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Friday, 1 July 2011

Culture in the classroom

In our school we have families from many different cultures, with many different beliefs, each with distinctive ways of conducting their daily lives. Many of the children may not be aware of the differences and unique qualities of each culture. It's up to the educators to ensure that we are being inclusive in the classroom and sharing those unique qualities, so that we become a cohesive melding of fellowship.
So how can we become inclusive in the classroom?
  • Celebrate everyones special occasions
  • Include toys and activities from all cultures as a part of regular routine
  • Ensure books represent all cultures and are available at all times
  • Classroom decor should represent all cultures at all times
  • Allow families to give input to the classroom
    • Invite parents to share a cultural tradition
    • Ask families what they want to see included in your program
  • Try and maintain 'home' language if possible
    • Do not discourage children from using their own language
  • Be sure you are not being offensive to other cultures
    • Ask if you are uncertain about introducing certain activities
  • Ensure food preferences and requirements are being met
  • Have children share pictures and objects from home
  • Model attitudes and behaviour
    • Embrace and accept differences
  • Provide materials that provoke an interest and curiosity
  • Address the curiosities of children
    • Know that children are capable of understanding
    • If you do not know the answers - find out and address when you are informed
With careful consideration, every classroom can be a place where children feel self assured, accepted, and free to express their diversity.


  1. I understand what you're saying about inclusion, but it's awfully hard to fit anything else at all in a single room if you're constantly representing every possible culture! I would have no wall space left for the children's displays!

    Another example: if I had the Asian dolls, the Aboriginal dolls, the Caucasian dolls and the African dolls out all together- a boy and girl of each, or I'm showing gender bias- that's eight dolls in home corner just for starters, which seems to be too much for my children. The clutter of too much choice seems to create confusion and poor behaviour.

    It's also hard for a teacher to know enough about every culture to avoid just being tokenistic. I think we need to be a bit selective and not try to be all things to all people. By all means create an atmosphere where the specific cultures represented within your enrolment feel at home- but trying to 'do it all' just creates a burden for staff, and confusion for the children. Well, that's what I find, anyway!

  2. There are ways of being inclusive without over doing it - cluttering. It's simple to select books that reflect diversity, include them in your library. When you hang posters or pictures, make sure they show different ethnicities, include decor that reflects more than one culture. Serve cultural foods a couple of times per week. Sing songs from other cultures... etc. Learn a few words in someone elses language to welcome them. It's way easier than you think! No we don't have to be all things to all people - but we can ensure we are inclusive in some way. It's about being respectful in my opinion.

  3. Leeanne,
    I think you have shared some really creative ideas for nurturing a multi-cultural interaction in schools. While, it may not be possible for the teachers to take them up in an exclusive manner, given all that they have to cover as part of curriculum, yet, small things can go a long way.

    Like you have suggested in your comment above - exchanging postcards, learning just a few words to greet each other on birthdays or on each other's festivals and learning by music, dance etc is an excellent way of interaction.
    And, in my view, it's the interaction that matters the most. Dolls, posters etc will enhance the interaction.

    What a coincidence that on the same day as you wrote this post, I wrote an article on the exact same topic. Isn't it wonderful that we are thousands of miles away and yet we can resonate!

  4. Thank you so much for your response. Anything we can do on a 'regular basis' to support inclusion is an important step forward.