Classrooms in the 21st century are melting pots of different cultures and racial backgrounds. In order for all students to achieve their full potential, teachers must create a welcoming and supportive classroom environment where cultural differences are respected and celebrated. Teaching students to be respectful and sensitive toward other cultures is an important part of this process as it creates a positive and inclusive learning environment.
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Introduce the idea of respect. As a class, brainstorm the meaning of the word "respect" and why it is important in the classroom and wider world. Ask students for their ideas on how to be respectful to other people. Ideas like "always use manners" or "never use violence" can then be the basis for a set of classroom rules.
Teach students about diversity. Ask the students to make short presentations to the class about their family history, country of birth and any special customs or traditions they practice at home. After the presentations, ask students what they have learnt about one another. The aim is to show the breadth of diversity among students and that even those of the same ethnic or social group may have very different backgrounds.
Celebrate a world festival or holiday. Select the festival or holiday that the class would like to celebrate, such as the Sikh festival Baisakhi. Teach students the history and significance of this festival and how it is celebrated in its country of origin. In this example, Baisakhi celebrates the Punjab New Year and the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh. Raise awareness of this event around school and devote an afternoon to its celebration.
Decorate the classroom. Promote awareness and sensitivity by getting students to decorate the classroom with objects that reflect different cultures and societies. Country flags, maps and photographs can make the classroom environment more culturally friendly. Ask students to bring in an item from home that represents their culture and use it to make a display.
Go on a field trip. Take students to a museum to experience and learn about a local culture. After the visit, ask students to write a one-page summary on the history and values of that culture. Compile their reflections into a file or binder to make a class culture book.
Tips and warnings
- Encourage parents to get involved in your diversity teaching by promoting respect at home. Devote a little time each day to learning about and appreciating other cultures
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