A World of Languages in Our Classroom:

Celebrating cultural diversity with guest readers

Mandy Mitchell, Sherwood Elementary, Springfield, MO

A World of Languages in Our Classroom:

Introduction

As a model language-rich classroom in my district, it is my goal to provide a comfortable, interactive environment for our multilingual students and their families. When students see their native language in books, posters, and through multimedia presentations they feel valued and have a sense of belonging. I want all of my second graders to believe that they belong in our classroom. Sherwood is one of 3 Springfield schools promoting language-rich classrooms with a high number of English learners (ELs). Creating a classroom space with family engagement increases academic success where students feel welcomed and valued. This grant gave multilingual families more ownership in their kids' education by providing the opportunity to read books at home in their first languages. Multilingual guests were invited to read books aloud to our class either in person or via video.

Step-by-Step Plan

I sent translated permission slips home explaining that we are a language-rich model classroom and included our Multicultural Day vision. My classroom already displayed multilingual posters, items labeled in multiple languages, and multicultural books. In addition, I invited parents into the classroom to read a book in their native language (or do a small craft, sing a song, etc.) to share different cultures represented at Sherwood. I tried to emphasize Hispanic and Korean cultures to reflect our classroom population.

Timeline

August/September

Prior to Meet the Teacher night,  I brainstormed holidays, months, traditions, etc. that I wanted families to sign-up for. I created a brief flyer (see pdf below) to send home to all who may be interested. 

I asked for speakers of any language to visit our classroom. I wanted to make sure that EVERYONE felt welcomed and could come share, read, and interact with our students. 

October

Our guest was a parent who wanted to come teach the students about the Day of the Dead. She brought a book, Día de Los Muertos, to read to the students. After reading the book, we made masks to represent Mexican Day of the Dead traditions and compared American suckers to Mexican candy.

November

One of our families came to speak to us about Korean Thanksgiving traditions, which are usually celebrated in September. We learned very quickly that the American tradition of Thanksgiving with feasting, resting, and watching football is different from that of Korea. Koreans traditionally celebrate this holiday with lots of dancing and games. Ganggangsulae is a traditional dance consisting of holding hands in a circle formation under the moon. We learned this dance and danced under a make-believe moon. 

December

The holiday we learned about for the month of December was Hanukkah. A staff member from our building had visited Jerusalem and he volunteered to come and speak to the class about the Jewish celebration. He read Dreidel Day and we colored pictures of dreidels. We then compared Hanukkah and Christmas with a Venn diagram.

January

A family from China came to speak to us about the Chinese New Year! We watched a video of how the Chinese celebrate the new year and then we made paper lanterns to symbolize this traditional holiday. A dragon coloring sheet was also an option for the kids to color. The paper lanterns were a hit with kids! Afterwards we discussed how the American New Year traditions were different from that of Chinese New Year. The students made posters and we hung them outside of our classroom. 

February

A Romanian friend shared about Dragobete which is a traditional Romanian holiday celebrated in February. Unlike American Valentine’s Day traditions, Dragobete celebrates spouses (also known as lovers). People dress up in red clothing and celebrate each other, similar to an American wedding anniversary. Chocolate candy is not part of the Romanian tradition, but chocolate cookies are! We celebrated with homemade Romanian chocolate cookies. 

March

Our guest speaker-reader for March was from Ukraine. The kids had a lot of questions after hearing the presentation. We located the country on a world map and learned about local animals. Our guest read Abetka in English and Ukrainian.

April

I invited all of the guest speaker-readers back to our classroom for a celebration. We had pizza and drinks along with desserts. All of our guests were able to take home a multilingual book of their choice to add to their home library.

Budget

Learning to Get Along® Bilingual Book Set 78.00
Spanish-English Word Wall Bulletin Board Set 15.00

Cinderella Stories Around the World: 4 Beloved Tales (Multicultural Fairy Tales)
7.00

Multilingual book for children: 32 words in 4 different languages ( English, Spanish, French and Italian) (Language Learning)
8.00

Rainbow Fish Board Book, The
8.00

El Pez Arco Iris el Rescate (Rainbow Fish) (Spanish Edition)
12.00

A Daydream a Day: An Uplifting Book with Art
by Ivan Tu (Paperback)
4.00

Jorge el curioso visita el acuario /Curious George at the Aquarium (bilingual edition) (Spanish and English Edition)
5.00

Constructive Playthings Classic Children’s Story Book Set, Bilingual Childrens Books for Babies in English and Spanish, Softcover, Hands on Learning, Early Childhood Classroom Supplies, All Ages
30.00

Un Pez Dos Peces Pez Rojo Pez Azul (One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish Spanish Edition) (Beginner Books(R))
by Dr. Seuss (Hardcover)
60.00

Que Cosas Dice Mi Abuela : Dichos y Refranes Sobre los Buenos Modales = Things My Grandmother Says [Spanish]
4.00

Teacher Created Materials - Classroom Library Collections: Literary Text Readers (Spanish) Set 3 - 10 Book Set - Grade 1 - Guided Reading Level A - I
49.00

My First English - Español Learning Library (Mi Primea English - Español Learning Library) : Boxset of 10 English - Spanish Board Books (Spanish and English Edition)
23.00
3 Living In Harmony Books Set (Bilingual Diverse Children's Books) - Spanish-English 43.00
3 Living In Harmony Books Set (Bilingual Diverse Children's Books) - Korean-English 43.00
5 Book Set (Children's Bilingual) - Korean/English 76.00
10 Book Set (Children's Bilingual) - Spanish/English 154.00
4 Idiom Books Set (Bilingual Multicultural Books) -Spanish-English
60.00
5 Book Set (Children's Bilingual) - French/English 76.00
Bilingual Board Book Collection 64.00
Spanish Paperback Library 120.00
Spanish-English Picture Dictionary: Learn Spanish for Kids, 350 Words with Pictures! (Books For Toddlers 1-3, Learning books, Homeschool Supplies) (First Bilingual Picture Dictionaries 8.00
Happy within / Feliz por dentro: English-Spanish Bilingual edition (Spanish English Bilingual Books for Kids) (Spanish Edition)
by Marisa J Taylor, Vanessa Balleza (Paperback)
12.00
My First English-Spanish Children's Coloring Book: Bilingual Fun with Colors, Shapes, Numbers, and Letters (English and Spanish Edition)
by Jocelyn Wood (Paperback)
10.00

My First English-Spanish Coloring Book: Bilingual, Fun and Engaging Spanish Coloring Book for Kids and Toddlers
8.00
Bilingual Kids: A Trip to the Zoo (English-Spanish) 8.00
Bilingual Kids: Let's Have a Picnic! (English - Spanish) 8.00
The Rainbow Fish/Bi:libri - Eng/Korean PB (Korean Edition) 10.00
Where Is the Green Sheep?/Donde esta la oveja verde?: Bilingual English-Spanish 5.00
Are You My Mother?/¿Eres tú mi mamá? (Bilingual Edition) 18.00
I Love You The Way You Are Je t'aime comme tu es Bilingual English-French Book For Children: English-French Edition (Bilingual English-French Books For Children) 9.00
I Love to Eat Fruits and Vegetables: English Korean Billingual Book for Kids (English Korean Bilingual Collection) (Korean Edition) 14.00
I Need a Hug / Necesito un abrazo (Bilingual) (Spanish Edition) 5.00
Happiness Street - Calle Felicidad: Α bilingual children's picture book in English and Spanish (Spanish Bilingual Books - Fostering Creativity in Kids) (Spanish Edition) 14.00
The Feelings Book / El libro de los sentimientos (Spanish and English Edition) 9.00
Don't be scared! - ¡No tengas miedo!: Bilingual Children's Picture Book English-Spanish with Pics to Color (Kids Learn Spanish) 11.00
The Snowy Day Board Book
by Ezra Jack Keats (Board book)
5.00
Un Dia de Nieve (Spanish Edition) 8.00
La llama llama rojo pijama (Spanish language edition) (Spanish Edition) 9.00
TOTAL 1,110.00

What did it look like?

Sustainability

This project is sustainable because these books will continue to be enjoyed year after year in our classroom library. As new students join my class, I can add additional multilingual titles to enhance this project. The flyer and sign-up sheet can be reused to host future multicultural days. 

Reflections

While planning for Multicultural Days, I learned that I needed to be flexible. Once I had an outline of monthly ideas, I was able to prepare for my guests and organize the necessary materials. I recommend speaking to your building administrator if you are trying to implement a similar project.

I found myself wanting to be more engaged in the activities and work alongside the guest speaker-readers. Therefore, I suggest designating someone else to take pictures.

Having our EL families come and speak to us had a much bigger impact on each child’s understanding than reading a book or watching a video. In addition to our multicultural days, the books on my wish lists were used during our guided reading rotations. This provided exposure to other written languages for all students.

Following our April celebration, I was able to reflect on the series of multicultural days. Though at times it was stressful and time-consuming, it was ALL worth it! I can say, without a doubt, that multicultural days were a success, and my expectations were exceeded.

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