School should be a culturally responsive place that is rich with diversity and inclusivity. Various cultures are woven together to make up part of each individual student. Actively appreciating diversity is what builds classroom culture. Cultural differences bring ideas that ignite the classroom with a productive and intensive learning experience. Having a classroom culture that embraces and appreciates the individual students bodes well for learning and other areas of development.
Create this inclusive learning environment for your middle schoolers by checking out some of my favorite ideas for engaging cultural activities below!
1. Celebrate Holidays Around the World
To celebrate holidays around the world, you can do many things. Invite students to share the holiday traditions of their families. Additionally, you can decorate and share information about a variety of cultures that are relatable to the students in the class. Sharing information about a variety of cultures can be accomplished through online scavenger hunts and other classroom activities.
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2. Hold Morning Meetings
Middle school morning meetings build positive classroom culture. Include students’ home culture as a valuable part of the classroom by making morning meetings a time of exploring different culturally relevant questions. Morning meeting builds classroom community and classroom camaraderie.
Learn More: Teachers Resource Force
3. Hold a Cultural Costume Parade
Create a costume parade to give students a chance to dress in traditional cultural dress. This activity will be interesting and fun for students. Students can research by choosing a culture of interest, or choosing a culture of origin in their own family history. Students can share what they love about the cultural fashion they chose to build cultural appreciation.
Learn More: Google Arts and Culture
4. Encourage Culture-Sharing
Encourage students to speak out during class discussions and activities to share their family traditions and cultural practices to which they make connections. Sharing helps give you a sense of belongingness. Make sure to guide them with clear rules for respecting and responding with love and interest to what all students share. You can use the cultural lesson found here to open students’ thinking about what we often do and do not see about people’s cultures.
Learn More: PBS Learning Media
5. Create a Your Classroom Culture or Society
Start the year off with a fun project where you build your own classroom society and culture by creating a class name, mantra, flag, rules, etc. Students can contribute and design based on their interests and cultures. You can adapt the social studies project found here, or even follow it as long as you stagger the parts of the project to fit students’ prior knowledge.
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6. Hold an International Day
Students can share clothing, food, beliefs, and trinkets with an international fair. You can engage the greater families and stakeholders from the greater community. The event can have many community-building activities as well as cultural games.
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7. Have a Cultural Show and Tell
Set up days where students can bring items from family traditions and cultures to share with classmates. This could be clothing, instruments, jewelry, etc. as long as parents are comfortable with students taking responsibility for these important items when it is their turn to share.
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8. Research Family History
Many students may not know about the depth of their family culture. Having a long-term project that allows students to explore and research the history of their families will build a personal appreciation and cultural awareness. You could provide students with ideas for questions to explore or a series of discussion questions to communicate, but you want the project to be inquiry-based from student leading.
Learn More: Family Locket
9. Make Sure you Have Culturally Diverse Teaching Materials and Resources
It is important to make sure that books used in class represent a variety of cultures. You want to be proactive about having culturally inclusive classroom resources and classroom materials. Make sure that examples used in class assignments represent the variety of cultures your class expresses.
10. Hold a Cultural Dinner
Everyone loves eating and sharing food. Students can create and bring cultural foods to school in a pot-luck-style to eat and share together. In so many cultures, food brings everyone together, so this will serve the dual purpose of reinforcing positive classroom culture as well.
Learn More: Participate Learning
11. Build an Open Environment for Discussion
Make sure the classroom is a safe space where students can express their ideas, concerns, and questions about their cultures freely together. This will create an inclusive classroom for middle school students. Model open discussion about cultural ideas for students to show the classroom as a comfortable space for sharing.
Learn More: The Colorado Classroom
12. Invite Multicultural Speakers
The best people to share about different cultures are those closely rooted in the traditional culture itself. Having speakers from various cultures communicates the classroom as a place of respect and tolerance. Invite older family members of middle school students or other community stakeholders to communicate and share the aspects of their culture with students.
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13. Get International Pen Pals
Pen pals have long been connections that unite cultures around the world. Middle school students would be able to experience other cultures through personal stories about life in the school classroom in conjunction with other personal stories. Pen pals could be established with other schools to students of similar ages either digitally or through the old-fashioned letter-writing process. Check here for some safe options to institute a pen pal project.
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14. Hold a Cultural Dance Party
Teens will always be up for a party, so put on cultural music and your dancing shoes! Let students share cultural musical instruments, songs, and dances from their own or other traditions that they have researched. In terms of community-building activities, music appears to be crucial for most cultures.
Learn More: Multicultural Music Education
15. Differentiate Products, Processes, and Content
Understanding that culture isn’t just about religious background or race, but also about who we are as individuals takes cultural appreciation to the next level in the classroom. The Product, Process, and Content differentiation method will provide your class with a clear message of respect for their individual needs as you use it to cater to each of your learners’ strengths and weaknesses.
Learn More: Education World
16. Provide the Standard of Social Justice
Design opportunities to build cultural appreciation for middle schoolers by actively considering social justice topics in the classroom. This allows students to understand they are in an environment that is considerate and aware. You can learn more about how to design these discussions and teach social justice in the classroom here. Additionally, you can consider these standards as a guide to ensuring a multicultural classroom.
17. Reach out to the Community
There is no better way to understand the range of cultures within the community than to be in service to that community. Service projects develop awareness and understanding. Encourage middle school students to reach out to the community through service projects. Service projects are an activity for grades of all ages; however, you can go here for community service ideas for middle school students.
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18. Create Virtual International Field Trips
Use Google Earth to virtually visit important cultural sites. Allow students to share what they know about cultural sites that hold high value to their culture as you all explore them technologically.
Learn More: The Colorado Classroom
19. Create Family History Documentaries
Teens love movies and technology, so give them a chance to explore their interests as they develop knowledge of their family culture by creating their own family history documentaries. Students will gain a lot from this self-exploration and the conversations it will facilitate within their family structures.
Learn More: Family Locket
20. Create Cultural Self-Portraits
Artistic expression can be a very engaging outlet. Students can use varied mediums of art to create a portrait of themselves that represents aspects of their culture. The color choices, designs, and material would all relate to the cultural aspects the student is trying to express through the work of art. Another idea is for students to choose a culture of interest and depict themselves through the lens of that culture. Here is an idea that can support you in developing cultural self-portraits. In addition to self-portraits, a student cultural art fair would also be an engaging and interactive idea for cultural awareness.
Learn More: Incredible Art