Language and culture are often implicitly woven together in language classrooms and it’s easy to get caught up in teaching mainstream culture. But what does this do to learners’ own cultural identities and development, particularly for younger learners? How can educators honour the cultures that are in the classroom while recognizing the new culture that is being learned and formed together? What does it look like to be culturally responsive with learners trying to learn a new language?
Elementary educator Judie Haynes suggests 4 Pathways to a Culturally Responsive Classroom with tips for teaching to your language learners’ unique cultural strengths. The article contains links to other resources to support creating a culturally responsive environment and can be adapted to adult learner contexts as well.
I followed one of the links on that page to a great article about with ELL from a Chinese language background, which had some similarities to my student and their families in Korea. I especially loved the tip about using math word problems to help kids encounter academic English in a subject field they might be more comfortable with. Then I thought about riddles too…that might also be a fun way to get students thinking carefully about meaning and understanding. Maybe I will look for some resources related to that!
It’s important to both honor and celebrate each child’s culture. Every one has unique experiences to share. The days of ethnocentric teaching are long past as our nation becomes ever more diverse.