3 Ways Culture Affects Learning And How To Use Them
Happy Friday Mates!
If you've read my last post on culturally responsive teaching you've seen me say that culture affects how students receive information, how they like to learn, and how they communicate. Today, I want to share with you specifically what I do to leverage this knowledge. I hope you find it useful.
Culture affects how students receive information, and if you want them to receive it from you, you must build and cultivate relationships with them.
It is not enough to do an ice breaker on the first day of school and begin talking about the syllabus. First, most ice breakers suck. Check out Icebreakers That Rock by Jennifer Gonzales for cool alternatives. Second, relationships require work, so do the work, because it's fun and you'll experience frequent joy when interacting with and teaching your students.
Don't do anything curriculum related the first week of school. Really. Find it in your heart to hang out and get to know your students. Be in the space with them. Better yet, throw out your teacher desk, so you have no choice but to be with them and learn from them. Then, learn from them; walk around and talk to them, show them a picture of your kids on your phone, ask them about that Metallica shirt or custom Air Jordan's (Js) they're wearing, and tell them Warby Parker is da bomb if they're wearing some sweet frames.
Convert your classroom to flexible seating. Twist your principal's arm, run a crowdfunding campaign, play guitar on the street corner, or use the tips in my post “Starbucks My Classroom” Project: The Master Plan". Whatever it takes, it is so worth it. In fact, it is such a game changer I am considering writing a book on flexible seating in middle/high school.
Check out the Who Am I Project my students did the first week of school. Or you could make your classroom community even tighter with awesome video projects such as this one. Start a classroom blog and have your students reflect on life, school, and school life. Get rid of most or all homework and tell them you're doing it, because you value their health (exercise and sleep), family time, and relationships above academics. If you don't, you need to get your priorities straight. Put them first, show them they matter, be vulnerable with them and you will reach them.
Culture affects how students like to learn, and if you want them to learn, you must give them choices.
Do you trust your students?
I'm not talking about blind trust. I'm referring to believing in your students' ability to try things out, stumble, make mistakes, and ultimately getting it (academics, behavior, whatever) right. We teach humans. Humans screw up a lot, but most of the time they are really good caring people. They might not care much for Chemistry or English or Math, but they care about many other things and while our job is to facilitate the subject, our purpose is to help them learn to live.
Several students receive a failing grade in my chemistry every year, but that does not mean they or I failed. It's a bump on the road to graduation for sure, but that's okay if I helped them gain some life skills. Maybe they trust others more and are willing to collaborate more now. Perhaps they are better communicators as a result of being part of the class. Or maybe they discovered ways they can learn more effectively and are a step away from applying them.
You see, flexible seating and living in the same space as your students doesn't only give them seat choices. It call for classroom leadership. Think about it for a little while. Would you rather manage your students or lead them? It is not the same thing. When you manage, you get compliance at best. When you lead, you give up control but gain influence. This leads to a truly student centered classroom. Now, you can differentiate and personalize instruction, assignments, and products to match student preferences.
Students can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups. Spread materials and equipment in different places in the classroom and plan several fast paced instructional activities asking students to do 3 out of the 5 things you designed for them. You can rotate them through stations where they create different products such as solutions to problems, summaries of concepts, drawings, videos, audio etc. As a bonus, you get instant feedback, because you are in the space and you see the learning flourish.
Culture affects how students communicate, and if you want them to communicate, you must give them a voice.
If you've done all of the above, you've given students a new voice; something some of them have never had before in a classroom, because they don't speak out in a crowd, or are too anxious to even talk in a group.
Technology gives all students a voice. With it, they can communicate in ways that were impossible without it. Ask students to tweet reflections, responses to questions, pictures, videos, or exit tickets and BE SURE TO FAVORITE THEM. Check out the Twitter hashtag #CymDogChem my students use to post their products to. Have them record 15-30 second videos comparing and contrasting concepts or summarizing a video they just watched. Ask them to write down a group summary of 3 key points in a presentation they just watched, take a picture of it, and post it on a Padlet you created. Have them create and play each others Kahoots or other games. Do a Voxer or Twitter chat. The possibilities are literally endless.
- Throw out your desk and be in the space as much as possible to learn with and from your students.
- Relationships require work, but make teaching joyful.
- Flexible seating makes for a welcoming, comfortable, and safer classroom. Do it.
- Flexible seating promotes collaboration, gives students choice in where they sit and allows for many culturally responsive ways to teach and learn.
- Technology gives all students a voice as they can communicate in ways that were impossible without it.
- Eat a lot of veggies, move, and sleep well.
You have the power to change lives. Use it often.