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Classroom Activities

We found some examples of lessons created to bring culturally responsive teaching to life in the classroom. They can be adapted to address different cultures and different grades using the same basic framework. “Make it personal for your students,” says Native American education specialist Denny Hurtado, and “work with your local communities so it's authentic.”

 African-American History Lesson

Have students share their personal histories. This fosters verbal and writing abilities, encourages chronological thinking, and teaches about the gathering of data to create a history. The histories also allow students and teachers a chance to explore one another's racial identities and personal experiences. Have students discuss the following: What compelling differences do you find in your history and those of others? Considering the challenges others face, how might you interact with them differently in the future?

Source: How to Teach Students Who Don't Look Like You: Culturally Relevant Teaching Strategies, Bonnie M. Davis, 2006. Corwin Press.

Native American Reading Lesson

In this lesson, students learn about the role that hunting and gathering play in Native American culture, as well as family roles and relationships, while developing reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. Bring in different types of berries for students to identify (and snack on once the lesson is complete!) Have them study a map of local flora and fauna. Suggested readings could include Robert McClosky's Blueberries for Sal, or Lindsay George's Around the Pond. Distribute a printed recipe for freezer jam and have them circle the nouns and verbs. Offer extra credit if students work with a family member at home to make the jam and share details about the experience with the class.

Source: Northwest Native American Reading Curriculum , Hurtado and Costantino, 2002.

Hispanic Literature Lesson

Jumping into Shakespeare is rarely considered an easy or welcome task for students. But putting it in the context of their own culture can make a difference. Using the themes of family and cultural tension in Romeo and Juliet, students will be able to compare and contrast their own family relationships with their classmates, read for specific information, draw conclusions, and develop a vocabulary relevant to the materials. After reading passages from the play, have students discuss and write answers for the following questions that follow the play's examination of family and culture clashes: Who is the head of my household? Why? Are all family members equally responsible for the protection of the family unit? Should final decisions always be made in the same manner? Are families closer to each other on happy occasions or in crisis? How does where a family lives affect them? As an extended lesson, have students compile questions to ask their parents and grandparents comparing family life during their childhood and today.

Source: Cheryl Merritt, 2005. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute.

Asian-American Business and Marketing Lesson

 Have students select a magazine and compare the number of ads featuring Asian-American models with the total number of ads, and describe the product and company that any Asian-American model is promoting. As a discussion or writing prompt, ask, Does the ad maintain or break common stereotypes about Asian Americans? Does it contain potentially derogatory images or language? If you could recreate the ad, how might you do so? The lesson helps students understand how advertising constructs or deconstructs stereotypes about Asian Americans, leads to discussion of students' culture, and promotes critical thinking and composition skills.

Source: Teaching About Asian Pacific Americans, Edith Wen-Chu and Glenn Omatsu, 2006. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Return to Resources

Return to It's There: Talk About It

Reading about culturally responsive teaching is one thing. But seeing it an action can help make reaching students of different backgrounds from your own click. In this online resource package, we've highlighted how one group of educators in Washington is incorporating American Indian culture into lessons. In this video, educator Denny Hurtado talks about how reading lessons focusing on the culture can bring it alive for students. And you can easily adapt the lesson’s components—video interviews with elders, reading passages—to engage students of other cultures in your own classroom.

The Northwest Native American Reading Curriculum is an interactive DVD and guide that is designed to help educators integrate American Indian culture into a reading curriculum. The DVD (available free-of-charge from contains video clips, reading passages and lesson plans celebrating Native culture. The authors say the lessons can be easily adapted to engage students of other cultures.

Check out these video clips, lesson plans and readings from the DVD!


Imagine showing your students a short video clip or two with elders of their community talking about something that relates to the culturally-responsive lesson you’re about to teach. In these videos, elders of the Skokomish Tribe discuss canoeing and drumming—the perfect introduction to the lesson plans and reading passages that follow.

Introduction – Denny Hurtado

The Canoe

The Drum


Lesson Plans:



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