By Teachers, For Teachers
America is called the Melting Pot. We are often referred to as this because of the different types of cultures and ethnicities that blend together as one. Being a multicultural society means that we must educate our youth on embracing, respecting, and tolerating the diversity of our nation. That is why multicultural education in America is so important. It teaches our youth how to embrace diversity, and addresses the cultural differences in our diverse world. In today’s multicultural environment, it’s essential to be able to work cooperatively with all races, genders, and cultural differences. Schools can play a role in helping children understand these differences through cross-ethnic interactions, as well as using various strategies and classroom activities. Here are a few multicultural classroom activities to try in your classroom.
Textbooks are great for learning about historical information, but if you don’t have an updated edition, then they lack current information. Try utilizing technology and have students learn about other cultures through the Internet. By taking current news stories and intertwining them with what students learned about in the past, you can create a parallel between the two. Try challenging students to create a project that requires them to learn about a culture other than their own. For example, you can have students look to the news for current events or situations, then research about them. Pair students together for this project who are unlike friends and have different backgrounds. The exposure to these different languages and cultures, can be quite an eye-opener for all students.
An innovative strategy that has been proven to embrace diversity in the classroom is cooperative learning. Cooperative learning groups help build classroom diversity because groups are put together not just by academic performance, but by race, gender, and language proficiency. Studies have found that through the use of these cooperative learning groups, children become more accepting of others’ differences. They’ve also been found to have positive effects on students who are culturally different than others. Because cooperative learning groups require social interaction among students, this strategy has the potential to reduce stereotyping and can help build diverse friendships among classmates. Working together to complete a common goal allows children to judge one another by the quality of their work, not by stereotype. It may take some time for students to develop cooperative behaviors, such as listening and acceptance, but eventually the students social interactions will become positive.
Role-playing is a wonderful activity to help multicultural classrooms learn about others cultures and really feel what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes. It allows for students to trade places with another student (or character from a book) and learn about that culture. Role-playing enables students to examine their own beliefs and feelings about different cultures, as well as learn about others thoughts and opinions. It also allows for students to express their own opinions and beliefs, as well as learn that their morals and values (and sometimes certain behaviors) may be associated with that of a different culture.
To make role playing a productive experience for students, make sure each student researches and prepares for her role. Her enactment should represent a clear portrayal of the intended person or culture they are trying to be. If you’re having students choose to learn about another student’s culture from the classroom, remind them to always be respectful of that culture. They can learn a lot from their peers but they should also do their research from books, the Internet, interviews, etc., as well.
If students are portraying a character from a book, then they should also do their research and learn more about the characters culture from credited resources.
Multicultural classrooms require an intercultural approach. This means that all students should experience and understand all perspectives from all students’ unique and diverse cultures. Use the strategies and activities mentioned above to help your students learn appropriate cultural behavior. Make your classroom an atmosphere where students can expand their knowledge, and look beyond each other’s differences to learn more about one another. Make it a place where all students’ unique backgrounds are understood as well as respected.
Do you have any multicultural classroom activities that you like to do in your classroom? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.