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7 culturally responsive classroom management strategies

Casey BrownJune 26, 2019

the culture map book with a sunflower on a wooden surface

Classroom management is often a challenge for teachers. Both newcomers and veterans are always looking for ways to make their classrooms more effective and welcoming for all students. As classrooms become more diverse, teachers have to develop strategies for classroom management that honor and respect students from various cultures and backgrounds.

Culturally responsive classroom management (CRCM) refers to strategies that focus on developing a classroom for all students — teachers use cultural awareness to guide management decisions about their classroom. They also take into consideration students’ backgrounds, cultures, home lives, learning styles, and past experiences to create opportunities for everyone’s success.

While many teachers are already working to have a more culturally responsive classroom, there are a few specific strategies that can help them fully embrace a classroom where all students from all backgrounds can feel respected and welcome.

7 culturally responsive classroom management strategies

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Photo credit: Pixabay

1. Build a caring classroom community

All classroom management strategies are stronger when students understand that the teacher cares about their students. Students don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Using culturally responsive classroom management means building good teacher-student relationships that respect all students’ backgrounds. As a teacher, you can allow students time and freedom to share their stories with each other and you. As everyone learns more about each other, they can understand where students are coming from and what past experiences might be influencing each student’s feelings and behaviors.

Teachers can encourage a positive and caring classroom environment by asking students for feedback about the management of a  class. The teacher should also consider that some cultures interpret behaviors differently, after all, what’s appropriate or inappropriate can vary from one culture to another. Likewise, what’s acceptable in some homes is not in others. Students may need help adjusting to your classroom and understanding your expectations of them.

different kinds of coffee on a round tray
Photo credit: Nathan Dumlao

2. Embrace cultural diversity

All students should be celebrated in the classroom. Include posters and pictures that represent multiple cultures, genders, religions, and nationalities. Texts and reading materials should be culturally diverse and represent authors from many different backgrounds. Present signs and banners in multiple languages.

The classroom could have a map where students mark their origin country. Give students the opportunity to do projects to learn more about their own culture and the cultures of others. Students can also share different celebrations and holidays with their classmates so everyone understands that many people celebrate their cultures and religions in diverse ways.

person doing a thumbs up in the jungle
Photo credit: Katya Austin

3. Set a positive tone

This method is important in all classrooms but especially when using CRCM to ensure that all students feel welcome. Teachers can begin each class by greeting students at the door. A quick hello and maybe a question about their weekend or evening might make a big difference in starting class on a positive note. Students can also greet each other and take a moment to catch up at the start of the class.

While systems of rewards and consequences are a typical part of classroom management, there’s a way to make this a more positive part of an academic environment. By practicing asset-based classroom management, teachers focus more on students’ strengths and less on their weaknesses. In other words, instead of repeatedly calling out a student’s misbehavior, teachers should compliment students’ good behavior in the hopes that they will continue to repeat those desirable behaviors. For more information on asset-based classroom management, check out our article on asset-based teaching.

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Photo credit: Alexander Dummer

4. Get to know students personally

If the goal is to create a classroom that embraces all students’ backgrounds and experiences, then teachers must get to know their students personally. Teachers need to know what students have been through and where they come from to fully be able to understand the needs of each student in the classroom.

There are many ways to get to know your students. Simple icebreakers at the start of the year can get the ball rolling. From there, students can play some social games in class to get to know each other and the teacher better. Asking students about their lives outside of the classroom is always helpful. Some teachers find time to talk to students before and after class or during lunch or recess. Students often enjoy sharing about themselves. Teachers can go the extra mile by attending extracurricular events such as plays, sporting events, and concerts. When teachers are able to coach teams or lead school activities, they often have the chance to get to know students on a more personal level as well.

family forming a line holding hands
Photo credit: Blake Barlow

5. Involve families and communities in supportive and positive ways

Whenever possible, teachers should involve families and communities in helping students succeed. Classroom volunteers and guest speakers can represent a variety of cultures and backgrounds. If the community has a project in which students can participate, teachers can allow class time so students can help out. If a cultural celebration is happening in the community, the class can create something to contribute. And if the class is hosting a concert, invite the community to watch the students sing or play instruments.

Family visits are an option in many school districts. Teachers can establish strong relationships with a student’s family by visiting them in their own home if permitted to do so. Teachers must be aware that parents may have different expectations and behavior systems in place than what the school requires. By visiting a student’s home, teachers can get a firsthand look at how the student spends his or her life outside of the classroom. Teachers can also open a line of communication with the parents by showing that they care enough to go the extra mile for their child.

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Photo credit: Mark Duffel

6. Set clear classroom expectations

Every classroom management plan should have clear expectations. This is especially important when trying to create a culturally responsive management plan. By making sure that all students understand the expectations you can develop a classroom environment that encourages respect and acceptance.

In a respectful classroom, students will know that everyone will receive equitable treatment and will feel a sense of comfort when they arrive at your class and know what to do every day. Some teachers even have their students participate in the creation of those classroom expectations to encourage ownership. Students can then sign a contract as a class and as individuals to commit to the expectations they’ve created.

All classroom expectations should be clearly posted and discussed in class. Students need to have the chance to practice the behaviors throughout the school year. Teachers should model the behaviors and provide positive feedback as students demonstrate proper classroom behaviors.

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Photo credit: Bruno Bueno

7. Provide continuous support

Once expectations are set and students are beginning to feel comfortable in the classroom, teachers need to provide continuous support to students to help them achieve success. Teachers need to find ways to meet the needs of all of the students in the classroom. By learning how to support students with different learning styles, cultures, backgrounds, and experiences, teachers add another layer to a solid culturally responsive classroom management plan. The more teachers get to know their students and their families, the more they can provide specific support based on a student’s individual needs.

The best way to make everyone feel respected in the classroom

All teachers and students crave a classroom that is welcoming and full of respect and acceptance. By implementing a few specific strategies geared toward building a culturally responsive classroom management plan, teachers can create a learning space where all students feel respected and at ease. With classrooms becoming increasingly diverse, it’s more important than ever that teachers take the time to ensure that all students have opportunities and support to thrive.

Photo credit: mnm.all /

Classroom Management