Culturally Responsive Teaching: The Why

Objective: To understand the importance of Culturally Responsive Teaching in building cognitive capacity in students from diverse backgrounds. 

Watch the screencast: Culturally Responsive Teaching: The Why

Stop and Think

(Key: T – Teachers; SL – School Leaders; DL – District Leaders)

“An educator’s ability to recognize students’ cultural displays of learning and meaning making and . . . use [it] as a scaffold . . . to promote effective information processing.

“All the while, the educator understands the importance of . . . having a social-emotional connection to the student in order to create a safe space for learning.”

— Zaretta Hammond (2015), “Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain.”

  • How is the definition of culturally responsive teaching provided by Zaretta Hammond similar to or different from your initial understanding of the term, culturally responsive teaching? (T, SL, DL)
  • What key words of phrases stand out to you and why? (T, SL, DL)
  • What do you see as a pivotal first step in being culturally responsive in the classroom? (T, SL)
  • How might your culture and background influence the interactions, expectations and relationships you have with your students? (T, SL)
  • Why are partnerships with families an important component of culturally responsive teaching and learning? What does partnership mean to you? What might partnership look like for your students and their families in a remote or hybrid learning environment? (T, SL)
  • How would you define your own cultural identity, values and beliefs? How might this understanding of your identity influence the decisions you make for your school or district? (SL, TL) 
  • How can you lead your school community or staff in being reflective of their personal identities and how their assumptions, values, and beliefs influence the decisions they make for the students they serve? (SL, TL)
  • In what ways can schools and districts creatively partner with families and communities that involve them in creating a positive and culturally responsive remote or hybrid school environment? (SL, TL)


Engage in a discussion about the screencast and questions above with your co-teacher, grade level team, department, or with someone in your professional learning network, using the collaboration protocols below. 

Select a TimeKeeper, Recorder, and a Protocol Promoter.

  • TimeKeeper: Manages the discussion by ensuring the discussion stays within the given time frame.
  • Recorder:  Writes and captures the notes from the discussion on the screencast, “Culturally Responsive Teaching: The Why.”
  • Protocol Promoter: Reads the protocol directions and ensures that the collaborators are following the guidelines and each is allowed to speak.

After the Protocol Promoter reads all of the directions, engage in a discussion about the e-text above for 15 minutes.

As you engage in the discussion, use the following guidelines:

  • Everyone actively listens to the speaker. 
  • Participants acknowledge what others say with supportive or challenging comments, utilizing positive language.
  • Each new comment is related to prior comments or introduces a new idea that will further the conversation.
  • Be mindful of who is speaking and encourage all participants to offer their opinions.

Stop and Think

After the discussion, take 10 minutes to complete the following thoughts:

  • Before, I was thinking …
  • Now, after the discussion, I am thinking/realizing …