In the modern society, the changes of demographics and social conditions are rather quick due to immigration, development of telecommunications and globalization in general. The interaction of different social groups and cultures might lead to increasing level of stereotyping, can cause hostility, prejudice and discrimination among learners. Therefore, the implementation of multicultural education is of highly important in modern schools and universities. Latest social trends (such as growing poverty and increasing gap between the rich and the poor, increasing number of color students) also emphasize the importance of multicultural education. The purpose of this paper is to outline steps for effective multicultural education and describe class activities supporting multicultural education in teaching language, arts and social studies for a learning group of 21 students of diverse origin and with diverse learning needs.
It is possible to identify 5 steps required for multicultural education to be effective: understanding culture in general, learning about other cultures, recognizing and deconstructing cultures (especially the white culture), recognizing the legitimacy of other cultures, and developing multicultural outlook among students (Baxter Magolda & King, 2004).
For making multicultural education effective, I would first of all address this issue from the perspective of social sciences. Introducing days devoted to particular cultures (white, Latino, African, etc.), identifying history and strengths of each culture, locating culture stereotypes and overthrowing them would help students raise cultural awareness. Students who belong to the particular culture could assist with culture-related activities, show their traditions or bring some culture-specific items. It would be useful to discuss learning patterns of each culture and consider the advantages of every pattern. One more useful regular activity for social sciences lessons would be the celebration of holidays originating from different cultures in the classroom.
During arts lessons, music, paintings, dance and literature of different cultures will be shown. A useful activity is asking students to bring their favorite book, and study the writer’s biography along with the content of the book. Learning songs belonging to different cultures and singing these songs would be a highly useful activity. Watching culture-related films and films showing the different environments for each culture would be also effective. Devoting the whole day to a particular culture would be an interesting learning activity: students would be encouraged to make installations, paintings, bring culture items from home, etc. It might be useful to combine this activity with language learning, and encourage students to write a short essay explaining why they have chosen particular items and what these items mean for them. The activities that could cover the gap between rich and poor students are discussion of favorite dishes that parents cook for the kids, bringing favorite items and explaining why these items are specially important, the discussion of the happiest day, etc.
Several language lessons can be devoted to studying the history and features of languages, especially of home spoken languages of the students. The names of the students in class, the origin and meaning of these names and famous people who had such names can be studied at language lessons. Language activities and requirements to language mastery in the class should be adapted to the actual abilities of students. The teacher’s responsibility is to control what language is being used in class, and to demonstrate correct English versions instead of slang when appropriate (however, the teacher should not focus on the student’s errors, but rather demonstrate the correct version later). It would be useful to select an online education software package and use it to provide for the learning needs of students from poor families, disabled students and other groups of student which might have issues with literacy and math at early stage.
For all types of lessons, activities that encourage communication and collaboration between students should be introduced. Group work, group discussions and multicultural teams will be highly useful for promoting multicultural education in the classroom. One more useful activity is the change of student seats, and the formation of bi-racial groups among them. The changes of student seats should take place weekly, in order to increase student interaction. In the environments where physical activities are present, special equipment (e.g. standing frames) should be added to increase involvement of students with special needs. The activity based on grouping students in pairs or triplets, where one of the students acts as a teacher, guides and helps others, will also increase multicultural interaction in the class.