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A Model for Urban Student Engagement and Achievement
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Strategy #1:


large product photo   Culturally Responsive Teaching means that the teacher will teach in a way that students can understand.  Therefore, the teacher must find a way to take the standards based content or curriculum and make it accessible to students.  This means incorporating student’s daily life, prior knowledge, music, sports, language, and any other interests into the curriculum so that the student feels comfortable enough to try and learn the content because it appears easy to understand.

“We must teach the way students learn, rather than expecting them to learn the way we teach”
- Pedro Noguera, 2009

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Learn About Your Students

The C.R.E.A.T.E. model asks the teacher to take extra effort to learn about the student’s culture or language, sports, music etc.  The teacher could use surveys, questionnaires or build a relationship by simply talking to the students and asking them what some of their interests are. 

Teaching is like Telling a Story
“Teaching is like telling a story” that should
reflect students’ prior knowledge, interests,
vocabulary, and culture
- Lisa Delpit, 1995

Student centered vocabulary and language are key to hooking the students’ attention so that they will be receptive enough to learn the curriculum and textbook vocabulary.  I constantly try to find ways to infuse hip hop, sports, and other students interests WITHOUT SEEMING FAKE.  Connect to them but be sincere and be yourself.

“We use ‘people talk’ to relate
math concepts to students”
- Cobb and Moses, 2001

For example, I use street language in explaining the concept of isolating the x variable in algebra. X is like a dog that wants his own block or neighborhood.  I use football analogies to teach graphing lines.   If a teacher was teaching similes, he or she could use examples with Kobe Bryant or football that involve similes and metaphors.  These examples often relate to many urban students.  But each student population is different and it would be a mistake for the teacher to assume all urban kids relate to basketball or football. 

The key is that the teacher makes an effort to find out about the students and puts him or herself in their shoes and figures out what it would take to make learning easier for them.  Finally, it is important that once the teacher hooks the students’ attention using their vocabulary, the teacher must go back and make the connection between the students’ language and the actual academic terminology so that the students can compete in the real world.

Example of Culturally Responsive


X is a Dog that wants its Own Block

X + 4 = 10

The “=” sign
is a “Gate”
protecting X’s Hood

X (+ 4) = 10 (-4)

Solving for x implies that x must be alone in its own neighborhood.  When a number leaves the x dog’s block, it must change its operation.  A negative number will become a positive number for example. 

X = 6

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Example of Culturally Responsive


Standard 1.5
Understand and explain figurative use
of words in context.

Use an article on
Michael Jordan that has lots of
metaphors and similes.

Michael Jordan was like a soaring bird on the court. He flew over Kobe Bryant like an eagle and dunked the ball. The basket was a big nest and nothing could stop him.

“Use the Cultural Capital of the students
to make the class relevant”
-Lisa Delpit, 1995

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Relevant vocabulary will hook the students’ attention so that they can eventually learn and understand the language of the book and real world.  Get their attention with their language and stories before presenting the academic language.  Put yourself in the students’ shoes and ask yourself, “What would it take to capture my attention and engage my interest?”  Get their attention but be yourself.

“Teachers need to connect the child’s life experiences and interests to the existing curriculum”
-John Dewey, 1899

C) DELIVERY: Personal Step-By-Step Interaction

30 Way Dialogue with Students.

While it is important to make the curriculum accessible or relevant to students, it is also critical that the content is delivered in a way that engages students.  Many times, a teacher has a brilliant idea or lesson but the delivery is so boring or didactic that students get turned off and miss out on the experience.  The C.R.E.A.T.E. model asks that teachers in inner-city classrooms make an extra effort to have an interactive dialogue with students instead of a one way lecture.  The interaction would occur more frequently with the target population consisting of the loudly struggling kids and the “under the radar” struggling kids.  The main mode of interaction could be through question and answer.  The teacher would ask 3 or 4 questions every step or two in a concept and call more frequently on the struggling students just to make sure they are still engaged and following along. 



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A one way lecture often causes students to lose interest and they may even start to act in a disruptive way.  An effective teacher would use a conversational approach and interact step by step with many different students personally during the “lecture.”    


“Michelle, you do the first step”
“Larry, what can we do next?”
“How about you, Alena?”
“The last step is yours, John.”
The interaction must be step by step because students may get lost in step A and as a result act out in frustration by the time the teacher arrives at step D.  Urban students have to be constantly stimulated and engaged because they will get lost or daydream.  It is also important that the teacher uses interaction that is more personal than general.  During general interaction or questioning, the “cream of the crop kids” may answer and the teacher may mistakenly assume that everyone is listening.   The target population gets easily lost or frustrated or caught up in daydreaming during general questioning that favors the “cream of the crop” students who are more easily attentive and know the material.

“Use the Cultural Capital of the students
to make the class relevant”
-Lisa Delpit, 1995

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“Effective teachers ask three times as many
personal questions as less effective teachers.”
-(Brophy and Good, 1986) 

Get Personal with your Questions

While the teacher should interact with as many students as possible, he or she should make a special effort to get the attention of the target population.  Another interactive “lecture” approach could be “shout outs” or “call and response.”  This means the teacher would pose a general question that the entire class would respond chorally in a concerted manner. The danger in such an approach is that the struggling kids, especially the “under the radar” kids may take advantage and not participate.  They may simply follow their peers or not even say anything. Therefore, the teacher should employ a step by step interactive approach that personally engages the target population.

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