What is a multicultural classroom? A multicultural classroom is one in which both the students and the teacher are accepting of all races, cultures, and religions. This acceptance is evidenced by the books that are read, the activities that are completed, and the lessons that are taught.
What is the best way to incorporate multiculturalism into the classroom? The best way to incorporate multiculturalism into your classroom is to make a conscious effort to include books in your curriculum and class library that feature multicultural characters as much as possible. Many teachers believe that a Christmas Around the World, or a Passport Around the World unit is “multicultural”, but this method is exclusive and/or signals out one culture, religion, or minority group as being different. Also, if we teach multiculturalism as a unit, it is confined to one or two weeks of our students lives and will have little if any impact on their understanding and acceptance of other cultures in the long run. As a rule of thumb, steer clear of “multicultural units” and focus instead on incorporating multicultural literature into your daily routine. Use those “teachable moments” to discuss differences and similarities as they arise during your large group.
Is it necessary to have multicultural students to have a multicultural classroom? No. This is a common misconception, in fact, if you have a homogenous classroom is it especially important to emphasize multiculturalism because the only exposure your students may get to other cultures is through the activities, books, and lessons that you provide them with.
Why is multiculturalism so important? Multiculturalism is important because the world is changing every day. We must learn to accept and get along with all cultures, races, and religions in order to become productive citizens of the world. It is our job as teachers to prepare our students for the real world, and the real world is a multicultural one. We have the opportunity to teach our students love and acceptance NOW, even if it is not being taught at home. Chances are, by the time the students in your classroom reach the real world it will be a much more multicultural place than it is now and we need to prepare them for that.
What can I do to make my classroom more multicultural?
- Provide books in the classroom library that feature children of many different races. These are easily found in the Scholastic book orders.
- Place posters or artwork on the wall that feature a variety of multicultural children.
- Discuss differences and similarities in cultures with your students openly, but stress the similarities.
- Provide students with multicultural paint, paper, and crayons as often as possible and allow students to choose the color of paint, paper, or crayons they want to use.
- Find an international pen pal for your class or communicate with a class in a different country via blogging or skype.
- Read multicultural books to your class (see book list above).
- If you discuss one holiday in class, make sure to discuss them all. For example, don’t focus only on Christmas, make sure to cover and give equal time to Hanukkah and Kwanzaa too. Make sure to discuss the Lunar New Year, Ramadan, and Diwalii when the time comes too.
This bulletin board above features a Children Around the World cloth wall hanging purchased from Hammett’s. Hammett’s is now out of business and I do not know of any other vendors who currently sell this wall hanging, it is essentially “out of print” and no longer available. Underneath the wall hanging I have displayed the books What a Wonderful World, We All Sing In the Same Voice, Hello, and What is Your Language? There are also several Save the Children bean bag dolls and flags from around the world.
Above is our What a Wonderful World bulletin board that we make on the very first day of school. I give each child a multicultural person shape and they decorate it with crayons. I allow them to choose their skin color. We place the little paper children around the world holding hands to show that we are all friends. The earth was made by cutting and pasting large blue and green sheets of butcher paper together and laminating. This display stays up all year. Above the display you can see a banner that reads “We Are All Americans”.