Culturally Responsive Teaching: Creating Opportunities

Speech language pathologist have dozens (if not hundreds) of tricks up their sleeves to elicit a variety of targets. Maybe we pull out our super duper fun deck, the magnetalk board, or a trusty Dr. Seuss book. But how can we create culturally responsive learning opportunities?

Culturally responsive teaching is not about tying content to a specific culture or mentioning a specific country. In my post about exploring your own cultural system, I talked about time, family, spiritual beliefs, and communication norms. For a long time, I assumed that because I was part of the dominant white culture in America, I wasn't really "cultural." Even if you have a classroom full of students of the same color skin, you will find a vast difference in their views and values. So, how do you create a classroom full of opportunities for all students? Here are a few tips that I have found successful within my classroom.

Make It Social
Make things social not just for social skills groups but for language, fluency, articulation, and yes, even voice. Have your students work together to solve a problem, plan an activity, or play a game. Not only are you probably making kids say an articulation target before they take their turn, you are also helping students learn how to interact with one another.

To make a lesson culturally relevant to a child, you first need to know the child. Observe how the student interacts with peers and adults. Are they reserved or more outspoken. Think of how you can use what you learn about them to play to their strengths and support them in future learning opportunities. Point out those strengths to the student, even in front of group members. Use those, "I like how so-and-so did this," statements to encourage those healthy interactions.

Challenge the Status Quo
Oooo this can be scary. Have you ever had a student say to another child, "That's weird," or "Why are you doing it that way?" Use these as learning opportunities. Ask the child why they accomplished a task or did something in a way that the other student did not expect. Then ask the student who made the observation what they learned about their group-mate. Not only will you make learning meaningful to the student who is doing things in an unexpected manner, you can also encourage the student who made the not so pleasant comment to think about why they think a certain way. My favorite question is, "Why did you think that way? How did you come up with your answer?" When students know you are genuinely interested in their thought process, you may end up learning a thing or two that will challenge your own way of thinking.

Has a student ever helped you think in a different way?

Wrapping It Up
Thank you so much for taking the time to read about my cultural and equity journey. I know that I still have much more to learn and areas for growth in my cultural competence. Keep in mind that your students and classroom will be different from mine. Use that difference as learning opportunities. As you reflect on your culturally responsive teaching journey ask yourself these questions:

What are your own cultural expectations and biases?
How can you grow your cultural diversity knowledge base?
How are you creating an environment for students to engage in cultural conversations?
What culturally responsive learning opportunities are you creating for your students?

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