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By: Margo Ensz on October 1st, 2014

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Creating a Culturally Responsive Classroom

VariQuest Tools: Poster Maker 3600 | Featured Topics: Student Engagement

Students perform better when they feel like they are a part of a classroom and school community. Use culturally responsive practices to create a learning community where all students are engaged.

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For me, the new school year comes with a new school leader. This was a major transition for both our staff and students. Following the district initiative to improve culturally responsive practices in schools, our new administrator has encouraged staff to implement some new techniques into our classroom practices.

We’ve adopted a school-wide call and response where the leader shouts out: “O’Keeffe!” and the students respond, “OK!” This is a very quick and easy way to gain the attention of a large group of people in a short period of time and can have tremendous implications in the classroom. The key to using this call and response is to make sure students understand that it must be silent after the response. This will take practice! The call and response is an opportunity to allow the natural bursts of noise that many students crave out in an appropriate way. It also allows the leader to gain attention at a moment’s notice, allowing for maximum instructional time.

Another nice addition to our culturally responsive practices is our school-wide acknowledgement cheer. This is a quick and easy way to recognize an individual or group for work well done. The leader explains the positive behavior that deserves recognition, then prompts the students by counting, “1, 2, 3,” and the students respond with, “Nice!” in unison. Using this acknowledgement promotes the behaviors you want to see in your classroom.

To help reinforce the universal call and response and acknowledgement throughout your school, display them on brightly colored posters in the classrooms. This visual will remind staff and students how to respond, as well as create a uniform school culture where all students feel valued.

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Does your school use a call and response? If so, what is it? What positive impact has it had on student engagement? 


Julia Cremin is a 6th grade Reading, Language Arts and Math teacher at O'Keeffe Middle School in Madison, WI. She is certified in Elementary Education (grades 1-9) with a minor in Mathematics. This is her fourth year teaching middle school.