Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Culturally Responsive Practices

I spent the day today in a workshop for mentor leaders in my school board discussing culturally responsive practices. It was very interesting and informative...I think I will be reflecting on my own teaching practice for quite awhile after today.

The first thing that we did was have an icebreaker type activity called "Who's in the room?" You can do this by either having people physically stand up to indicate their inclusion in a group or answer a question. For example, we stood up if we taught in the K-8 panel. We stood up if we were currently mentoring a new teacher. We stood up if we had been mentored by Bruce Wellman. It was very interesting because you could see who you had things in common with and who you might be interested in networking with to learn more.

The second activity we did was similar except that we used clickers to indicate our answers. In this case we were able to answer more sensitive question anonymously. Each participant had a clicker and we used it to answer yes or no to questions based on culture, gender, religion, etc without being singled out. Then we could discuss the responses based on a graph that was displayed of the results. (If you've ever played the trivia style game that is in some restaurants/pubs then you should know what I mean by clickers.) It was interesting to see the results of questions like-
"Have you ever been the target of racial graffiti in the workplace?"
"Have you ever felt unable to voice your opinion because of your gender?"
"Have you ever felt that someone was hired based on their gender/ethnicity/culture/religion?"

Everyone was able to "participate" in the discussion completely anonymously! And it made for some intriguing results....

I would love to get some of these clickers for my school! It would be a great way to see the pulse of your many are understanding a concept? It would enable to quieter students an outlet to "participate" in class without speaking in front of a large group. You can also type in response numerically or with letters. The possibilities are endless.

Once we had completed these two ice breakers we moved onto the nitty gritty of the day's agenda. The overall idea of the workshop was that we need to be aware of who we are culturally and our own beliefs and values so that we can confront and prejudices we might hold. Only then can we be open to creating a culturally responsive teaching practice. It's an important step to creating an inclusive learning environment.


We spent some time talking about how we can use culturally responsive practices in a cross-curricular way. One suggestion was made in regards to the types of word problems or story problems that are used in math class.

This is a Grade 4 example:

Instead of...

If you wake up at 7:30 a.m., and it takes you 10 minutes to eat your breakfast, 5 minutes to brush your teeth, 25 minutes to wash and get dressed, 5 minutes to get your backpack ready, and 20 minutes to get to school, will you be at school by 9:00 a.m.? (Taken from the Ontario curriculum document for Math)


Think about your morning schedule. What time do you wake up? What routines do you follow in the morning as you get ready for school? How long does it take you to do each of the tasks? How does your morning routine compare to the morning routine of a child in a developing country?

The same math expectations are addressed in both problems...elapsed time...but the second question also looks at the math through a cultural lens. And, it's not that hard to do!

I am very interested to try this in my own class. I do recognize that a question such as this would require some pre-teaching or schema development. It may be necessary to research the morning routine of a child in a developing country...but what a great opportunity for a rich discussion based on such a simple math expectation! As a Grade 4 teacher, I could also ask students in compare their morning routine to the morning routine of a child in the middle ages and it not only integrates culture but social studies as well!


The next topic of discussion was based around assessment and the work of Anne Davies. We discussed her ideas around the triangulation of assessment- observation, conversation, and products. Essentially these three ideas form the basis of your assessment practices, a triangle with the student in the centre. We brainstormed all the types of assessment we currently use in our classrooms and then placed them where we thought they best fit on the triangle. I was very proud of myself to see that my assessment practices have moved from largely product-based to a lot more observation and conversation. I think I have developed more confidence in my own abilities to assess my students that I don't always need to see a written product in order to give my students a grade!

When we are using conversations and observations it is still very important to have a checklist or a set of criteria based on the curriculum. In this way we can still differentiate our instruction/assessment, we can be inclusive and culturally responsive!

One very interesting strategy I learned that I am going to try out in my class tomorrow (and then tell YOU all about it!!) is Talking Pictures. Ask your students to draw a picture illustrating what they know about a topic. I am going to ask them to draw what they know about division. I am then going to assess their drawings using "Glow/Grow". If the student has demonstrated an understanding based on the question/topic you have posted then you use a symbol (smiley face, check mark, plus sign) that indicates that the student is glowing in this area. Any place that shows the students still needs to work or has some misconceptions you use a symbol (minus sign, question mark) where the student needs to grow.


Here are some books and resources that were also discussed today at the workshop:

Math That Matter by Davide Stocker

Maria the Remarkable by Tara Langlois & Patti McIntosh

The Guide to Effective Literacy Instruction- Volume 7, Media

Good Questions- Great Ways to Differentiate Math Instruction

4 Brilliant Teaching Thoughts:

Kelly said...

Hi, I am a new follower. I was at a workshop recently where they suggested making response cards with A,B,C,D written on them for each student to keep on their desk as an easy, inexpensive way to gauge alternative to the clickers!

Kindergarten Kel

Julie said...

Sounds like a fantastic workshop! Can't wait to hear about how it works in your classroom. :)


Beth said...

I have seen that too. I think what I liked about the clickers is that it could be totally anonymous so the students might feel more confident in sharing their answers. However, until I have the it might be!

Beth said...

Thanks Julie!

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