Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT)

Culturally responsive teaching is a style of teaching that that will include some aspect of a student’s culture in order to help benefit their own learning styles. Culture can be something that will help a lesson imprint itself on a student. We were able to view a number of culturally responsive teaching tactics while at the Goldbelt Heritage Institute Culture Camp. The most prominent to me was the different science and biology lessons that went into preparing and harvesting different kinds of animals. The one that stuck out to me was the preparation of the porcupine (partially because I helped the kids prepare it). It seemed like they were all enthused to learn about this creature. Questions they posed were: Why are they so spiny? Can we eat porcupine? What will you do with the hide? What would be done with the quills? Can we have a quill? Each of these were answered by Jasper Nelson, the resident science teacher. He posed a lesson based off of a Tlingit story where porcupine women would rub their bile on a mans face in order to heal it. Jasper would harvest the contents of the stomach and conduct a science experiment with the students, introducing the bile in the stomach to bad bacteria. The students would pose their own hypotheses about what they think would happen.

It seemed that when students were introduced to something that they found intriguing, but also culturally relevant, that they really committed the knowledge to their longterm memory faster. They were also more enthusiastic about the learning process. This could be said about other curriculums as well. Our job as culturally responsive teachers is to include the culture of students, not just as a single lesson, but in a daily fashion.


Thinking on the second round of CRT strategies has really opened an eye to me on what a culturally responsible classroom look like. When master-teacher Kathy Nielsen came into the classroom to discuss the use for children’s books in a secondary classroom, I didn’t think that I could utilize the method. After discussion, we talked about introducing them to a topic (maybe a historical or difficult one) in order to start a lesson plan or unit. I have even utilized this method in my lesson plan. I’m using this idea to start the lesson as my “spark” to introduce the students to the variety of traditional stories.

Something really stuck with me in Ernestine’s book reading (not necessarily the sections that she chose to read to the class, but what she said in the few minutes after her snippets). She said something like, “You don’t need to lift students up. You as a teacher need to be there to support them and they will lift themselves up.” That is such a beautiful concept when it comes to teaching. Students don’t necessarily need to be lifted up to be successful, they just need the support of the teacher and they’ll do the job on their own. That makes me think of the Beyond Heroes and Holidays reading. There was a section about a teacher raising the expectations of the class. The teacher says that the students are a real hardworking bunch of people. After enough of the teacher saying that, they start to believe it.

3 thoughts on “Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT)”

  1. Out of all my years in elementary, I think we only had a couple of cultural related activities. That probably was the only the whole class got fired up. We had about 50 students from 3rd-6th grades, and several local men volunteered to bring kids upriver to pick crowberries and cranberries. Since Kwig is encircled in berries, we all pretty much knew they were for Eskimo ice cream. But even just going outdoors and doing something other than sitting in class was like a boost of energy within us.

    1. Yeah, that sounds awesome, Jimmy! If I were a kid there, I’d have been all fired up about that. Being outside, seeing different settings, and doing more than sitting really makes sense to me from an educational perspective. I think, downstates anyway, that teachers have to be pretty cautious about field trips, because unfortunately you always have to worry about being sued.

  2. I was reminiscing how after the visit to the Culture Camp you shared a your version of the Porcupine story with a handful of us. That was awesome, thanks Joe!

    I really liked what Ernestine said, too. We don’t have to save the kids, we have to believe in them. She really understood how to support children and students through education.

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