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Cultural sensitivity in the classroomCulturally responsive classrooms (CRC) are those that ?specifically acknowledge the presence of culturally diverse students and the need for these students to find connections among themselves and with the subject matter and the tasks the teacher asks them to perform? (Montgomery). One of the main goals of a CRC is that by incorporating aspects of a student?s culture, culturally responsive classrooms can act as a building block to help every student achieve academic success. This idea extends far beyond the idea that the learning environment must be comfortable for students; it also means that teachers and school administrators must also be culturally responsive in terms of teaching philosophy, curriculum, instruction, and assessment (Ford). Although teachers will benefit from having knowledge of a student?s home culture and language, in a classroom with many cultures it could be nearly impossible for the teacher to try to have each lesson be a direct match with each student?s culture. Therefore, instruction in a culturally responsive classroom must be planned carefully and incorporate a wide variety of instructional strategies. One recommended approach to creating a culturally responsive classroom is to approach instruction in terms of contrasting world views. According to Kathryn Au, President of the International Reading Association, instruction needs to ?strike a balance between the values typically reinforced in Western schools and the values often promoted in the homes of students of diverse backgrounds.? Au believes that competition, a value that often thrives in Western school systems, should be contrasted with cooperation in order for instruction to reach a larger number of students. For example, students who come from cultures that value cooperation, might not want to participate in question and answer sessions in which students volunteer or are called on to provide answers. This type of participation in class only allows the teacher to assess the knowledge of those that ?voluntarily? participate and can make it difficult to really assess what the non- participating student actually knows. students from a type of culture that values participation may become more involved and work toward a goal if the focus is shifted from the individual to an assignment in which the assignment is to work toward the good of the group. Balancing the opportunities for students to work together versus working alone will go a long way toward creating a culturally responsive classroom. In addition to taking a contrasting world views approach, teachers can also examine other methods and materials being used in the classroom. Interdisciplinary units can be set up to allow teaching content area material alongside language arts and literature. Themes can be selected for these units that are relevant to the students in order to provide opportunities to make connections between culture, life experience, and content. Another instructional strategy that helps create a CRC is instructional scaffolding. Teachers scaffold by designing challenging tasks and then giving students just enough support for them to be successful at the task. For example, one student may be given a graphic organizer to complete a task while another student might not need it. Journal writing is also an excellent way to work within cultural contexts. Journals can provide endless opportunities to share cultural information and personal information in a non-threatening way. When working with culturally diverse students, it is important to use instruction that enables each student to achieve academic success. English language learners must be provided with opportunities that give them a chance to use their cultural knowledge and understanding to continue to grow as learners. In extremely diverse classes, providing opportunities for students to work on tasks using values that are not often dominant in the mainstream culture will allow students to succeed. In addition, using a wide variety of strategies as those mentioned above, will go a long way to reaching every learner. Works Cited Au, Kathryn H. "Culturally Responsive Instruction: What Is It, and How Can We Incorporate it in the Classroom?." Reading Today 27.3 (2009): 30-31. Professional Development Collection. EBSCO. Web. 18 Aug. 2011. Ford, Donna Y. "Culturally Responsive Classrooms: Affirming Culturally Different Gifted students." Gifted Child Today 33.1 (2010): 50-53. Professional Development Collection. EBSCO. Web. 18 Aug. 2011 Montgomery, Winifred. "Creating Culturally Responsive, Inclusive Classrooms." Teaching Exceptional Children 33.4 (2001): 4. Professional Development Collection. EBSCO. Web. 18 Aug. 2011.