With the new school year now in full swing, continuing to build a community that fosters a sense of belonging is so valuable. There are lots of great ways to tackle this goal throughout the year, but one of the best ways can be through including the unique backgrounds of your students’ parents and families. When you intentionally invite their parents and families into the classroom to share things like heritage food, clothing, language, and culture, your little learners experience a very rich sense of belonging. In addition, their classmates learn to embrace diversity in all of its forms. In today’s article we will discuss the importance of using parent and family background as an asset and the benefits that come along with it.
- Share distinct cuisines
Sharing food is a universal way to bring people together, and it can be an excellent avenue to celebrate different cultures. Invite parents to bring in dishes from their country of origin and share them with your students. This can be an opportunity for students to try new foods and to learn about backgrounds other than their own. This experience could impact student learning in a number of positive ways and could easily lead to activities like creating simple Venn diagrams and graphs when discussing different ingredients used in certain dishes or creating class cookbooks with recipes from each child’s home!
- Experience language
Teaching simple words in a heritage language is a valuable way to help your students feel more connected to their family’s cultural roots. Even if their parents or grandparents don’t speak their native language fluently, they may know some basic phrases or words that they can share with the class. For example, if you have a student whose family speaks Spanish, you might invite their parent or grandparent to the classroom to teach the class some basic words and phrases in Spanish, such as “hola” for “hello” or “adiós” for “goodbye.” You can also get creative with this activity by playing games or having students practice their skills with each other. This activity serves not only to deepen your students’ connection to their heritage but also to promote bilingualism and multilingualism.
- Put on a multicultural fashion show
Another way to invite families into the classroom is to have a day where students can try on traditional clothing. This activity is particularly fun for children who have grown up in a multicultural household but have never had the opportunity to explore their family’s cultural traditions. You might ask parents to send in traditional clothing or headwear, and students can take turns dressing up and sharing about the cultural significance of the clothing. This activity not only allows children to learn more about their own cultural heritage but also allows students to learn about and appreciate the cultural traditions of their classmates.
- Build on strengths
It’s very likely that your students’ parents have strengths that they would be honored to share with the class. In many cases, you would likely be surprised with the roles and skills that folks have and used either professionally or personally in their home countries. Perhaps a father was the well-known tailor who owned his own fabric shop and would love to come in to teach a small group to sew once a week, or a mother was a dentist before moving to the United States and would love to visit to teach about dental health. Capitalize on the talents and gifting that your families have and may even be hiding! The pride and confidence that will grow in their sons and daughters is immeasurable and the whole class will benefit.
- Develop empathy
Another benefit of embracing diverse family cultures in the classroom is that it can help students to develop empathy and a sense of compassion for others. By learning about different cultures, children can better understand and appreciate the struggles, triumphs, and histories of people from different backgrounds. Whether shared through parents and families of preschoolers or high school seniors, this can lead to a greater sense of understanding among classmates, which is essential for building a sense of community in the classroom.
- Communicate with clarity
In addition to food and clothing, parents and families from different cultures likely have different approaches to discipline and communication styles. As you welcome parents into the classroom, you’ll learn how to communicate and work with them in ways that are culturally sensitive. This will undoubtedly help build stronger relationships between yourself, your students, and their families, which ultimately enhance student outcomes!
Needless to say, parents and families can be such an asset in the classroom as they help create a vibrant and inclusive community. So, invite them in! You’ll be so glad that you did.
GrapeSEED appreciates family involvement, which is why our English language curriculum includes a student app that children can use at school AND at home and is why the student app features a parent portal. Want to learn more? Click here!