Tool Box
Jennifer Hincapie


Family Centered Approach

Family centered approach is about taking the child out of its contexts and instead, focusing on the children within their families. This means parent involvement is a must and an integral part of child’s education and socialization. Collaboration between parents, student and teacher is what builds this partnership in order to bring different set of skills that enhance them all, especially the students learning outcome. This partnership results in an understanding and respect of cultural differences and cultural consistency.

Students Like You

With students like you, teaching is easy
I look forward to each day;
Your wondering minds keep me on my toes;
You make teaching more like play.

Students like you make teaching rewarding;
When I go home, I'm content;
You pay attention, you learn—giving me
A sense of accomplishment.

Thank you for being the way you are,
For making my job so much fun.
I'll remember how good you made me feel,
Even when my teaching is done.
By Joanna Fuchs

Strategies for Teaching Culturally Diverse Students

There are many school factors that affect the success of culturally diverse students – the school's atmosphere and overall attitudes toward diversity, involvement of the community, and culturally responsive curriculum, to name a few. Of all of these factors, the personal and academic relationships between teachers and their students may be the most influential. This relationship has been referred to as the "core relationship" of learning – the roles of teachers and students, the subject matter, and their interaction in the classroom. Certain behaviors and instructional strategies enable teachers to build a stronger teaching/learning relationship with their culturally diverse students. Many of these behaviors and strategies exemplify standard practices of good teaching, and others are specific to working with students from diverse cultures. A number of these behaviors and strategies are listed below.

Integration within the Classroom

Brofenbrenner's Ecological Model of human development means that every child is at the center of what can be visualized as concentric circles of context set in an overarching system of time, which affects all the contexts and changes them continuously. The point of the system is that each component interacts with other components, creating a highly complex context in which the child grows up.

Instructional Strategies

  • Use a variety of instructional strategies and learning activities.
  • Consider students' cultures and language skills when developing learning objectives and instructional activities.
  • Incorporate objectives for affective and personal development.
  • Communicate expectations. Let the students know the "classroom rules" about talking, verbal participation in lessons, and moving about the room.
  • Provide rationales. Explain the benefits of learning a concept, skill, or task.
  • Use advance and post organizers to keep students organized.
  • Provide frequent reviews of the content learned.
  • Facilitate independence in thinking and action.
  • Promote student on-task behavior.
  • Monitor students' academic progress during lessons and independent work.
  • Provide frequent feedback.
  • Require mastery. Require students to master one task before going on to the next.

                                           Learning Through Play

As children we are born to play and learn. Play is just a way in which children learn with their bodies and mind through active ply interacting with their environment and with other people. With play kids can explore the unknown, using pretend kids are encouraged to take risks within a safe environment. Communication is key in play and can be verbal or non-verbal and it makes the child share information and knowledge through play. During play children become absorbed which leads them to thinking critically about what they are doing making their play much more meaningful because it helps them to extend their knowledge and understanding skills in a way that makes perfect sense to them. Play also helps children work out their feelings through emotions and experiences.

Why is it needed?

Types of Play

Creative play involves children exploring and using their bodies and materials to make and do things and to share their feelings, ideas and thoughts. They enjoy being creative by dancing, painting, playing with materials, working with play-dough and clay, and using their imaginations.

Games with Rules- Language is an important part of games with rules as children explain, question and negotiate the rules. Rules are often an important part of pretend play where children negotiate rules about what can and can’t be done.

Language play involves children playing with sounds and words. This type of play includes unplanned and impulsive ways of manipulating words during play. Children enjoy playing with stories, scripts and sounds.

Physical play involves activities using coordination, balance, and physical movements that develop children’s fine motor skills. This could involve different types of physical play like exploratory play, manipulative play, and constructive play. Exploratory play involves children using physical skills and their 5 senses to find out what things smell, feel, look like and so on within their environment. Manipulative play involves children using objects and manipulatives in order practice their motor skills to enhance their hand eye coordination, and their physical dexterity. Constructive play involves children using blocks or other materials in order to develop or build during play.

Pretend play can involve fantasy play, dramatic, make-believe, or role playing. All these types of pretend play involve children using their imagination to play out different events or situations, to develop language, to act out fantasy play like super heroes, as well as real life occupations or experiences. This type of play also includes socio-dramatic play which involves children playing with other children or adults, to make friends, develop communication skills while playing out stories or writing their own.

Communication with Families of Various Backgrounds

The key to becoming good communicators and implementing a number of approaches that encourage communication whether you are a kindergarten teacher, primary teacher, or school-age care staff member.

Ways of communicating with parents

  • Phone calls
  • Emails
  • Scheduled meetings/ conferences
  • Written communications sent home
  • Parent/ teacher board
  • Weekly newsletters

Spend time to get to know your students and their family’s background and find different ways of building a home school connection.

  • Welcome letter
  • Getting to know you
  • Getting to know about your culture
  • Project on everyone’s culture

Diversity Within the Classroom

In a school setting it is very difficult to figure out as a teacher what values are already instilled in our children and what values a teacher can show a student with regards to keeping respect to the child’s culture and family history. Communication is a huge issue, it comes with many different aspects as well. Communication between a parent, a child and an educator could include issues with language barriers, issues with disabilities, issues with a parent’s ability to input the needed time into their child’s education. Then there are issues with the different values that come from the 15-20 different households’ values or culture in a classroom. Culture affects the way a child is brought up, the respect a child has for themselves and for people and things around them, the beliefs a child comes to school with religious or otherwise. Another thing to think about is that culture can also affect a child’s work ethic. Many households now a days have two different cultures as well. Culture also affects the way a child is disciplined, while some parents find it fair to spank their child another parent finds that time outs work more than a smack on the bottom.

In a place like Miami full of all these different cultures as a teacher I would first learn everything I need to learn about all of my children in my classroom. Including their cultures and their parent’s values. I feel that a teacher must be in contact with parents throughout the entire year. Communication is key not only for life but to ensure that a child is progressing to their full potential. A teacher should be in constant communication with all parents whether the child is excelling in the classroom or if the child is failing. Many parents are unable to provide the time they need to their child’s education in order to be able to support them financially. Educators should respect and work with parents who have issues like these because they are common. Unfortunately not all families have the same time available to input to their child and therefore a teacher should work with the family and find different ways of communicating. If language barriers arise, find a translator to translate forms or to be present in conferences. Being skillful in communication will help each child progress and grow to learn and enjoy school no matter the difficulties. If this all fails then other resources are available like spending a little more time with each child in need or finding programs for the child that a parent can work with.

In a classroom of 15 to 20 children it is difficult not to find differences between cultures from all over the world. We live in a cultural enriched city with that come so many different aspects to think about while teaching. The children come into your classroom with different goals some not knowing basics, to some knowing much more. Being raised in Miami I have found that culture is the deciding factor in children’s beliefs, religion, and way of learning. A teacher needs to provide different ways to reach these minds without being biased toward one’s own culture or beliefs. Every child is also affected by culture in their work ethics, while some parents urge a child to be at specific levels in education and others just go with the flow, or could unknowingly keep their child down. As an educator this is where open house, and parent conferences comes into play. A teacher should be willing to have his or her classroom open for their parents to be able to see their child’s progress or grade book open. Educators want to instill good values and work ethics but must be familiar with what is appropriate with the families.

Cultural Awareness

Teacher Behaviors to Increase Cultural Awareness while Avoiding Bias

Appreciate and accommodate the similarities and differences among the students' cultures. Effective teachers of culturally diverse students acknowledge both individual and cultural differences enthusiastically and identify these differences in a positive manner. This positive identification creates a basis for the development of effective communication and instructional strategies. Social skills such as respect and cross-cultural understanding can be modeled, taught, prompted, and reinforced by the teacher.

Build relationships with students. Interviews with African-American high school students who presented behavior challenges for staff revealed that they wanted their teachers to discover what their lives were like outside of school and that they wanted an opportunity to partake in the school's reward systems. Developing an understanding of students' lives also enables the teacher to increase the relevance of lessons and make examples more meaningful.

Focus on the ways students learn and observe students to identify their task orientations. Once students' orientations are known, the teacher can structure tasks to take them into account. For example, before some students can begin a task, they need time to prepare or attend to details. In this case, the teacher can allow time for students to prepare, provide them with advance organizers, and announce how much time will be given for preparation and when the task will begin. This is a positive way to honor their need for preparation, rituals, or customs.

Teach students to match their behaviors to the setting. We all behave differently in different settings. For example, we behave more formally at official ceremonies. Teaching students the differences between their home, school, and community settings can help them switch to appropriate behavior for each context. For example, a teacher may talk about the differences between conversations with friends in the community and conversations with adults at school and discuss how each behavior is valued and useful in that setting. While some students adjust their behavior automatically, others must be taught and provided ample opportunities to practice. Involving families and the community can help students learn to adjust their behavior in each of the settings in which they interact.

Community Resources

Parent to Parent of Miami is constantly seeking new resources to help families help their children reach their fullest potential. Here you will find information regarding laws, financial help, summer camps and activities, support, transportation, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and more.

The Early Childhood and Parenting (ECAP) Collaborative is home to a number of projects that focus on educating and raising young children. ECAP hosts research, technical assistance, and service projects.

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