by Ian Hussey
"Education is the solution that will help people to break free from the chains of ignorance and rise above limited or extreme interpretations of scriptures." (Prof El-Awaisi)

First and foremost, what is 'Multiculturalism'? Well, there are many definitions for a label that's given to an extremely broad and diverse subject area but encompassing all of these definitions is the notion that it's external image can_multiculture.jpgthe acceptance and promotion of different cultures. Different cultures in particular demographic areas and in particular those areas at an organizational level e.g. schools, businesses, cities etc.

Theoretical Framework

Development of Stereotypes

Children's attitudes toward their race and ethnic group and other cultural groups begin to form from an early age. They can easily recognize the differences around them and from a young age easily absorb negative stereotypes. It’s our role as early childhood educators to influence the development of positive attitudes in young children by teaching them about and promoting the various cultures represented within the classroom and wider community. Teachers can help eliminate stereotypes by presenting material and activities that enable children to learn the similarities of all individuals. Classroom discussion is particularly helpful in this respect, as it provides children with a feeling of group identity and introduces them to the variety of cultures represented in the class (Dixon and Fraser, 1986).Taking this into consideration, it’s essential that a multicultural program doesn’t focus on other cultures to the exclusion of the cultures represented in the class. Teachers should take whatever measures are necessary to see that children do not interpret these adjustments as evidence of cultural stereotypes.

Promoting a Multiculutral Perspective

It’s through multicultural literature that children discover all cultural groups have made significant contributions to civilization. A well-balanced multicultural literature program includes literature that depicts people with a variety of aspirations, from different sociometric levels, with different occupations, and with a range of human characteristics (Norton, 1985, 103-108).If we are to understand the whole child, we must become aware of the child's cultural background. Children can benefit from understanding the our own heritage and background, such sharing creates a feeling of connection that results in the child's acceptance of the similarities and differences of others.

Teaching Ideas

Be it under the heading of 'Reading for Meaning' (p. 102) or 'Speaking to Communicate' (p.86) , the Ontario English Curriculum requires that the issue of multiculturalism be placed into the classroom. Indeed it states that if the children 'see themselves and others in the texts they study, they will be more engaged in learning and they will also come to appreciate the nature and value of a diverse, multicultural society' (p. 4). In order to create an understanding and leave a lasting impression with the students we must first create a multicultural classroom, a creation built from three key concepts: -1. Incorporation of multicultural materials, lessons, music and activities as often as possible 2. Having a working knowledge of the students cultural background3. Motivating and encouraging your students to create a community classroom where all participate, encourage and appreciate one another

"But Sir, I don't get what you mean?!"

It's all very well telling the students what multiculturalism is and being aware as teachers that today’s society is multicultural but it’s how we convey this subject to the class before us that will determine if they understand the very notion of multiculturalism. Indeed what we should be aiming for is to not only create an understanding but to hold the student’s attention and draw them into the classroom subject in such a manner that there is a sense of a disappointment when that bell rings. An idealistic outlook maybe but something to aim for nevertheless.

From the perspective of literature

Lesson 1

Eve Bunting’s ‘Going Home’
Subject Matter Areas:
Reading, vocabulary development, social studies, language arts, art, social development.Objectives:Increased understanding of “home” as a force in one’s life. Increased understanding of the effect a knowledge of one’s “roots” can have upon an individual, a family, or a people. Increased knowledge of one’s own roots. Increased awareness of the positives in one’s own life. Increased understanding of the life faced by many farm labourers. Ability to construct a representative collage. Ability to interview and to present findings in oral and written form. Procedure:'Going Home' traces the journey of Carlos and his family across the border from California to Mexico to visit the village of their parents. Though unimpressed at first, Carlos and his older sister begin to understand and develop a connection to their roots in Mexico and come to realize the sacrifices which their parents have made in order to provide them with “opportunities”. We're also given glimpses of the tenant farm system under which Carlos and his family live, as well as of the typical Mexican villages and the landscape which they pass through on their journey. Though the book itself is short, numerous opportunities for discussion present themselves along the way: What is it like to labor in the fields? Why do Mama and Papa continue to speak Spanish? Why does Carlos keep trying to teach them English? Why does Mama blow kisses when they reach Mexico? What is meant by opportunities? What have the parents sacrificed and gained? Do you think it was worth it? The beautifully colourful illustrations are panels of semi-abstract pictures appearing on a mosaic background, which in most cases seems to be made of overlapping ornaments. Each panel is framed in a sometimes ornate wrought-iron border and some have a surreal quality, with people and objects floating through the air. Students can be asked to interpret both the background and the framed panels: What do you see? What do you think the picture is telling us? Is there meaning in the background? How do you feel about the way the artist illustrated the text? How would you have illustrated the book? After appropriate discussion, the students will be asked to list things about their own home and life which they would like to remember as they grow older. They'll be then given an opportunity to make a collage of pictures depicting a combination of these memories and can then be asked to discuss, as a class, exactly what it is they have chosen to portray.After discussing visits which students have made to the homes of grandparents or other older relatives, they'll be asked to interview an adult family member about their recollections of their early home. Pupils will record (written or taped) their remembrances and report them to the class. They may also be asked to organize their material into an interesting written narrative with appropriate illustrations

Lesson 2

Sandra Cisneros' 'The House on Mango Street'Subject Matter Areas:A study linking human rights issues to the students' social and cultural experiences.Objectives:Aid student's personal developmentBroaden their social interactionsDevelop their reading, writing, listening and oral communication skills.Procedure:Prior to the lesson each student will be asked to read the novel so that time within class can be spent on work rather than reading. To begin with each student will be asked to complete the worksheet that is found below in the 'activity' area of this webpage. After being assigned groups based on the chapters that they read from (each member of the group would have read from the same chapter) and analyzing their chapter as a group, each group will complete the book review worksheet (found in the 'activity section of this webpage). They will then be asked to prepare for the homework assignment, in which they are asked to write a three to five paragraph autobiographical essay that corresponds to their reading.

From the perspective of language

Lesson 1

While this page is predominantly about how multiculturalism is portrayed within children's literature, I found a lesson that discusses the topic and imbeds its overall meaning within the student through its array of small exercises. So here is the link to its core, along with two quizzes (quiz 1, quiz 2) that further emphasize its point and will embed a stronger grasp of language skills within the classroom.

Lesson 2

Spanish Words in EnglishSubject Matter Areas:Reading, vocabulary development, social studies. Vocabulary:See list at conclusion of lesson. Objectives:Increase the range of each student’s vocabulary. Allow students to understand the Spanish origins of many words which have become a normal part of the English language. Develop the ability to use these words in written and oral context. Increase pupils’ understanding of Latino/Hispanic history and influence through examining these words. Procedure:The Latino/Hispanic literature, used in English classrooms, will obviously be in written in English but the use of Spanish words is prevalent in most of the texts and most of these words will already be know by the pupils, with the possibility that some become so integrated into the English language that they no idea of their Spanish connection. Directly examining these words and their roots will both increase each pupil’s vocabulary range and add to their awareness of one of the ties we all have to Spanish and outside influences, while also creating an awareness of 'youthfulness' of the English language. Two approaches can be used in order to achieve this goal. First, as the class reads or listens to various written material, the teacher will point out words which have Spanish origins and are appropriate to the level of understanding of the class. Words will be defined, either by the teacher, the group, or an individual student. Words will be written on an expanding classroom list, while each pupil will keep a personal booklet containing words and definitions. The teacher will present a more detailed account of the derivation of some words. In the second approach, the teacher will select a few (2-5) words that will be examined during the week. They will be approached in a similar but they will not necessarily be related to something that is currently being read and will also be added to the growing list. As the list grows it will become become the source of 'game' type educational activities e.g. Conduct a 'bee' in which brief definitions are required instead of (or along with) accurate spelling. Modify this approach by requiring pupils to use the words correctly in context. Have pupils take a group of related words and create an interesting paragraph or brief story. Create and use flashcards with the word and definition of opposite sides. Here is a small list of suggestions; many more words could be added.

San Francisco
For and example of how this may fit into an entire unit, please click this link.


It is essential to have lesson plans in place to ensure that the learning of the class follows a set parameter but without some form of assessment, no matter how minor, it is all but impossible to confirm whether the student’s have taken on board what has been placed before them.

Assessment Ideas

After studying a piece of literature, the class can be split into groups and be set with the assignment of creating a news piece/article that will be presented to their peers at a later date. They can be given the choice of a paper article, radio broadcast or television broadcast, in which they must create a story based on the novel they have read. They could concentrate on the plight of particular characters throughout the novel, changes in the opinion that occur throughout the novel or indeed what it is the novel itself aims to educate its audience about (a review if you will). Such an assignment will not only encourage and develop group working skills but allow for students to exercise the specific skills they each hold; one may be confident in art and thus a newspaper illustration will show such ability, another in creative writing and thus a script for a television/radio broadcast will harness such skills and others may be keen performers and a role presenting a television broadcast as a newsreader would be more suited etc. The central theme being that the assessment will encourage analysis of the themes portrayed within a specific piece of literature.
Other forms of assessment could include worksheets being handed to the class listing a number of key events from the novel and asking the students to create a timeline placing each event in chronological order. Students can be asked to write two short paragraphs explaining why (or why not) they would not want to live in the time of the novel, giving specific examples to strengthen their opinions. Another way to assess the understanding and comprehension of the theme of multiculturalism is to ask the class to write a brief paper on whether or not the piece of literature is a representation of the world we live in today and indeed the society that they find themselves in at school. This would aid in supplying the class with the historical context of the novel (if indeed there is one) and acknowledgement of the society they find themselves in today.

Evidence of Assessment

Here's just one framework to aid in deciding how successful a student has been in their learning of the subject area and indeed how successful you have been in teaching it.

Varying Levels of Competency
Values & Behavioral Styles
The individual's ability to portray values and behavioral styles that are common to the ethnic group. This also refers to the ability to perceive and understand values and behavioral styles that are common to the ethnic group.
Languages and Dialects
The individual's ability to comprehend and speak the languages and/or dialects in the ethnic group.
Nonverbal Communications
The individual's ability to recognize, correctly construe, and communicate the nonverbal communications in the particular ethnic culture.
Cultural Cognitiveness
The individual's ability to understand how his/her own ethnic group compares with other ethnic groups and the national macroculture.
Perspectives, World Views, and Frames of Reference
The individual's ability to be aware of and comprehend the perspectives and world views that are common to their ethnic group. This also refers to his/her ability to examine actions and circumstances from the perspectives and world views common to their ethnic group.
This refers not only to the individual's ability to idenitfy with an ethnic group that may be unconscious, but also his/her ability to display clear actions that show mindful identification with one's ethnic group.

Activity Suggestion


The class could be asked to split into groups, or indeed individually, and be asked to complete the worksheet saved below. It asks the students to complete the spider grams, using verbs and prepositions, in order to create stereotypes of particular cultures. They are then asked to create interview questions, using the stereotypes, which can be presented to the class through a group exercise.

Pre-reading Exercise

Here is an exercise to be used in conjunction with Sandra Cisneros' 'The House on Mango Street' but it's basis can be applied to any novel.

Teacher Resources

Useful Movies

African American
Asian American
Hispanic American
Native American

Fantastic Online Guidance

  1. There are many variables that need to be taken into consideration when choosing appropriate literature, (from omission to copyright date) as listed on the webpage available to you through this link.
  2. How to choose the best multicultural books


· Bunting, Eve. Going Home (Trophy Picture Books). New York: HarperTrophy, 1998. Print.
· Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. New York: Knopf, 1994. Print.
· El-Awaisi. (2003, November, 29). Education Answer to Extremisim. Accessed on 25, September. 2010
· Kaminski, June. (1998). Cultural Factors and Separation Anxiety in Preschoolers. Scribd. Accessed on 25, September. 2010
· Norton, D.E. (1985). Language and Cognitive Development Through Multicultural Literature. CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. 62, 2. 103-108.
· The Ontario Curriculum Grades 9 & 10. (2007). Ministry of Education. N.p., n.d. Web. Accessed on 26 September 2010.