ASSIST Beginning Teachers Newsletter

There is a better way to begin teaching...
FREE web-based tools to help beginning teachers,
mentor teachers and principals thrive.
February 2007
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This is the fourth issue of the "new" ASSIST newsletter. If you are not familiar with the ASSIST project, you should know that this newsletter connects you to an innovative website that contains over 1000 practical tools and resources organized around seven critical areas of teaching and best leadership practices.

The site was developed through U.S. Department of Education grant funds through the Michigan Department of Education to the College of Education faculty at Michigan State University. MSU faculty have worked in partnership with faculty at the University of Michigan as well as teachers and administrators across Michigan. The ASSIST research-based framework and professional tools for on-the-job learning represent best practice in instructional leadership and effective classroom practice.

This issue focuses on culturally responsive teaching. Our classrooms are increasingly becoming more culturally diverse. To teach all children well, teachers need to know the particular values, traditions, communication patterns, and learning styles of all of their students. This issue of the ASSIST newsletter features tools that will help you with this goal.

What is culturally responsive teaching?

Culturally responsive teaching is difficult and demanding work, but research documents how it contributes to the academic achievement of students. It impacts both students of culturally diverse backgrounds, as well as contributes to the intercultural knowledge of all of the students. Culturally responsive teaching requires that teachers do four your classroom ready?

How principals can support culturally responsive teaching

For teachers to succeed with students from culturally diverse backgrounds, principals must set the conditions that make it possible. Here are five actions for principals to support their teachers in developing and enacting culturally responsive practices. Included in this tool are connections to culturally relevant teaching resources.

Acquiring knowledge of cultural characteristics and contributions

Culture includes many things: values, traditions, communication patterns, learning styles and relation patterns. It also requires that teachers know the contributions different groups have made to the greater society which helps students understand the possibilities that their cultural heritage - or those of fellow students - can bring. You can also dispel some common stereotypes that many students have. Included are four references that will help you learn about and understand the cultures of your students - and what to include in lesson planning to respond to them.

Becoming knowledgeable about cultural differences among your students

By asking students several questions in key areas, you can become knowledgeable about their cultural differences. These questions make great class discussion starting points. Involving the whole class in cultural inquiry will increase everyone's international knowledge and competencies. You can then apply this to your teaching easily by using this tool.

Learning about culture from and with your students

This tool is a sample inventory intended to be used at the beginning of the year to initially learn about your students. It can easily be adapted for use at any time throughout the year. It will help you uncover information that may be at play in a particular student's experience, and can be just as applicable for every student.

Reaching out to the community
mentor principal 2

What if your classroom is made up of students from a common cultural background? How could you create relevant experiences that help students connect with each other - and diverse cultures of the greater community? Several resources are included to help you with this.

Culturally relevant teaching resources

This section provides you with web links to culturally relevant teaching resources. It also includes an extensive reading resource list that you can use to further your study of cultures, and how to develop culturally responsive teaching practices.

Affirming attitudes towards students from culturally diverse backgrounds
Meeting high learning standards

Culturally relevant teachers respect students' cultural differences and believe that students from culturally diverse backgrounds are capable of meeting high learning standards. All teachers, regardless of their social background or years of experience need to monitor their attitudes towards their students and how these attitudes are affecting their students' learning. Here are three tools to help you with this process.

Enacting culturally relevant teaching

How can you engage students from culturally diverse backgrounds in high level learning? This tool has examples of practices that can assist in identifying current practice of culturally relevant teaching, as well as help you highlight areas for future learning and action.

Involving socially and culturally diverse students in class discussions

Classroom discussions are valuable for encouraging critical thinking. They promote articulate speech and respectful, active listening. Discussion in class involves the sharing of ideas, information, experience, reactions, and opinions. Involving culturally diverse students in class discussions can be challanging. Culturally diverse students have varying ways of interacting, of speaking and of responding to other students. You can compare findings from research and identify what possible implications there are for your classroom.

Teachers need assistance, empowerment and vision to help them succeed at all levels. ASSIST brings you those tools, targeted right towards you whether you're a beginning teacher, a mentor teacher or a principal.


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