Teachers need to understand that students, who are usually in their classrooms, come from different cultural backgrounds. Therefore, the learning process should cater for the different needs of the different students.
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The SRA Open Court Reading curriculum for students in their third grades entails vocabulary, spelling, phonemic awareness, explicit phonics, writer’s craft, fluency, listening, grammar, usage and mechanics, writing process strategies, speaking and viewing skills, award-winning literature, text comprehension and penmanship.
Supplemental materials obtained online, encyclopedias and related sources are used when a theme calls for wider exploration. Science and social studies are also integrated throughout the curriculum.
This curriculum is adequately diversified but, there is need to bridge cultures by ensuring that each and every student is fully involved in the learning process. This paper aims at doing precisely that, describing how teachers can incorporate a multi-cultural approach into the SRA Open Court Reading curriculum to enhance the learning process.
The presence of students who are not within the mainstream of American culture and who speak English as their second language calls for a multi-cultural approach in learning. Those within the mainstream American culture are the Caucasians or the White who values American cultural traditions and values, and speaks English as the first language.
It is evident that the Open Court Reading Curriculum adopts the set-up of an American mainstream class. In addition, students are given the opportunity to practice what they have learned on an individual basis and this is only suitable for the American mainstream students.
The importance of integrating a multi-cultural approach in the Open Court Reading curriculum is to ensure that all students are exposed to the same educational opportunities. The OPC curriculum is associated with academic failure amongst certain ethnic minority groups hence the need to incorporate a multi-cultural approach.
It is quite obvious that students from other cultures different from the American mainstream face certain kinds of learning handicaps where American mainstream values dominate. These learning handicaps prevail from the fact that students experience discordance between home and school values.
Subsequently, the learning capacity of the students is affected leading to poor performance (Gibson, 1984). The school should be a versatile place that can transform anytime in as far as the interests of the students are being catered for.
The notion of minority and majority groups with regard to cultural diversity in America is inevitable. Both educators and parents need to undergo some form of training with regard to diversity of cultures and associated values. Both the educators and parents need to understand each other’s cultural values and practices so as to avoid conflicts that may jeopardize the achievement of the concerned students.
Schools should ensure that they have training sessions to create awareness to their educators, who are mainly from the individualistic American mainstream. This helps the educators to adopt an integrated approach while teaching the students. Teachers therefore should embrace both the individualistic and collectivistic cultural approaches while teaching.
The understanding of the dominating American culture by parents leads to the development of more explicit discussions with teachers on school practices and policies, and the rationales for them in a cultural context.
The creation of awareness for both parents and teacher helps the students to acquire a dual cultural perspective, which enables them to accommodate school and home cultures. This enables the students to distinguish between the two cultures and develop a more open-minded approach to life in general (Trumbull et al. 2001).
Trumbull and others talk about bridging cultures in schools by using an individualism/ collectivism framework. Some students come from collectivistic cultures, whose values are inclined towards inter-dependence and sharing and helping one another.
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On the other hand, the American mainstream students are from individualistic cultures that values personal autonomy, self-expression, self-determination, independence and personal achievement. It should however be noted that despite the fact that there are individualistic and collectivistic cultures, the converse of these cultures are also prevalent within these cultures.
This is to say that, an individualistic culture also values collectivism and the collectivistic culture also values individualism. The difference is in the prioritization of values within the different cultures. Therefore, an integration of both cultures would augur well for both of them since none would be imposing on the other (Trumbull, Rothstein-Fisch & Hernandez, 2003).
Trumbull et al. (2001) indicates the importance for educators, referred to as school personnel, to understand the concepts and ideas behind individualism and collectivism since both of these cultural values act as a guide to somewhat different developmental scripts for children, and schooling. Conflict between the two cultural values is manifested everyday in U. S. classrooms.
The understanding of these two cultural orientations with reference to their role in shaping goals and behavior is a stepping stone for both teachers and parents in interpreting each other’s expectations and thereby working together in a harmonious way (Trumbull et al. 2001). A collectivistic culture is characterized by interdependence, sharing and helping one another.
In addition, the actions of an individual aim at ensuring the well-being and success of the entire family. This is the complete converse of individualistic cultures characterized by total independence of people as each person is considered to be a complete unit. The actions of an individual affect only this individual person because there are no shared responsibilities and interests.
Cultural conflict between the teachers, students and their families is very dangerous because it may ruin the efforts of very intelligent students. In collectivistic cultures, third grade students rely on their parents when it comes to decision making hence, in a language unit where students are meant to make their own decisions, these students may fail to do so.
It is because of such reliance on parents that teachers perceive such students to be academically poor, yet this may not necessarily be the case. Lack of understanding the nature of the collectivistic culture from where these students come from regards such students as being of lower IQ when compared with their colleagues.
On the other hand, a proper understanding of the students’ carious cultures results in parental involvement since the parent, in such cultures, has full responsibility for his/her child. An understanding of such a practice by the teacher promotes parental involvement in a child’s learning process both at home and in school.
There is need therefore for a positive relationship between the parent and the school personnel to prevail because this is the gateway towards the success and high achievement of the students (Clark, 2011).
Learning vocabulary for example entails an array of activities and exercises. Students are meant to learn the antonyms of a particular word, compound words, contractions, figurative language, homographs, context clues, comparatives/superlatives, synonyms, prefixes, suffixes and much more related to vocabulary.
The understanding of the values and practices of other cultures by the school personnel is followed by a wider perception of the non-American mainstream students’ abilities without conforming them to the US system. In this area of vocabulary, an educator can give detailed meanings and examples of words in the various languages as reflected by the different students in class.
This creates a better understanding and usage of the word while speaking and writing (Grade Three, 2011). In addition, educators should include some classroom discussion sessions where students work together and share ideas and concepts. This makes the learning process livelier and enhances understanding of the students.
Students coming from collectivistic cultures go to school as a way of honoring their families and not themselves therefore they work very hard to ensure that they do not let their families down. Teachers should not disappoint these students but instead should provide them with all the support they require to become great achievers by the end of the day (Leake & Black, 2005).
Transmission of knowledge is different in different cultures and therefore, a teacher needs to understand this very well. This is influenced by social status since people with high social statuses are perceived to hold very essential cultural and technological knowledge. Children are not supposed to ask their elders questions because such demeanor is described as disrespect.
Following this illustration, a third grade student from a low social class-the minority group may have difficulties participating and asking questions in class as a result of the values and lessons learned from his/her culture.
Teachers should have counseling sessions for both children and their parents so that parents understand the needs of their children and set aside those cultural values that may impede on the performance of their children. This is in contrast with the individualistic approach of the mainstream Americans since the students are at liberty to form and express their opinions, and seek knowledge at a pace that they have self-determined.
This kind of cultural approach does not distinguish people based on possession of information since anyone has the right to obtain any kind of information whenever they require it (Leake & Black, 2005).
A way through which teachers would understand the different cultures represented by the students in his/her class would be by home visits (Gibson, 1984). Home visits are seen as a way of enhancing parent-teacher relationships and strengthening personal contact. Mini-conferences are another way through which teachers can contact their students’ parents.
These mini-conferences occur when parents come to pick their children from school thereby creating a chance for the teacher to interact with the parent (s) and not necessarily discuss about the child. This is usually an opportunity for the teacher to create rapport with the parent(s) to avoid any form of misunderstanding (Trumbull et al. 2001).
The interaction sessions between parents and teachers are usually utilized by the teachers so as to take the perspectives of the parents to help them understand the parents’ ideas on roles of teachers and parents on the child/ren. Recognizing another culture’s ideas helps to bridge the gap between different cultures because teachers cease to patronize, and they no longer regard parents from other cultures as ignorant.
It has been earlier indicated that parents play a very important role in their children’s education life and especially in collectivistic cultures. Therefore, mistreatment of a parent is usually a disadvantage for the child because such conflict would not foster harmony and shared developmental views pertaining to a child’s performance/achievement (Clark, 2011).
Understanding another culture’s ideas and concepts helps to modify the classroom. Teachers should create more time for classroom discussions and student-to-student interaction. Individual assessment is the only means through which students can be assessed.
Group activity should be incorporated in the assessment process as well. In addition, teachers should modify their teaching style so as to accommodate students from different cultures other than the American mainstream culture. For example instead of imposing the U.S system on the culturally diversified students, a teacher should integrate elements from different cultures into the classroom (Clark, 2011).
Small group and individual instructions are a main characteristic of the Open Court Reading curriculum. Independent reading, which is a main cultural value of the American mainstream, is used. This individualistic value is not in accordance with some of the cultural values of the students in a class and as a result, learning and achievement of students with varying cultural values are affected.
This kind of teaching is not effective because the main influence is from the American mainstream as it does not take into account the values of the non-American mainstream students.
A teacher counteracts the effect of the mainstream American system by appreciating the different cultures and binging up topics on how different people do things differently. This not only helps the teacher but also enables the mainstream American students to appreciate their counterparts (Trumbull, Rothstein-Fisch & Hernandez, 2003).
Third grade students within the OPC curriculum are given a huge responsibility of discovering topics they are familiar with and care about. Most of the learning is based on a student’s individual effort and this may be conflicting with the beliefs and practices of students from non-American mainstream.
A multi-cultural approach embraces the practices and values of all students and tries to bring about a balance between the various cultures so that no one student feels left out. Students from minority ethnic groups should be of main focus because their school performance is perceived to lag furthest behind national norms.
Minority ethnic groups are highly suppressed in terms of political and economic power and as a result, the children suffer from inferiority complex, which is a great impediment to the achievement of a child (Leake & Black, 2005). The curriculum should include counselors experienced in handling students with different cultural affiliations.
This is because, when a child from an entirely different cultural orientation is introduced into the American mainstream culture, he/she experiences culture shock and lack of understanding the new student may lead to biased judgment about the child.
This subsequently affects his/her learning process from that moment. In addition, counselor may help the inferior students to snap out of their condition. Inferiority complex prevents a child from reaching his/her potential because they do not have the drive, and the determination, to make it.
It is quite obvious that when an individual is exposed to a peculiar environment, he/she tends to be reserved and it becomes very difficult to express their selves. This is usually the case with students who are not of American origin and therefore, English is their second language.
According to the Open Court Reading curriculum, there is no room for slowed learning and especially for these students who are not within the mainstream of American culture.
This type of curriculum does not consider the fact that students having English as their second language do not grasp and understand concepts and ideas in the same as their counterparts. However, with the awareness of the different cultures, teachers should make their lessons more flexible and accommodative to help these new beginners in the English language to catch up.
The main distinction between American mainstream and culturally and linguistically diverse people is the marginalization, discrimination and segregation between these two groups. This perception is brought down to education and subsequently affects the Open Court Reading curriculum. The result is rejection of cultural deficit hypotheses that are associated with students’ school failure.
The story of Jose Figueroa-Britapaja, Spanish, is an example of the painstaking ordeal that parents have gone through under the US education system (Clark, 2011). This story can is a reflection of the challenges that both third grade and their parents go through in an effort to fit into the US education system.
Open Court Reading curriculum should include parental involvement in the school to make the learning environment of students friendlier. Non-American mainstream students would feel more at ease if the school curriculum would ensure that the parents are involved as much as possible in their children’s learning process.
The parents could be involved through volunteering in the school, and by helping their children do their homework. Parents’ involvement in their children’s education would help these children catch up in their studies because the Open Court Reading curriculum does not pay special attention to any one student in class.
These students will tend to trust their parents more and are likely to follow what their parents will tell them. Mattingly et al. (2002) support the idea that involvement of parents in their children’s learning process is associated with higher achievement.
Parental involvement in schools helps teachers to understand the families and communities where students come from. Parental involvement takes place in the form of effective communication, parental participation in school decision making, parenting and home learning environment/activities, school collaboration with child’s community and parent volunteering (Trumbull, Rothstein-Fisch & Hernandez, 2003).
The practices of teachers, administrators, students and parents themselves influence parental involvement. Positive relationships between parents and school personnel are very important as they enhance parental involvement and establish equity (Moll, 2010).
Parental involvement in their children’s studies increases the proximity of culturally different families to teachers both physically and psychologically. Personal interactions between parents and the teachers of their children are better preferred amongst minority cultures (Diaz, 2000).
Cultural diversity is a common occurrence in most communities and especially in the United States where boundaries are open. There is need for school personnel to acknowledge the existence and variation of cultures because of its influence on a student’s learning process. The adoption of a multi-cultural approach in education ensures that the needs of all students are met and there is no discrimination of some sort.
All schools should ensure that they embrace this approach because it is a means of increasing students’ performance. In addition, it avoids poor classification of students due to their presumed lower learning capacity, yet they may be acting in accordance with their cultural values. Teachers therefore need to be exposed to various cultural values and practices so as to avoid cultural conflicts, which usually affect the children.
Clark, J. E. (2011). Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Family Perspectives on Home-School Connections and Family Engagement: A Case Study of Four Middle Class Latin American Families. Dissertation: Kennesaw State University.
Diaz, R. (2000). Latina parent educational participation: A pro-active approach. Unpublished Dissertation: University of California, Los Angeles.
Gibson, M. A. (1984). Approaches to Multicultural Education in the United States: Some Concepts and Assumptions. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 15 (1), 94-120.
Grade Three. (2011). Retrieved from https://www.jdslv.org/
Leake, D. & Black, R. (2005). Cultural and Linguistic Diversity: Implications for Transition Personnel. Minneapolis, MN: ICI Publications Office.
Mattingly, D. (2002). Evaluating evaluations: The case of parent involvement programs. Review of Education Research, 72 (4), 549-576.
Moll, L. (2010). Mobilizing culture, language, and educational practices: Fulfilling the Promises of Mendez and Brown. Educational Researcher, 39 (6), 451-460.
Trumbull, E., et al. (2001). Bridging cultures between home and school: A guide for teachers. San Francisco: WestEd.
Trumbull, E., Rothstein-Fisch, C. & Hernandez, E. (2003). Parent Involvement in Schooling-According to whose Values? School Community Journal, 13, 45- 72.