Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (2023)

No single teaching approach will engage each student at once, but building a strategy to consistently deliver culturally-responsive teaching lessons will help you appeal to diverse learners with distinct backgrounds.

Rooted in differentiated instruction principles, culturally-responsive pedagogy aims to link content — from delivery to assessment — with students’ ancestral and contemporary cultures.

To augment their understanding and responsiveness, this involves:

  • Empowering students to share thoughts
  • Integrating diverse work and study practices
  • Understanding student learning needs and styles
  • Emulating culturally-significant instruction styles, such asoral storytelling

To help you plan and deliver lessons that resonate with a diverse classroom, we’ll explain what culturally responsive teaching is and how it is implemented.

We also put together 15 culturally-responsive teaching strategies and examples that will resonate with diverse students and foster an inclusive classroom environment.

These strategies are available as a downloadable list below for quick reference so you can reference them during classroom instruction.

Let’s start with some simple explanation of what culturally responsive teaching actually means.

What is culturally responsive teaching?

Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is a pedagogy that acknowledges and embraces students’ cultures, languages and experiences - and relates them to classroom learning.

Culturally responsive teachers are actively aware of the various cultural backgrounds present in their classrooms, and act as a facilitator of lessons that can resonate with each.

It is not an easy task - creating this learning environment requires not only a high level of cultural competence, but also an intentional effort to learn about students’ backgrounds and cultures.

It can be majorly beneficial to closing achievement gaps between students of different backgrounds and addressing inequities in the classroom. You can also create stronger partnerships with your students by fostering a learning environment where they are represented clearly.

Conditions for creating a culturally-responsive classroom

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (1)

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (2)

Reflected in the 15 strategies and examples in the next section, there are four conditions any teacher must fulfill to establish a culturally-responsive classroom, according to an authoritative academic book about the subject called Diversity and Motivation.

As you prepare and deliver any lesson, strive to:

Establish inclusion

This starts by highlighting how the topic you’re teaching may relate or apply to students. For example, many societies and cultures have fireworks festivals.


While such a festival runs, you could teach how to calculate speed using fireworks in sample questions. Establishing inclusion also involves regularly grouping students with different classmates, encouraging discussion to solve problems. In doing so, they can share unique perspectives and diverse background knowledge.

Develop positive attitudes

This further focuses on relating content to students. A popular method is allowing them to choose between activities and assessments that let them showcase their values, strengths and experiences.

For example, while providing clear learning goals and evaluation criteria, encourage students to submit their own project ideas.

Enhance meaning

You can bolster lesson content by drawing connections with real-world issues, asking students to use opinions and existing knowledge to address them.

For example, when teaching about government, you could contextualize concepts through municipal political issues. When appropriate, use student jargon to clarify these issues or improve communication in general.

Foster confidence

Make the assessment process less intimidating by offering different ways to demonstrate skills and understanding. For example, avoid handing out quizzes that are purely multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank.

Among other question types, mix in problems that involve writing short- and long-form answers. After, give students time to assess their own progress and performance, helping themfocus on growth.

Meeting these four conditions largely relies on using specific approaches, such as the 15 explored below.

15 Culturally-responsive teaching strategies and examples

1. Learn about your students

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (3)

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (4)

At the start of the year or semester, demonstrating a desire to adapt your teaching style to students can help them feel valued. Because open communication should uncover their learning needs and preferences, try:

  • Distributing questionnaires, asking about interests
  • Handing out surveys, gathering information about learning styles
  • Holding open discussions, allowing students to talk about positive experiences from past classes

Once you’ve gathered enough information, tell the class you’ll focus on adjusting your teaching approach to help them learn as best as they can. Students should quickly warm up to you.

2. Interview students

You’ll build a stronger understanding of students’ values and habits — as well as strengths and weaknesses — by individually asking them questions. While running a large-group exercise, pull each student aside for a few minutes. Ask about:

  • Hobbies
  • Their favourite lessons and activities
  • Which kinds of exercises help them remember lessons and improve skills

Note what each student says to identify themes and different preferences. Then, when possible, relate content to their interests and deliver lessons that appeal to shared strengths.

3. Integrate relevant word problems

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (5)

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (6)

Many students will take a greater interest in math if you use word problems to contextualize equations. Working with 41 7th grade students throughout an academic year, a study published by the Canadian Center of Science and Education used such contextual learning strategies to increase test scores by more than 44%. Create culturally-relevant word problems by:

  • Including student names to make subject matter relatable
  • Linking to student interests, such as by measuring the shot distance of a famous soccer player
  • Referencing diverse cultures, such as by determining the diameter of a specific ethnic food platter

Using these word problem tips will not only help you establish a culturally-responsive classroom, but engage students more than by using abstract questions.

4. Present new concepts by using student vocabulary

Delivering relatable content goes beyond math class. In any subject, you can grab and keep student attention by using their vocabulary to build understanding before moving to academic diction. Let’s say many of your students are sports fans with family from soccer-crazed nations. Use a soccer example to demonstrate metaphors in language arts class:

Andrea Pirlo is an eagle on the pitch, armed with vision sharp enough to detect the smallest openings and recognize opportunities his opposition can’t.

This kind of culturally-responsive language should open the door to presenting challenging skills and concepts, engaging students while doing so.

5. Bring in guest speakers

(Video) Culturally Responsive Teaching

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (7)

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (8)

Guest speakers can bring context and passion to history, geography and social studies lessons, capturing student interest.

A war veteran could deliver a vivid narrative of his or her experiences. A mountaineer could give a striking recount of scaling Lhotse. Both could answer questions many teachers would struggle with, while engaging students much more effectively than a slideshow.

Plus, according to a study by the Economics of Education Review, students are often encouraged to work harder when they share a background with an educator. So, diverse guest speakers may inherently engage and motivate students who share a culture with them.

6. Deliver different forms of content through learning stations

Whether due to culture, socialization, preference or learning needs, students respond differently to different types of content. You can provide a range of material to each student by setting up learning stations. Each station should use a unique method of teaching a skill or concept related to your lesson.

For example, students can rotate between stations that involve:

  • Playing a game
  • Creating artwork
  • Watching a video
  • Reading an article
  • Completing puzzles
  • Listening to you teach

After going through each station, you can help students further process the material by holding a class discussion or assigning questions to answer.

7. Gamify lessons

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (9)

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (10)

Want another way to consistently diversify content and its delivery, appealing to different learning styles? Gamify some lesson elements. Easy-to-implement practices include:

  • Offering rewards, such as badges, for completing specific tasks or achieving certain scores
  • Setting a clearlearning goalfor the lesson, charting progress throughout the class to motivate students
  • Creating an "instruction manual" for a project, which contains the rubric and best practices for earning a high grade

Plus, gamifying your lessons is a way of making connections with contemporary gaming culture — helping students within this culture process and demonstrate understanding of content.

8. Call on each student

Call-and-response — the practice of asking students frequent questions while giving lessons — usually keeps them engaged, but also enables them to share thoughts and opinions. Involve everyone by:

(Video) Seven Principals for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning (32:14)

  • Encouraging the sharing of personal perspectives, when a question allows for it
  • Calling on students without their hands up, acclimatizing them to speaking amongst peers
  • Asking a question after each new point or thought, having a student teach back the concept you just spoke about

By lesson’s end, this call-and-response approach should allow each student to speak at least once.

9. Use media that positively depict a range of cultures

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Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (12)

Children process content more effectively when their cultures and languages have places in the curriculum, according to an oft-cited academic book about teaching in multiracial schools.

Using media, such as books and movies, that positively depict a range of cultures and are relevant to your syllabus can partially address this need. Finding options through databases such as IMDB or American Literature isn’t a tough task.

As a bonus, using different media should boost engagement levels.

10. Offer different types of free study time

Free study time typically appeals to students who prefer solo learning, but many cultures prioritize learning in group settings. You can meet both preferences by dividing your class into clearly-sectioned team and individual activities, such as the following:

  • Provide audiobooks, which play material relevant to your lessons
  • Create a station for group games that teach curriculum-aligned skills
  • Keep a dedicated quiet space for students to take notes and complete work
  • Allow some students to work in groups while taking notes and completing work, away from the dedicated quiet space

Presented with these options, free study time should appeal to a wider range of learners.

11. Encourage students to propose ideas for projects

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Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (14)

By asking students to submit ideas for their own projects, the benefits of choice extend beyond free study time. Specifically, they should build confidence by showcasing their strengths and existing background knowledge.

So, encourage them to pitch ideas for taking a project from concept to completion. A student must show how the product will meet academic standards in his or her pitch. If the idea falls short, give the student ideas to refine it. If the student can’t refine the idea, he or she can choose a project from a list of options you provide.

Not only will you be pleasantly surprised by some pitches, but you may generate ideas for future culturally-responsive exercises and assessments.

12. Experiment with peer teaching

There’ll almost always be some student vocabulary and communal practices you never pick up on. But you can fill these gaps through peer teaching. Relatively-simple exercises include:

  • Jigsaw activities
  • Reading buddy sessions
  • Usingeducational softwarein pairs

Students who read and discuss story passages with peers recall more content and score higher on assessments, according an Ohio University pilot study. And, according to a science education study, students who work in pairs and groups typically perform better on tests that involve reasoning and critical thinking.

Such results are largely achieved due to students discussing and rationalizing concepts in their own words, many of which belong to contemporary cultural lexicon and are not academic.

13. Establish cooperative base groups

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (15)

(Video) Supporting Schoolwide Culturally Responsive Practice

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (16)

Cooperative base groups — which come from collaborative learning pedagogy — allow students to regularly learn and process content together.

Your role consists of creating groups of three or four, scheduling meeting times and detailing agendas for them. Filling knowledge gaps and encouraging communication is also involved. Students’ roles focus on supporting each other while striving to meet learning goals over the year.

While working in base groups, students can:

  • Review lessons
  • Take on guided research
  • Address each other’s questions
  • Complete in-class assessments

The connection to culturally-responsive teaching is the same as peer learning: cooperative base groups encourage students to make sense of concepts you’ve taught by using their own words and thoughts.

14. Run problem-based learning scenarios

The flexibility of problem-based learning lends itself to culturally-responsive teaching. This is because, when presenting a relatable real-world problem for your students to solve, two cultural connections will typically occur.

  1. First, there will likely be a cultural link in the question, whether it’s explicit or students make it themselves.
  2. Second, because they can apply different approaches toward problem-solving, they may use unique cultural perspectives.

But if you want to create a scenario with explicit cultural ties, consider:

  • Encouraging students to take historical, sociological and anthropological viewpoints
  • Framing the problem using ethnic events — for instance, solving logistical challenges of running a heritage festival — in the area

Regardless, the student-centred nature of problem-based learning will allow your class to use culturally-relevant examples and information when appropriate.

15. Involve parents by using take-home letters

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (17)

Culturally Responsive Teaching: Examples, Strategies & Activities for Success (18)

Involving parents in their child’s learning is a core part of almost any culturally-responsive teaching approach -- they act as the main educators in many societies and can provide cultural context. When starting a new unit or trying out an education tool for the first time, consider sending a letter home to parents.

For reference, here’s the letter Prodigy provides to its teachers. This opens the door to parent participation. While not all parents will be subject matter experts, most should be able to provide guidance.

Downloadable list of culturally-responsive teaching strategies and examples

Click here to download and print a simplified list of the 15 culturally-responsive teaching strategies and examples to keep at your desk.

Interested in other teaching strategies to deploy in your classroom?

Culturally-responsive teaching strategies overlap in important ways with many other pedagogical approaches. Consider researching other teaching and instructional strategies to help bolster your approach, or combine different elements of each strategy!

  • Active learning strategiesempower, engage, and stimulate your students as theyput them at the center of the learning process.
  • Experientiallearningactivities, in contrast to traditional learning activities,aimto develop knowledge and skills through direct, firsthand experience.
  • Project-based learninginvolves an open-ended approach that sees students workalone or collectively to work on engaging, intricate curriculum-related questions or challenges..
  • Inquiry-based learningis broken down into four categories,all of whichemphasize student questions, ideas and analyses.
  • Adaptivelearningfocuses on changing — or "adapting" — content for each student on an individual basis, especially with the help of technology.
  • Social emotional learning activities help students build social skills, establish healthy relationships and manage their emotions.

Final thoughts about culturally-relevant pedagogy

Delivering culturally-responsive lessons can not only help you engage students, but allow them to make personal connections with content.

(Video) Culturally Responsive Teaching - Strategies for Student Engagement and Success

Student populations across your school district are comprised of different races, backgrounds, cultural identities and socioeconomic statuses - it’s important that teaching practices reflect and embrace these differences.

Greater student investment should lead to other benefits, such as more rigor and motivation. A happier, focused classroom is the ideal outcome.

Already have an Prodigy account? Log in now!

Prodigy is a digital game-based learning platform that delivers a range of culturally-relevant math content through engaging word and scenario-based problems. Standards-aligned, it’s used by millions of teachers and students across the world.

Create your free teacher account


What is an example of culturally responsive teaching? ›

For example, many societies and cultures have fireworks festivals. While such a festival runs, you could teach how to calculate speed using fireworks in sample questions. Establishing inclusion also involves regularly grouping students with different classmates, encouraging discussion to solve problems.

What are culturally responsive activities? ›

Matthew Lynch (2011) culturally responsive instruction is, “a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students' unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student's cultural place in the world.” There are several components to a ...

How do you demonstrate yourself as a culturally responsive teacher? ›

Culturally responsive teaching is:
  1. using students' cultural experiences in daily instruction.
  2. embracing native language and students' families as assets.
  3. creating a classroom environment that represents and respects all students.
  4. communicating clear high expectations for everyone.
Jan 8, 2018

What does culturally responsive teaching look like in the classroom? ›

Cultural responsiveness is the ability to learn from and relate respectfully with people of one's own culture as well as those from other cultures. Culturally responsive schools offer a learning environment where every student's cultures, languages, and life experiences are acknowledged, validated, and celebrated.

Why is culturally responsive teaching important for the achievement of all students? ›

Culturally responsive teaching helps bridge those gaps by engaging students from underrepresented cultures (which can be informed by everything from race and ethnicity to religion and ability) in the learning process in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them.

What is the goal of culturally responsive teaching? ›

Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) attempts to bridge the gap between teacher and student by helping the teacher understand the cultural nuances that may cause a relationship to break down—which ultimately causes student achievement to break down as well.

What strategies will you use to maximize the benefits of diversity in the classroom? ›

How do you Manage Diversity in the Classroom?
  • Get to Know Your Students. ...
  • Maintain Consistent Communication. ...
  • Acknowledge and Respect Every Student. ...
  • Practice Cultural Sensitivity. ...
  • Incorporate Diversity in the Lesson Plan. ...
  • Give Students Freedom and Flexibility.

What does a culturally responsive teacher do? ›

Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is a research-based approach to teaching. It connects students' cultures, languages, and life experiences with what they learn in school. These connections help students access rigorous curriculum and develop higher-level academic skills. Our brains are wired to make connections.

What activities can you include to make your students understand and accept cultural differences in the classroom? ›

Here are several ways you can have fun with your students exploring different cultural groups and traditions.
  • Cultural Dress Show and Tell. ...
  • Host a Multicultural Day. ...
  • Have a World Music Dance Party. ...
  • Create a Classroom Collage. ...
  • Make Global Friends.
Dec 9, 2020

How do you create a responsive learning environment? ›

Areas considered part of creating a culturally responsive learning environments are (1) understanding the cultural lifestyles of their students, such as which ethnic groups give priority to communal living and problem solving; (2) knowing differences in the modes of interaction between children and adults in different ...

How do I make my classroom more culturally responsive? ›

But the following practices can help you create a more culturally relevant classroom.
  1. Activate students' prior knowledge. ...
  2. Make learning contextual. ...
  3. Consider your classroom setup. ...
  4. Form relationships. ...
  5. Discuss social and political issues. ...
  6. Tap into students' cultural capital. ...
  7. Incorporate popular culture.
Nov 19, 2020

How do you adapt and use culturally appropriate teaching strategies to address the needs of learners from indigenous groups? ›

How to create a culturally responsive classroom
  1. Build trust. "You need to get to know the kids really well before you can [teach]," says Will. ...
  2. Acknowledgement of Country. ...
  3. Embrace diversity. ...
  4. Liaise with Elders. ...
  5. Invite community members. ...
  6. Explore family trees. ...
  7. Let students teach. ...
  8. Use local resources.
Jul 13, 2021

How do you decide which teaching strategies to use in your class? ›

  1. Begin with objectives. Before selecting appropriate teaching strategies, determine the learning objectives for the course. ...
  2. Align your teaching strategies to the objectives. ...
  3. Align your assessment strategy to the objectives. ...
  4. Make modifications to the teaching strategies and assessments as you get to know your students and.

What is the most effective way to motivate students? ›

Top 5 Strategies for Motivating Students
  1. Promote growth mindset over fixed mindset. ...
  2. Develop meaningful and respectful relationships with your students. ...
  3. Grow a community of learners in your classroom. ...
  4. Establish high expectations and establish clear goals. ...
  5. Be inspirational.
Jun 4, 2018

What strategies can be implemented to create assessment that measures performance outcomes and meet the needs of diverse learners? ›

7 things you can do to teach diverse learners
  • Make an IEP cheat sheet. ...
  • Encourage active learning. ...
  • Embrace small group and learning stations. ...
  • Group by learning style, not ability. ...
  • Promote project-based learning. ...
  • Incorporate ed-tech and adaptive learning tools. ...
  • Provide alternative testing options.
Oct 31, 2019

What practices or strategies are done or should be done to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the learners? ›

Differentiated instruction is evident when teachers:
  • Offer students options to choose from in assignments or lesson plans.
  • Provide multiple texts and types of learning materials.
  • Utilize a variety of personalized learning methods and student assessments.
  • Customize teaching to suit multiple forms of intelligence.

What are the four areas of culturally responsive teaching? ›

The Culturally Responsive-Sustaining (CR-S) Framework outlines four principles and embedded strategies to help educators create student-centered learning environments that: affirm racial, linguistic and cultural identities; prepare students for rigorous and independent learning; develop students' abilities to connect ...

Why is it important to be culturally responsive? ›

Culturally responsive pedagogy recognizes and appreciates diversity by seeking ways to encourage student engagement by creating a warm, positive, inclusive classroom where everyone feels they belong.

What are the different cultural activities? ›

Cultural activities . : means any such activities as film shows, musical shows, theatrical productions, contests, social functions, indoor games and picnics.

What are the 7 principles of culturally responsive teaching? ›

7 Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies
  • Activate students' prior knowledge. ...
  • Make learning contextual. ...
  • Consider your classroom setup. ...
  • Form relationships. ...
  • Discuss social and political issues. ...
  • Tap into students' cultural capital. ...
  • Incorporate popular culture.
Nov 19, 2020

How do you create a culturally inclusive environment? ›

A culturally inclusive environment requires mutual respect, effective relationships, clear communication, explicit understandings about expectations and critical self-reflection. In an inclusive environment, people of all cultural orientations can: freely express who they are, their own opinions and points of view.

What is culturally responsive curriculum? ›

A curriculum that respects learners' cultures and prior experiences. It acknowledges and values the legitimacy of different cultures, not just the dominant culture of a society, and encourages intercultural understanding.


1. Culturally Responsive Assessment: Goals, Challenges, and Implications
(Institute of Education Sciences)
2. TrillEDU: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy... | Jeffrey Dessources | TEDxNewJerseyCityUniversity
(TEDx Talks)
3. Strategies for the Culturally Responsive Teacher
(Kendall Hunt Publishing Company)
4. Culturally Relevant Pedagogy Using Primary Sources: Tenet 1 in an Elementary Classroom
(Minnesota Historical Society)
5. Culturally Responsive Teaching in STEM | Victoria Thompson
(Pear Deck)
6. Culturally Responsive Teaching
(IL Center for Specialized Professional Support)
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