How to Be a Culturally Responsive Teacher

by Jamie Goodwin | Jan 22, 2019 6:12:17 PM

In order to help each student, it’s important to get to know them. How they learn and the things that interest them are greatly impacted by their culture, ethnicity, race, beliefs, and many other factors. As a culturally-responsive teacher, you need to promote your students’ cultural strengths and teach to their cultural learning styles to help boost their achievement. You may even want to individualize your lessons.  How do you do this? What does this look like in the classroom? Use these 6 ideas to help you become a more culturally-responsive teacher.

culturally responsive


All students need to feel valued and respected. When they do, they are more likely to take ownership of their learning. One way to do this is by clearly communicating your expectations for them, as well as, the goals and outcomes of lessons. When students are practicing new skills, offer praise and encouragement. Let them know that you know that they’re working hard and doing their best.


Fun teaching games are great tools to use in the classroom no matter what your students’ cultural background may be. Why? Because games get students to sit up and pay attention. As they play, they go through the process of learning, remembering, and understanding new information.

A lot of games have roots in oral tradition. They require players to repeat information, complete puzzles, and make connections. Students from cultures who value oral traditions can appreciate these games and learn from them.

Group Work

Many cultures promote the idea of a strong community. They rely on each other to thrive. You can mimic this in your own classroom through group work. Plan literature circles, student-led discussion groups, and group projects. Let students learn together as they work through problems as a small group.


Every culture relies on stories and oral traditions to teach new concepts or help people remember important information. Stories help our brains piece together new information and figure out ways to apply it. Look for ways to incorporate stories into your lessons, or let students write their own. For example, rather than giving a regular vocabulary test, have your students write a story including all of the vocabulary words in it.

Guest Speakers

You don’t have to look far to find members of the community who have something beneficial to share with your class. Reach out to parents and members of the community to come speak to your class. These guest speakers could teach the class a new skill or share different ways of thinking. For example, a parent could come in and teach the class a new approach to a math problem.

Parental Involvement

One of the best ways to promote student achievement is by getting parents involved in their children’s education. Talk to your students’ parents and learn about their expectations and concerns. You could also send home regular newsletters to keep them in the loop or host family nights to bring everyone together. If your students’ parents don’t speak English, arrange for a translator to come in and help you communicate with them.

For a student-centered approach to teaching, you can’t forget to take the students’ culture into account. Learn as much as you can about your students to help cater to their needs and learning styles based on their culture, background, and more. Doing this will help you become a more culturally-responsive teacher.

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