Teaching About Family, Cultures & Traditions

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  • 0:04 Multiculturalism
  • 1:23 Fostering Cultural Awareness
  • 3:37 Diversity
  • 4:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn how to provide instruction related to family, culture, and tradition by presenting content from a multicultural approach. We will identify ways to promote diversity while addressing these themes.


Imagine you are about to begin your first day on the job as an elementary school teacher for the third grade. Your first social studies unit will cover family, culture, and traditions. Your class is relatively diverse: you have students from Asian, Hispanic, and African-American backgrounds. You realize that you must teach these students about the cultures and traditions of their own as well as other ethnic groups, to promote feelings of inclusion and a respect for diversity. This approach involves teaching multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is an appreciation for multiple cultures and traditions.

For some teachers, it can be challenging to figure out where to begin and exactly what to teach. It can also be challenging for children to grasp and respect cultures and backgrounds different from their own. For some, learning about diverse cultures and traditions can be confusing due to cultural barriers, but the rewards that come from this understanding are profound. Growing a child's understanding of family dynamics, cultures, and traditions will help them learn to appreciate diversity - plus, cultural studies like these are downright interesting.

Teachers have a unique opportunity to instill curiosity and a love for learning. Embrace this opportunity and search for creative ways to teach from a multicultural perspective.

Fostering Cultural Awareness

We'll begin with a term similar to multiculturalism: cultural awareness. Cultural awareness is the understanding that people have varied beliefs, values, and ideas that are tied to their ethnic, racial, or cultural backgrounds. It also involves an understanding of one's own cultural values and how those have informed one's worldview. In order to cultivate cultural awareness in students, hands-on experiences of other cultures allow young students to learn through doing. Children's museums, ethnic and cultural festivals, and opportunities to taste various ethnic foods are excellent ways for younger students to learn experientially about diverse cultures and families.

Teachers may also want to consider bringing in a guest speaker who has experience in interacting with diverse people groups. This could be a missionary, a teacher, a member of the Peace Corps, someone who has lived abroad, or really anyone who has had the opportunity to travel or interact with other cultures and people.

Another useful strategy involves making use of the library. Both school and local public libraries typically have a significant section of books on cultural studies. You may want to have each student pick a different culture and write a report about it. Having students write a report or even draw a picture can help them internalize what they have learned. Then, of course, there are art projects. The sky is the limit as far as art inspired by other cultures. The wonderful thing about this strategy is that most students usually like drawing and making art. It's a great way to engage with the subject and really learn it.

It's important when addressing these topics that teachers do not present the content from an ethnocentric perspective. This is especially significant in the discipline of social studies. What does this mean exactly? Ethnocentrism means believing that your own culture is the superior one and using the standards of your culture to judge all others. For example, if you are an American, you may be tempted to compare all foods to your own cuisine, believing it to be the best. However, a proper understanding is that choice in food is a preference rooted in tradition, and that people of other cultures probably prefer their own food to American food. In many respects, ethnocentrism is the opposite of cultural awareness.

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