Colorin Colorado: Helping children read... and succeed!
A bilingual site for families and educators of English language learners
  • small text
  • medium text
  • large text
  • print
FAQs

Multicultural Education

Frequent questions

  • Question 1: What are some things I can do to make the new ELLs in my class feel comfortable?
  • Question 2: One part of my lesson planning is to develop lessons with a multicultural perspective. Are you aware of a rubric or questionnaire that evaluates texts based on multicultural qualities?

Expert answers

Question:

What are some things I can do to make the new ELLs in my class feel comfortable?

Answer:

As a rule of thumb, individuals feel comfortable in situations where they feel welcomed and valued, comfortable about taking risks, successful, respected, and free to express their opinions and desires — an environment they feel they belong to. The conditions are not different for language learners. Teachers need to first attempt to lower students' affective filters and create a learning community in the classroom before they can attempt to teach content. How can they do that? Below are some ideas.

  • Learn how to pronounce students' names correctly.
  • Express a warm, friendly, and caring attitude towards students.
  • Value their participation in the learning process, even if it is through nonverbal responses.
  • Make instructional accommodations to facilitate SOESOL students' learning.
  • Invite parents to become partners in the teaching of their children.
  • Incorporate aspects of the each child's culture into the curriculum.
  • Learn about each student's native culture and a few utterances in his/her native language.
  • Create an inclusive learning community in the classroom.
  • Use a variety of instructional strategies to meet the diverse needs and learning styles of the students.
  • Establish equal eye contact with all students.
  • Provide opportunities for equal classroom participation for all students.
  • Vary group composition so that students can work with all students in the learning community.
  • Periodically change the physical arrangement of the classroom to emphasize different student-student interactive patterns.
  • Maintain open channels of communication with students.
  • Attempt to make home visits to have a more holistic view of the learner.
  • Make the school community aware of some unique characteristics of the students' cultures through bulletin boards or other resources.
  • Make suggestions for bilingual materials that can be added to the school library.
  • Share the success and progress of second language learners with the school community.
  • Adopt a multicultural teaching approach.
  • View diversity as an asset for learning and not an obstacle.

The video "Starting Points: I Don't Know Where To Start" is a good reference for teachers attempting to help second language learners assimilate into the target culture.

Question:

One part of my lesson planning is to develop lessons with a multicultural perspective. Are you aware of a rubric or questionnaire that evaluates texts based on multicultural qualities?

Answer:

In Multicultural Children's Literature: Creating and Applying an Evaluation Tool in Response to the Needs of Urban Educators, Jennifer Johnson Higgins provides an excellent checklist for evaluating multicultural literature for children. The article also includes a review of the literature on this topic, as well as an annotated bibliography of children's books with multicultural themes. Although the checklist was designed for use with children's literature, it could easily be adapted to any type of text.