Culture Shock!

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt utterly and completely out of place? Maybe you were in a different country, or even just a place with a different culture than your own, where you don’t know the language, the mannerisms, or even how to find the restroom. Now imagine feeling that overwhelmed and confused every single day. How stressful! Unfortunately, this is how many of our LEP (Limited English Proficiency) students feel in our classrooms everyday. Although we don’t intend to, we force our culture on them, and expect them to understand and abide by it automatically. It is understood that all students must adapt to the school culture, but more often than not, they are not given the tools to do so. And we wonder why our students have trouble succeeding!

So now that we are more aware of our LEP students’ situations, how can we equip them with the skills they need to succeed? Here is a compiled list of tips and tricks!

1. Learn about your students. What cultures do you have in your classroom? What are their values? What are the family’s values? The student’s? Learning about your student can go a long way in contributing to mutual success in the classroom.

2. Check on your students. Many students who are limited in their English proficiency will feel too nervous or scared asking for help. Make sure they are fully understanding the instructions.

3. Use pictures, diagrams and hand motions. Connecting all assignments, instructions and directions with visuals will provide a reference point for students who don’t quite understand the vocabulary you are using.

4. Be inclusive. Have times during the school year during which different cultures are honored. This will make your student feel included in the classroom community.

5. Apply with English speakers as well! Although I’ve mainly mentioned LEP students, these rules also apply to English speaking students in a dual language classroom! When it is time to move to the second language focus, the English speaking students are the ones who will feel lost and confused. Be sure to give them the same courtesy as you would your LEP students.

By: Alex Thorne


5 thoughts on “Culture Shock!

  1. I know exactly what your talking about Alex! I am marrying into a Hispanic family in the coming months and had to meet the entire extended family just recently. It was so overwhelming that everyone spoke Spanish except for me. Even as an adult going into a Spanish family I can tell that these hints should be very helpful for any teacher working with LEP students. Thank you for putting this together.

  2. So insightful! I love it. It’s a helpful way to show teachers how they can connect to their students. Good ideas!

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post. The information you included is very important for teachers to consider when teaching. I had the misfortune of experiencing this cultural shock during my first years of elementary school, it was a very overwhelming experience that i wish no child should have to go through. Thank you so much for sharing this insightful information, i hope it helps others as much as it helped me to remember the importance of knowing our students.

  4. I know how it feels to be surrounded by people who are not from your same culture. Even though I knew how to speak their language (English), I still felt out of place.I just imagine how hard it is for ELL’s in a country that it totally different from theirs. I enjoyed reading your recommendations and will apply them to my classroom one day. Thank you,

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