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Creating a Multicultural Environment in the Classroom

written by: Heidi McIntyre • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 9/11/2012

Classrooms today have a diverse blend of many different cultures. Educators need to keep informed on the current trends and methodology regarding multicultural education. In addition, the classroom needs to reflect the diverse needs of these students.

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    The Benifits

    Creating a multicultural environment in the classroom is an important step in the teaching profession. Now, more than ever, teachers and educators need to be attentive to the benefits of creating an environment that is advantageous for diverse students. Students who receive the benefits of a good, multicultural classroom environment are more likely to excel in school. Furthermore, teachers who incorporate a multicultural environment in the classroom are more tolerant to the needs of their students. This creates a reciprocal understanding between teachers and students which in turn creates a positive learning environment.

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    Be Open and Non - Judgemental

    Creating a multicultural environment in the classroom is more than just pretty pictures and bulletin boards. A teacher must be genuine and non-judgmental when dealing with students. Today's classroom is a melting pot of many different ethnicities. Many children are refugees from war-torn countries. Some children may be second generation children of immigrants. Some may be poor. Others may be rich. In Mexican culture, children show respect by hugging. In the Chinese culture children show respect by bowing. Whatever the circumstance, a teacher should respect the children for who they are and be open to their thoughts and concerns. Teachers also need to discover why students do what they do. The reason may be cultural instead of behavioral.

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    Embrace Language Differences in the Classroom

    Today's classroom is a mix of many different languages. Teachers should try to research each student's native language. By teaming with an ESL teacher, general education teachers could learn a great deal about a student's language and second language acquisition. Knowing and researching a student's native language will not only help teachers understand common English language errors, but it could also give them insight about culture and behavior. Teachers could build word walls (common English vocabulary words regarding a particular subject) in both English and each student's native language. This would create a plethora of languages present in print in the classroom. Students would feel more comfortable and familiar and in tune with their environment, and learning would come more naturally.

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    Build a Multicultural Library in the Classroom

    No matter what subject an educator teaches, he or she needs to have a multicultural library in his or her classroom. This is a simple way to build a multicultural classroom. A variety of books from diverse authors makes an ordinary classroom an exciting classroom. For example, a science book written by a Hispanic author could show students that people from different cultures have a place in the American classroom. Reading books about Chinese or African children sends the message that Anglo American books are not the only books and ideas present in the classroom. Building a multicultural library exposes children to many different cultures without pushing it upon them.

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    Celebrate Differences!

    Perhaps the best way to create a multicultural environment in the classroom is to simply celebrate differences amongst students. There are many ways in which teachers can accomplish this. Food fairs are a great way to celebrate cultural heritage. Once a month students could make a dish that highlights their culture and explain why the dish is important. Each student could taste and learn about authentic foods.

    Another way to celebrate differences is to create a gallery walk in which students are given a poster board and markers. Each student (or pair) could create a poster that highlights their culture. The teacher would then hang each poster around the classroom. Student would walk around to each poster and write a question about each student's poster (question about his or her culture). Questions about culture or homeland would be answered by the student who made the poster. Therefore, students would have an understanding about each other's cultures. Moreover, this is a fast way for teachers to gain understanding about his or her students.

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