such as the pencil sharpener and dictionaries. Students should feel like their classroom is where they belong and where differences are celebrated.

Teachers should take every opportunity to connect learning to students' culture. If you play music during independent work time or during center rotations, incorporate culturally diverse artists into your playlist. During arts integration, include artwork by artists from multicultural backgrounds.

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