In the spirit of Hispanic Heritage month, this month we are celebrating the multicultural classroom. As of the fall of 2014, the overall number of Latino, African-American, and Asian students in public K-12 classrooms surpassed the number of non-Hispanic whites, pushing them just over 50% of the student population. (source: Education Week)
We all know teaching kindergarten is tough. You have children coming in with different readiness levels. Some know their letters, others don’t. Some know how to walk down the hall in a straight line, others don’t. Some students like to shout out all the answers, while others don’t even want you to look in their direction. As if these challenges weren’t already a hurdle for kindergarten teachers, the rise in diverse demographics of students is creating additional demands. These new challenges present themselves, not only as the obvious language differences, but also cultural differences, entirely different belief systems, academic levels and educational expectations.
Kindergarten and the early elementary level is the time to embrace these differences. Having a multicultural approach in your classroom can help students with self-image, develop perspectives in thinking, and also reduce prejudicial behavior and stereotyping. These benefits touch all of your students whether they are considered minority or majority.
Here are some tips for teaching in a multicultural classroom.
- Don’t wait for Hispanic Heritage Month or Black History Month to celebrate differences. Celebrate them every day! Discuss culturally and historically significant days with your students as they come up during the year.
- Build a diverse library of books. Books not just about other cultures, but books written by authors of all ethnicities: black, Asian, Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, Middle Eastern, etc. Ask your students if there are books that they read at home with their parents that can be shared with the class. This sets a precedent that everyone’s thoughts are important regardless of their background.
- Let the children feel pride for their heritage. Ask all students to share their experiences. Share their family traditions. Let others be interested in what they have to say. After all that is part of learning.
- Learn respect and empathy for other cultures by having fun. Kids love to sing and dance. Every kindergartener needs to have some movement activities during the day. Try incorporating multicultural activity songs into your day. Ask students to bring in some of their favorite traditional songs. You can also find a large variety of multicultural recordings — from holiday classics to traditional folk songs — on our Multicultural Education page.
For more information about Multicultural Classrooms: