Students come to school with a wide range of experiences and background learning. It is important for teachers to acknowledge this and develop a cultural and linguistic diversity knowledge base1. This means teachers need to be aware and understand the cultural characteristics and contributions of the ethnic and linguistic groups they serve, and they need be able to learn detailed factual and explicit information about the cultural and linguistic particularities of the specific ethnic and linguistic groups with whom they work1.

1. Gay (2002)


The importance of student and family background

Consider what you know about how students’ linguistic and cultural backgrounds shape their learning experiences and how that background affects the type of relationship families develop with schools and other educational institutions.

1. Think about why knowing about students and families backgrounds is important. Create a list with your ideas.

2. Share your list with a peer. How are your thoughts similar and different?

3. Read the resource below. After reading this text, have your ideas changed? Why or why not?

Students bring funds of knowledge to their learning communities, and, recognizing this, teachers and teacher educators must incorporate this knowledge and experience into classroom practice.

“Students do not enter school as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge. Rather, they bring with them rich and varied language and cultural experiences. All too often, these experiences remain unrecognized or undervalued as dominant mainstream discourses suppress students’ cultural capital. Ethnographic research conducted inside and outside of schools reveals rich language and literacy practices that often go unnoticed in classrooms. When teachers successfully incorporate texts and pedagogical strategies that are culturally and linguistically responsive, they have been able to increase student efficacy, motivation, and academic achievement.

For these reasons, we believe that teachers and teacher educators should actively acknowledge, celebrate, and incorporate these funds of knowledge (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1994) into classroom practice. In addition, teachers need spaces to learn about the communities in which they will teach. This includes opportunities to explore and experience the contexts in which students live and form their cultural identities. Educators also need to learn more about sociolinguistics both in teacher preparation programs and in ongoing professional development. Developing this kind of knowledge may help to avoid linguistic racism or language marginalization (Delpit & Kilgour Dowdy, 2003; Gee, 1996; Gutierrez, Asato, Pachco, Moll, Olsen, Horng, Ruiz, Garcia, & McCarty, 2002; Perry & Delpit, 1998; Smitherman, 1999).”

– Full text from “Supporting Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners in English Education” CDE, 2009

A look at Hawaii

2010 Census results for Hawaii: demographic distribution:

According to the 2008 American Community Survey, 74.6% of Hawaii’s residents over the age of five speak only English at home. Other languages spoken at home:

5.37% Tagalog

4.96% Japanese

4.05% Ilokano

1.92% Chinese

1.68% Hawaiian

1.66% Spanish

1.61% Korean

1.01% Samoan

InTASC Model Core Teaching Standards

#10: Leadership and Collaboration

10(d) The teacher works collaboratively with learners and their families to establish mutual expectations and ongoing communication to support learner development and achievement.

10(m) The teacher understands that alignment of family, school, and community spheres of influence enhances student learning and that discontinuity in these spheres of influence interferes with learning.

1. Cultural Diversity: “Who on Earth Are We?” Short audio lectures files “about culture and how it affects us. It explores some of the major differences between cultures and looks at what happens when people from different cultures meet and communicate. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/webcast/tae_whoonearth_archive.shtml

2. In their article, “Cultural Dimensions of Learning: Addressing the Challenges of Multicultural Instruction,” Dr. Parrish and Dr. Linder-VanBerschot present the cultural dimensions of learning framework as well as strategies for addressing cross-cultural challenges in the classroom. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ895744.pdf

3. Many Languages, Many Cultures. Ideas and inspiration for helping young children thrive in a diverse society. See more at http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/many-languages-many-cultures

4. Teaching “Diversity”: A Place to Begin. Building positive identities and a respect for differences means weaving diversity into the fabric of children’s everyday lives. Working with families is an important first step in helping children accept, understand, and value their rich and varied world. Check this link http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/teaching-quotdiversityquot-place-begin