What Is Culturally Responsive Teaching? Tips and Strategies for Teachers

Our cultural backgrounds and our upbringing can heavily impact the way we think, the way we act, our choices in life, and our relationships with others. Unfortunately, even in this day and age, there is not enough emphasis on the importance of cultural diversity and inclusivity in schools around the world. That’s why Culturally Responsive Teaching is becoming more and more popular. 

The concept of CRT was first introduced by Gloria Ladson-Billings, as a way of maximizing students’ academic achievements by integrating their cultural differences in the classroom. In culturally responsive teaching, these cultural differences are seen as assets, and the focus thus turns on what each student can bring to the classroom, how their backgrounds and their culture can enrich lessons, and how to create an inclusive classroom where everyone feels like they belong.

What are the main benefits of culturally responsive teaching?

Culturally responsive teaching has numerous advantages, both for students and teachers. It’s a way of making everyone in the classroom feel accepted, supported, and respected, regardless of their background, their race, their gender, and any other differences. True inclusive classrooms make the best of diversity, and encourage students to be themselves and be proud of where they come from. 

Students in culturally responsive classrooms can strengthen their cultural identities, while at the same time developing empathy, inclusivity, acceptance, and tolerance. It’s also a great way to broaden students’ horizons to learn more about different cultures and traditions, and reach a better understanding of the world around them. At the same time, it’s a growth opportunity for the teacher, as well, broadening their own horizons and becoming more knowledgeable and prepared to teach children of different cultures.

CRT helps teachers be better prepared to serve the needs of their students. It helps them understand and recognize the cultural nuances that might lead a student to respond, react, or behave in a particular way in the classroom. CRT might explain why some children don’t look you in the eye during lessons or one-on-one sessions, why some students struggle with spelling or reading, or why others are overly quiet or overly loud in the classroom. 

How can teachers integrate CRT strategies in the classroom?

The first step in culturally responsive teaching is recognizing your own biases and thought patterns as an educator. Cultural influences can create stereotypes, and then these stereotypes can become implicit biases later on in life, meaning that you, as a teacher, have certain biases that you’re not even aware of. You can examine your implicit bias at Harvard University’s Project Implicit if you want to uncover what biases you might be carrying with you into the classroom. Once you understand your own biases and subconscious patterns, you can start integrating CRT strategies into your lessons. But how exactly can you do that? Here are some tips we think are useful:

  • Encourage students to open up about their cultural differences and traditions and learn more about their interests via surveys or questionnaires; 
  • Have students create an art project or a written essay tackling a cultural issue they feel strongly about, or support; this way you’ll understand where they’re coming from and see where their interests lie;
  • Try to include examples from other cultures in your lessons; for instance, if you’re talking about Halloween, also talk about Dia de Los Muertos or Samhain, and learn together about how different cultures celebrate this day; 
  • Organize ‘movie days’ and watch cultural documentaries together to broaden everyone’s horizons;
  • Learn as much as you can about your students’ cultures, important historical figures, important holidays, and integrate this knowledge into your lessons; for instance, if someone in your class is celebrating a special cultural day, acknowledge that in front of the class and share a little bit of information about it; your students will feel accepted and respected and they’ll also get to learn about other cultures; 
  • Bring different music, poetry, literature, art, and other forms of expression into the classroom; let students express themselves and their creativity without any judgment or bias;
  • Create a welcoming environment by displaying visuals, art, and props from a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds, so that everyone in the classroom can identify with the environment around them and feel like they belong. 

These are just some of the ways you can integrate culturally responsive teaching in your classroom, and make sure that all of your students reach their maximum potential, and that they feel accepted and recognized for who they are. If you want to learn more about CRT or want to expand your skills as an educator, check out Da Vinci Collaborative and let’s continue to grow together. 

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