Student Sharing: A Strategy for Culturally Responsive Teaching
Responsive Classroom strategies, structures, and techniques offer a wide array of practices we can use for culturally responsive teaching. One of these strategies is student sharing. Providing opportunities for students to share about themselves and learn about each other helps build a positive classroom community, which is foundational for building positive cultural connections and understanding. Through sharing, students learn and practice clear, respectful, caring, and empathic communication, while building trusting relationships among peers.
Feeling connected to a school community is an important factor in a student’s success. Students who feel connected to school report that they like school, feel they belong, have friends at school, and believe their teachers care about them and their learning. Sharing helps students know others and be known, which will meet their needs for belonging and significance. Sharing helps students learn details about each other’s experiences, preferences, and interests, building cultural knowledge and appreciation. Each classroom represents a unique community of students and families; to learn about that community, topics for sharing can include families’ favorite foods, games, and traditions. Cross-cultural understanding and competence develop as students share information from their own lives and learn about those of their classmates.
Create the Conditions for Successful Student Sharing
Student sharing is complex, with many skills required to make it successful. Creating an emotionally safe, kind and respectful atmosphere is an important first step to make it culturally responsive. One way to do this is to explicitly teach those skills, including the jobs of both the sharer and the listener.
Jobs of the Sharer
Sharers will need to know how to use a strong, clear voice, look at the audience, and ensure what they say is brief, focused, and on-topic. Here are some strategies you can use to support students as they learn these skills:
- Brainstorm for ideas. Ask students to brainstorm possible responses to a topic. For example, when sharing about favorite foods, brainstorm a list of all kinds of foods, not just typical lunch, dinner, dessert and snack foods. Encourage students to think about the foods they cook and eat for special occasions, holidays, and religious celebrations. Perhaps they can share about a dish only eaten when visiting with certain relatives. Consider charting the ideas to give students a variety of personal experiences to draw on.
- Use sentence stems. Posting a sentence stem that students complete will help them keep the share focused. In younger grades, sentence stems can support students in learning to use complete sentences. For example, a first-grade sentence stem might be, “A special food I like to eat is_________.” Sentence stems can also help older students formulate more complex sentences. For example, a seventh grade sentence stem might be, “When I celebrate_________ I like to eat_________ because_________.”
Jobs of the Listener
Listeners will need to know how to remain quiet, maintain self-control, and demonstrate active listening. As the students’ sophistication with sharing evolves, listeners need to remember what was said and then formulate questions that show interest and elicit more information. Here are two skills to teach:
- Remembering details. Before an around-the-circle sharing, alert the students that you will play “Who Remembers?” after. Brainstorm strategies for remembering what was shared. When everyone has shared, ask questions to prompt recall.
- Generating effective questions. Effective questions acknowledge and encourage the sharer. Discuss with students what makes an effective question, including keeping questions positive and supportive rather than challenging. Explain that questions should show interest in the sharer and their news and that questions could also elicit new information or clarify details. Use question words, such as who, what, when, where, why and how, to support students in asking questions of the sharer.
Student Sharing Activities and Ideas
An ideal time for student sharing is during Morning Meeting in elementary schools and Responsive Advisory Meeting in middle schools. During these practices, there are opportunities to use structures that encourage students to share about themselves and interact with each other. Below are some sample activities to try.
Morning Meeting Sharing Activities (grades K-5)
My Family (grades K-2)
- Pair students so that everyone has a partner.
- Partners take turns sharing the names of people in their families.
- Reinforce positive speaking and listening. “I see caring listeners and clear speakers.”
- Redirect if one child is taking up too much “air time” by talking for too long.
- On your signal, students end their sharing.
- Variation: After each child has shared, say “free chat”. Students can begin talking freely about their families with their partners.
What We Have in Common (grades 3-5)
- Pair students with someone they don’t usually work or play with.
- Invite partners to chat and find two things they have in common. Challenge them to go beyond the obvious (beyond both wearing sneakers, for example). Allow about two to three minutes for this step.
- On your signal, students plan and practice how they each will share out one of their commonalities with the class. Have students give a thumbs-up signal when ready.
- Ask for a volunteer pair to share their commonalities first. Then go around the circle.
- Variation: Once pairs have found two things in common, partner them up with another pair and see if the four of them can come up with four commonalities to share with the group.
Responsive Advisory Meeting Acknowledgements and Activities (grades 6-8)
Silent Quotes Trade
1.Post an announcement that reads:
Quote of the Day: “Deal with yourself as an individual worthy of respect and make everyone else deal with you the same way.” – Nikki Giovanni, poet
Create your own quote about respect, write it down on a slip of paper or sticky note, and be prepared to share it with others.
2. Students mix and mingle around the room in silence, greeting each other by nodding or bowing.
3. On your signal, have students stop mingling and silently pair up.
4. Partners exchange their quotes, read them silently, and pause to reflect on the quote for 10 – 15 seconds. Students can close their eyes if that helps them reflect.
5. Repeat as time allows.
6. Collect all the quotes and read a few aloud.
- Ask a question that relates to students’ lives. For example, “Are you the oldest, youngest, middle or only child?”
- Designate a space in the room for each response.
- Students form groups in the space that matches their response and share one sentence about their response.
- Repeat with other questions. Some ideas are:
- When you get home from school, do you first do homework, eat, or take time to relax?
- Over the weekend, would you rather play games, exercise, watch movies or visit relatives?
- Is your birthday in the winter, spring, summer or fall?
Student sharing promotes a sense of belonging, enabling students to feel they are valued members of their learning community. Creating positive, trusting and empathic relationships among students is one step in leveraging culturally responsive teaching practices so that all students, especially students from diverse backgrounds or those who have not felt welcomed or accepted, can tackle high-level academic work. Look for a few times during the week when your students can share about themselves in engaging, structured ways, to build a foundation of cross-cultural understanding and competence.