Using Culturally Responsive Strategies For Teaching Diverse Learners
America’s classrooms have become increasingly diverse. Teachers providing writing instruction must accommodate students from many different backgrounds. What are some of the ways they can do so?
Culturally Responsive Classroom
In a culturally responsive classroom, responsibility is placed on the teacher to adjust lessons according to students’ cultural norms. The more educators know about their students, the better they can fit instruction to their individual reading and writing levels, interests, and needs. Therefore, teachers must learn more about students’ personal and family lives and educational goals, considering ways to build positive relationships. Moreover, a personalized approach to lessons has a greater impact than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Tips for Educators
An important first step for teachers is examining and educating themselves. They can ask:
- What do I know about my students’ backgrounds and communities?
- Do I understand issues involving racial equity, socioeconomics, and those of non-native English speakers?
- What are personal biases that shape what I value and teach?
- How are diverse voices encouraged in my classroom?
- Do my students see themselves reflected in curricula?
Part of self-reflection requires educators to open themselves up to receiving feedback from students, colleagues, administrators, and student families. This exercise leads to considering whether the structure of curriculum needs to be adjusted and developing a writing program that accommodates diversity.
Strategies for Teaching Culturally Responsive Writing Skills
Writing is crucial for all students’ development. It is an engaging and interesting activity that strengthens communication and self-expression. Teachers help students become better writers by teaching a variety of strategies that support the writing process.
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) offers recommendations on effective writing instruction, particularly in the elementary school setting.
- Provide daily time for students to write. IES recommends a minimum of one hour a day devoted to student writing, beginning in 1st grade. Writing practice can occur in the context of other content-area instruction.
- Teach students how to apply the writing process, and teach them to write for a variety of purposes.
- Teach fluency in handwriting, spelling, sentence construction, and typing.
- Include opportunities for students to choose their own topics to increase engagement and motivation.
In general, writing instruction should focus on consistency. A consistent routine allows students of all backgrounds to feel comfortable and practice writing while receiving feedback and support from their teachers.
Customizing the Learning Environment For Diverse Learners
Considering the needs of diverse learners, educators may customize the learning environment, instructional materials, and teaching strategies for writing instruction. They make an even more powerful impact when they accommodate students’ diverse needs. Teachers seeking to be culturally responsive should consider these accommodations in the K-8 classroom:
- Learning environment—include more time for writing; provide a quiet area for students; allow students to select meaningful reinforcements for achieving writing goals.
- Instructional materials—simplify language of writing prompts; develop individualized spelling lessons; highlight key words and phrases.
- Teaching strategies—focus on writing mechanics; provide physical assistance in handwriting instruction; teach students to adjust their writing behaviors and habits.
Teachers Helping Students Improve Literacy and Writing Skills
If you are a teacher seeking to improve the reading and writing abilities of your students, a graduate education degree may be for you. John Carroll University (JCU) offers a Master of Education (M.Ed.) program in Advanced Studies for experienced teachers and other educational professionals. You can develop your unique interests by choosing from six areas of specialization, including Literacy. The Literacy specialization offers in-depth preparation in literacy, reading assessment, and diagnosis of reading problems. This track may lead to recommendation for the State of Ohio Reading Endorsement.
JCU is a private Jesuit university located in University Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.