You Oughta Know About…

Posted: April 4, 2015 by Lindsey Nagorski

Welcome to the April You Oughta Know blog hop!  

You Oughta Know is a monthly blog hop where teacher bloggers share their tips, advice, websites, ideas, apps or whatever else they think would be helpful in your classroom. I was honored to be contacted the other day and asked to participate!  I then spent the next several days thinking about what I was going to blog about.  I decided that you oughta know about…

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Over the course of my teaching career I have had the privilege of teaching in some very diverse settings.  Last summer I was asked to participate in some training with Dr. Sharroky Hollie, and thus my love for Culturally Responsive Teaching was born.  The strategies have taken my classroom to the next level and it has become the main focus of my graduate studies.  

Basically, the concept behind CRT is creating an environment that validates students’ home cultures and how they may differ from the “school culture”.  You then teach them how to effectively code switch to the norms of the “school culture”.  If you have had experience with Responsive Classroom practices, then CRT will make a lot of sense.  The two are very similar, but CRT adds in the cultural element.  I have had a lot of success the last two years in my classroom by incorporating the Culturally Responsive Teaching mindset.  My students are more engaged and willing to take the risks that I ask of them, and they are more respectful towards each other.  

What is CRT?
Geneva Gay defines Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) as using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles of diverse students to make learning more appropriate and effective for them; it teaches to and through the strengths of these students.   It changes the traditional understanding of the achievement gap by shifting focus away from the perceived student deficits and puts them towards school deficits.  Culturally Responsive Teaching requires teachers to respond to differences in students’ communication and learning styles by changing their own teaching techniques and classroom management methods. 

When using the term “culture” we are not referring to ethnicity.  It is the cultural norms that one subscribes to and is independent of race (think rapper Eminem).  Cultural norms can be influenced by race, age, socioeconomic status, location, gender, sexual orientation, etc. 
Why CRT?
If you take a look in the majority of schools across America it is obvious that our population is becoming more diverse.  This demographic shift is having a significant impact on our entire educational system as we have historically known it.  One of the most challenging aspects in regards to this change is that while our student demographics are becoming more diverse the teaching population is not.  “Eighty to ninety percent of the teaching population is White, heterosexual, middle class females, with little experiences with people from diverse backgrounds (Gunn 2010).”  Our educational system is geared towards educating individuals from a similar background as the majority of the teaching population, and it is not working anymore.  

In order for Culturally Responsive Teaching to be successful the following criteria is non negotiable.

  • You need to know who you are 
    • What is your cultural identity?
    • What biases to do hold?
    • Check your filter- where do you get your information about other cultures?
  • You need to know who your students (and families) are
    • What cultures do they subscribe to?
    • What are some characteristic behaviors of cultures that may be represented in your classroom?
    • Is it wrong or just culturally inappropriate?***
  • You need to know what and how you are teaching
    • Be mindful of your curriculum.  Can the students see themselves reflected within it?
  • An open mind and willingness to change
  • The belief that ALL students can learn
I could spend hours enthusiastically telling you all about Culturally Responsive Teaching, but instead I will let Dr. Hollie himself explain it to you in this interview.  

*** Wrong vs. Culturally Inappropriate
In one of my workshops Dr. Hollie used this example:  “A Southern Baptist is visiting in a Roman Catholic church.  He is moved during the worship and shouts out “AMEN!”  Heads turn and disapproving glances are shot his way.  The question is, was this individuals behavior actually wrong?”  The answer is no.  It was just inappropriate for the cultural setting he was in.  How many times does this happen in our classrooms?  Think of the student that has trouble excitedly blurting out answers, and how many times they’ve been reprimanded for it… were they actually doing something wrong?  I have found this to be the biggest mind shift change, and the one that causes the most resistance and struggle with my colleagues.  

I plan to go more in depth over the course of the next year on this blog so stay tuned!  In the meantime, if you want to learn more please check out the website for the Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning or any of these books:

Like I said, this is pretty much just a taste of Culturally Responsive Teaching.  I am more than willing to answer any questions that you may have, so please let me know!  Make sure you hop around to the other blogs and see what else you oughta know!



  • Kelly from Glitter in Third April 4, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    I am very intrigued by this, I love your examples about cultural appropriateness. I will def be picking up this book. Our school district is shifting boundaries next year, and the demographics are greatly changing. I would love to learn more about this idea as I head into a new year with a new group of kiddos. Thanks for sharing!

    Love, Kelly
    Glitter in Third

  • Lindsey April 4, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Definitely stay tuned then! I am in the process of finishing up “A Teachers Guide To Culturally Responsive Teaching” for my Masters. It will be done over the summer, just in time to kick off next school year. I'll also be blogging about more strategies and techniques that you can apply in your room 😉

  • Carrie Jones April 4, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Hi Lindsey, This is a very helpful post! I would love to read more about this as well. Thank you!
    i Heart Second

  • Kathie Yonemura April 5, 2015 at 5:59 am

    CRT is exactly what I was just starting to research!! I love the definition of culture, as used here. I'm your newest follower! 🙂

  • Mrs. McClain April 8, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Such an informative blog post. You touched on a lot of information that is important for teachers to know. I think if we take the time to understand where our kids are coming from, we can make better connections with them in the classroom.

    Buzzing With Mrs. McClain

  • Lindsey April 9, 2015 at 2:52 am

    Welcome Kathie! I'm excited to hear that you have begun to take a closer look at CRT 🙂

  • Lindsey April 9, 2015 at 2:54 am

    Exactly Jasmine… one of my favorite quotes that has stuck with me since my undergrad days is “They will not care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. Building relationships is everything.

  • Lindsey April 9, 2015 at 2:54 am

    I'm glad to hear that you liked the post! Stay tuned for more 🙂


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