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Elementary school teachers are often concerned that their young students are entering the classroom without enough of an understanding, respect, and tolerance for cultural differences. Many people believe that lessons taught on the importance of diversity at the primary grade level in America will create awareness, and help foster a lasting respect for multiculturalism. Respect and knowledge of others’ diversity lends itself to a well-rounded education, and eventually, to more well-rounded people.
Oral storytelling can be a valuable form of instruction, demonstrating the diversity of cultures and is a comfortable and effective method in an elementary school classroom. It’s an approach that opens the door for family members to visit the classroom and share elements of their culture.
They may bring items with them to show, such as traditional clothing, or to share, such as samples of favorite foods. They may illustrate their stories with music or art. These can be fascinating opportunities for young students to learn about the world around them and develop awareness and respect for differences.
Art activities are a great way to promote learning. For students to create something specific to a culture, they need to focus on what makes that culture unique and special. Team art projects can also be a fun way to build camaraderie among everyone in the class.
Food can also be an effective tool for learning. In many cases, children can prepare and eat the foods of a specific culture. This type of exercise not only helps students increase awareness about that culture, but can also provide other learning opportunities in math, science, and nutrition.
A newsletter for students’ families is a good way to communicate the teacher’s efforts to promote respect for diversity. Some teachers will highlight a different culture each month, chosen from those represented in their classroom, and often with parents contributing information or articles. Language barriers can be overcome through translation, offering the information in both English and in the language of the highlighted culture. Translation of the newsletter will not only demonstrate respect for the culture but will enable the newsletter to be shared with students’ extended family members who may not read English.
Understanding each other is the best way for students to appreciate the value of all human beings and the wealth that is in diversity. We hope these ideas will spark inspiration for cultural awareness in the classroom and foster respect in students for all cultures.
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