197. Please explain how to promote interaction between students in the multicultural classroom. Students in my class speak 3 different languages and they splintered themselves off into 3 different groups. What strategies do I use to promote interaction between my students?
Students tend to group themselves not only by language and/or culture, but by all kinds of real or imagined features that truly do not matter. I recall once, as I was helping a pair of very dedicated teachers in El Paso, TX, that their students, ALL of them Hispanic, divided themselves almost from the very first day of school --school begins in August in El Paso-- into those who spoke only English and those who were English/Spanish bilingual students.
The two teachers were totally taken aback by this division, at the Kindergarten level, by students who looked exactly alike and were working with two teachers who looked just like them!!! Hard as they tried, the division took hold until . . . . just by coincidence, came time to celebrate "16 de septiembre," or Independence Day for Mexico (which at the time included most of Central America). To prepare for such a celebration, the teachers planned and organized a series of folk dances --non-verbal activities-- that, magically, helped the children begin to work or dance with each other in a very joyful and playful manner. The more they practiced the dances, the better the children began to interact with each other and, by September 16, ALL students were members of ONE class, ONE group!!!
Now, I have found on other occasions, also, that music, movement, pantomime, dancing, rhythmic gymnastics, all types of kinesthetic activities help immensely in bringing people together. Language seems to divide people while movement, coordinated physical activity seem to bring people together.
Thus, my recommendation to you is to BEGIN your classes --at the beginning of the academic year-- with an emphasis on kinesthetic activities --or organized play-- that allow students to work together without the need to communicate through language. Once students begin to work together, praise their cooperative behavior, their camaraderie, their involvement with each other. Indicate to them that those are the expected classroom behaviors for all other types of activities.
You can also help all students understand each other better through visual and oral presentations that they, or their families, may be invited to make for the entire class. Decorate your class with all types of expressions from their cultures and languages. Talk about their geographical points of origin, and illustrate their ways of life. YOU ARE INDEED so very lucky and your students are so very lucky to get to know people from so many different places.
Bring their music, their dances, their heroes, their stories to be shared in your classroom. Relate their own background to American history, places, customs, music, food, etc.
Celebrate with all your students their important cultural celebrations as well as American cultural celebrations: The more they know about each other, the more they will accept each other. And, as you involve their families through your classroom, their own relatives may provide role models of how to interact with each other and appreciate each other. I am sure that the parents, grandparents, any other family members know HOW TO DO something typical within each of the cultures. Invite those adults to begin skills or interest groups where all students can learn how to do something special within each culture.
You are indeed very lucky to have THREE cultural groups in your class. The world in which our students will live will reflect incredible diversity, the incredible diversity of our entire planet.
For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:
1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading
Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)
Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.
For information and credentials please click on the link below or contact directly:
CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK, Ph.D.
Educational Consultant, Program Evaluator
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Certification (12/2006)
3113 Malcolm Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90034-3406
Phone and Fax: (310) 474-5605