Sunday, January 15, 2012

Respecting Cultural Diversity in the Classroom

Often, a second language learner may feel isolated in the classroom because of the huge situation they face of being uprooted from what they know and having to conform to such a different reality than what they are used to. It is no wonder that these students can fall behind easily and isolate themselves from their peers in an attempt to solidify some control over their life.

Fortunately, there are so many ways to bridge that gap between home and school. The first thing that a teacher should look to build with a student who is experiencing culture shock and difficulty adjusting in school is to form a nonjudgemental relationship with the child and let them feel that they are safe with you. Of course, to gain this respect you will need to pay close attention to the child's behavior.

For example:

  • Where does the child feel most comfortable? Set up the space for maximum comfort. 
  • What is important to the child? Is it important for them to do things a certain way?
After you have set up this trusting relationship, the child should be more openly expressing their feelings and participating with more enthusiasm. After this point, there are several ways a teacher can foster a great learning experience for a child while helping them to be comfortable expressing their unique background. 

For example, you may:
  • Challenge the child with new material that they can work on at their own pace;
  • Use a variety of mediums to work on skills;
  • Use things that are important to the child to help them connect with their peers and share their background;
  • Encourage their unique ways of doing things as an acceptable and something to be proud of;
  • Incorporate the child's language background if the child is comfortable with that
A great way to connect with a second language learner is to use wordless books. Wordless books are great because they allow the reader to use their imagination and basically create meaning out of the story. Everyone can see pictures, so there is no pressure to "read" the book. In actuality, they are reading the book! By looking at the pictures, they are taking in many small details and after analyzing, coming up with what they believe the illustrator is trying to convey in the picture. 

The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a great wordless book that I was exposed to recently, that documents an immigrant to a foreign land and the struggles he faces there. The story can have different meanings for different people, and there is no wrong or right answer. This book would be a great connection to make with students who may be experiencing a similar situation of going to a new land!

1 comment:

  1. Salam :)...thank you for commenting on my challenge!I'll make sure to visit your blog to give it not just a glance as now,but to read it :)...and to let you know about the results of my challenge.