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How to Adopt a Culturally Appropriate Mindset (Opinion)

(This is the last article in a three-part series. You can view part one here and the second part here.)

The new question of the week is:

What are your suggestions for making social studies classes culturally appropriate?

In Part 1, Denise Facey, Sarah Cooper, Dennisha Murf, and Keisha Rembert “kicked things off.”

Denise, Sarah, Dennisha and Keisha were also guests on my 10 minute BAM! Radio program. You can also find a list and links to previous shows here.

In part two, Don Vu, Kiera Beddes, and Stephanie Smith Budhai, Ph.D., provided their thoughts.

Today, Stephen Katzel and Ching-Ching Lin, Ed. D. conclude this series.

“Not a singular lesson”

Stephen Katzel is the author behind Earning Your First Year of College Teaching: Strategies and Tools for Success. He is an educator with a passion for secondary education and helps new teachers to:

For decades, differing opinions have existed on how to teach social studies, with no national consistency, which means a child in Boston may receive an entirely different perspective from another in Boise, Idaho. Social studies has dominated educational and political headlines due to parents’ perceptions of the right way to teach and implement the curriculum in the classroom.

To quell political jokes and wacky politicians, social science teachers need to take a specific approach to culturally appropriate teaching. Which is not a lesson, an image or a reading, but a state of mind. It doesn’t matter if you teach world history, US history, or any social studies-related course, your mindset that every lesson will be culturally appropriate is crucial for engagement and the success.

Adopting a culturally responsive mindset will pay off for your students and your content. Each day, social studies teachers can post “Today in History” on the board that lists historically significant events or accomplishments about a person or group of people. Teachers can access dozens of pre-designed, culturally relevant lists online that resonate with different groups of students. The “Today in History” would ideally relate to the content you are covering in class, but otherwise, no problem! Highlighting the achievements of different cultures and groups of people will make students feel supported, seen and appreciated. Additionally, teachers can use “Today in History” as a hook to begin their lesson on historical content covered in class that day.

Knowing the primary and secondary sources used is key to increasing cultural sensitivity in social studies courses. Many social studies curricula completely exclude the perspectives of marginalized historical figures and groups. Spending time in class analyzing different perspectives and historical figures will increase cultural responsiveness and add depth to any social studies lesson due to the addition of additional voices to the historical content covered in class. Next time you are preparing a lesson that involves primary sources, I challenge you to add an additional source that highlights and amplifies the voice of a person or group not traditionally included in the program you teach.

Teaching social studies comes with a great deal of responsibility and trust. Making a concerted effort to include different sources and perspectives in your daily routines and lessons will not only enrich your classroom, but also the lives of the students you teach. Remember that being a culturally sensitive teacher is not a singular lesson, it is a state of mind!

“Beyond SIOP”

Ching-Ching Lin, Ed.D. is a former social studies and ESL teacher and is currently a teacher trainer at TESOL and Bilingual Education in New York City. She is co-editor and author of the following edited volumes, Internationalization in Action: Leaving Diversity and Inclusion in Globalized Classrooms and inclusion, diversity and intercultural dialogue in the philosophical research of young people:

ESL teachers tend to view our work in social studies classes or other content areas as providing language support, developing fluency, vocabulary and comprehension skills in content areas. We help learners develop the skills necessary for academic success and expand their access to the general education program.

Essentially, the aforementioned classroom practices imply that students cannot meaningfully interact with text until they understand the distinctive textual features of what they are reading or hearing. These views not only treat reading and writing as context-free skills, but also reflect a linear and simplistic view of language acquisition that often leads to missed opportunities to engage literacy practices. complexes and the action of multilingual learners.

In contrast, a strengths-based lens would view students positively, evaluating what they bring with them as strengths and embracing those strengths. What if, instead of approaching students based on our perceptions of their weaknesses, we deliberately position ourselves as a co-learner, seeking, connecting, probing, deeply curious, focusing on student strengths and by empowering them as creators of knowledge?

Here are some suggestions for infusing asset-based approaches into a fifth year SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) lesson for English language learners on the Dust Bowl to shift our goals beyond providing language support in the social studies classroom.


Beyond SIOP

1. Preparation

The content and language objectives of this lesson are for students to be able to answer questions to demonstrate their understanding of key details of the text by answering the who, what, when, where, how and why questions orally and in writing.

Instead of taking a text-based approach, the lesson will aim to engage students’ racial, cultural and linguistic identities in inquiry-based learning and provide a personalized and meaningful learning experience.

As a culminating activity, students will be able to contribute to a class electronic journal by interviewing a community member about an issue that their local community considers important.

2. Build basic knowledge

The teacher will review what happened in the 1930s and what life must have been like for many Americans.

Develop students’ basic knowledge based on students’ life experiences. For example, students will discuss how they would feel if they were stuck in unheated apartments during a power outage.

3. Comprehensible input

Students will be guided to preview a text and read more accessible texts to get an overview of the topic.

Students will be given a partner to read the “Dust Bowl”.

Create multimodal and multilingual texts on the subject to provide students with multiple ways to understand and communicate complex ideas.

A puzzle reading where students are tasked with reading and discussing the text from different angles can serve to promote diversity while creating a shared understanding:

  • The government
  • An owner
  • An African tenant
  • A Mexican immigrant
  • An industrial worker

4. Strategies

Throughout the lesson, the teacher will encourage students to make predictions about the event that happened in the 1930s.

Throughout the lesson, the teacher will demonstrate how to make connections between ideas from the readings, our daily experiences and beliefs, and world events.

5. interactions

Throughout this lesson, students will form a small group and will have many opportunities to talk to each other.

Students will have the opportunity to expand their linguistic and communicative repertoire by interacting with others with tasks such as:

  • Analyze the text
  • Tell a story
  • Interview
  • Discuss or debate

6. Practice/Application

Students will have many opportunities to discuss their content knowledge with their peers, as well as use written language to answer questions posed by the teacher.

Provide students with the opportunity to use their entire language repertoire in real-life tasks that aim to connect students to their community, such as asking a family or community member about a title in a local newspaper.

seven. Lesson Delivery

Throughout the process, good reading strategies are reinforced as students continue to strengthen their skills in synthesizing, summarizing, and determining the main idea.

Throughout the lesson, teachers position themselves as co-learners in the classroom to engage students’ cultural beliefs and communicative repertoire through meaningful conversations and tasks that aim to make connections between school and community in the classroom.

8. Review/Assessment

The teacher will use volunteers to answer the who, what, when, where, why and how questions related to the text.

Instead of using an assessment that only allows for a variety of prescribed responses, consider creating a school-community partnership by having students contribute an interview to a class electronic journal and demonstrate their understanding in a multimodal and creative way. .

By connecting students to their local community, teachers can use their power of understanding, curiosity and empathy to foster inquiry-based learning in the social studies classroom that aims to affirm the cultural and linguistic identities of students.


Thanks to Stephen and Ching-Ching for their comments!

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future article. You can send one to me at [email protected]. When you send it let me know if I can use your real name if selected or if you prefer to remain anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

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