Why it’s Important to Create Cultural Sensitivity in the EFL Classroom
If we look at the world today, and if we observe it from a teacher's perspective, there has been an increasing trend for making classrooms more "culturally sensitive" around the world. Creating lesson plans that are rich with information about the diversity in a community where we teach is highly desirable and becoming more and more popular.
This post was written by our ITTT graduate Stefana Z.
Why Do We Need Cultural Sensitivity?
Of course, there are no real guidelines or set programs for today's teachers on how to develop cultural awareness in the classroom and at the same time teach reading, writing and practice listening and speaking skills. These culturally sensitive topics and a special level of attention are especially needed when it comes to teaching a language and, moreover, when we teach the students from different religious, cultural and social backgrounds.
As educators we need to take a closer look at what encompasses awareness and sensitivity of diversity and cultural ethnicity, we also need to understand just what is involved in multi-ethnic education. But for many teachers, this also means understanding themselves, as well as students' age, abilities, and backgrounds. This way, educators are learning about how they cope with unusual situations, how well they understand others and value what the "differences" have to offer.
The students of today who embrace their cultural heritage still need to fit with the students and cultures surrounding them. School systems and individual schools themselves can be extremely powerful agents in this process by providing insights into difficult cultural questions and issues facing students. With righteous moderating and teacher's guidance the classroom itself, as an important venue can be transformed into a setting where differences can be observed and analyzed in a good way. By acknowledging differences and getting deeper into dedicating the same amount of time to each of the students, we can all focus better on what's good for the whole group and what those students have in common.
Incorporating Multicultural Awareness
What teachers could do when they organize an extra lesson or have free time is create a multicultural climate in the classroom by involving multicultural awareness into class' curriculum. Learning about locations, cuisine, traditions, histories, religions, and customs of the students' countries is an important asset for bonding the group closer together.
Involving the Students
Next, another step is involving students - by understanding how they are part of a social network, not just racial or ethnic ones, students can turn their differences and distinct individual personalities into positive involvement. Also, teachers should make a clear and concise course organization so that the students may get a clearly written class expectation list along with a calendar of events.
Further on, when teaching a language, teachers should give the students in these situations more time to adjust - let them write down the answers rather than making them produce orally, repeated explanations as many times as needed and checking whether they understood them and talk slowly, clearly and softly at first. According to me, it's desirable to be in touch with students' families so you can keep them informed of their children's progress as they might help the teacher encourage and motivate the students from a different and secure home base.
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To sum it up, when teachers are teaching in diverse classrooms, they should implement culturally sensitive instruction by using varied communication strategies, cooperative learning and by understanding the different learning styles and match multi-ethnic and cognitive styles. By incorporating different strategies into their lesson plans and by creating a culturally sensitive environment in a classroom, teachers can teach and work with culturally diverse classes with ease.
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