En la Clase: Building a Multicultural Classroom: Ideas for the Start of the Year

Vamos a Leer | Building a Multicultural Classroom: Ideas for the Start of the YearFirst, welcome back!

Over the past year we’ve connected with new readers and followers, and since many of you are teachers who return to the classroom over the next few weeks, I thought I’d share links to some of our past posts that talk about our approach to multicultural education here at Vamos a Leer and some great beginning-of-the-year activities.  We hope you’ll find them helpful! If you have any other ideas, please feel free to share them in the comments. We’d love to hear about them, and we know our teaching community would appreciate hearing as well!

A few summers ago we shared a series of En la Clase posts featuring lesson plans that introduce teaching about race, culture, difference, acceptance, and respect as ways to encourage community building in the classroom.  These lessons were written primarily for younger grades, but many could be adapted for older students as well.  It’s not uncommon for parents and educators to believe that we don’t need to (or even shouldn’t) discuss things like race, class, gender, difference, or acceptance, with our younger children.  Yet research has shown that young children do notice these things.  They talk about them, think about them, and draw conclusions based on what they see and hear, which for me means we shouldn’t wait until they’re older to begin discussing these things in explicit ways in the classroom.  I’ve linked to these lessons below.

We also shared another series entitled “Around the World in 180 Days”.  This four part series looked at various themes relevant to providing authentic multicultural education.  In the posts we discussed ways and resources that could help us as educators to provide an authentic multicultural education that would go beyond superficiality, to provide a deeper understanding of what it means to be a global citizen for our students.  I’ve included the links below.

When I was in the classroom, I loved making “All About Me” Cubes with both my middle and elementary school students.  This activity offers one more way to build classroom community while bringing students’ own lives into the classroom curriculum.  It’s a great activity to do in preparation for Open House or Parent-Teacher Conferences, especially if you’re looking for a fun display that showcases your students. It can be adapted to a much broader grade range.  I found it was always the perfect activity to do at the beginning of the school year as we eased into the structure and curriculum of the new year.  With four separate parts, it was easy to spread the project out over an entire month, and it could be stopped and started without much trouble.  There are lots of variations of “All About Me” projects, if you already have one that you use, it could easily be adapted to the cube format.

Get to Know You Bingo is an activity I’ve used with elementary, middle and college students.  It’s great for helping students get to know each other which aids in building classroom community.  It’s also one more way to show students that their lives outside the classroom are relevant parts to what we do at school.  It works with everyone, and students always enjoy it.  It’s a very simple two day activity.  First, give each student a slip of paper and then ask each student to write a short sentence that tells something about them that no one else in the class knows.  Collect all of the papers and create a bingo sheet with the sentences the students provided.  Click here for the blank bingo sheet I use each year.  It’s a word document so you can edit it for your class.  If you have extra spaces, just fill them in as “Free Spaces”.  The next day, give each student a copy of the bingo sheet you created. Explain that they will go around the class asking questions of their classmates trying to determine which fact goes with which student.  When they match a student with a box they either write that student’s name in the box or have that student sign their name.  You can play this as a typical bingo game having students stop when one student completes an entire row, or you can have students play until they’ve all filled out the entire sheet (which is what I’ve always done).  My students always loved this activity.  I’ve found it’s perfect for a Friday afternoon at the end of one of the first weeks of school.

Check back later in the week for our post on some of our favorite blogs, websites, and resources for quality multicultural teaching resources!

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