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November 2017
VABBing with Mindset

Mindset Reflections - Is Your Classroom a House or a Home for Your Students?

I mean it when I say that cultural and linguistic responsiveness (CLR) has to be infused into everything that you do in order for you to achieve success. CLR educators must frequently and reflectively ask themselves this question: Is my _______________ (fill in the blank with anything that you do related to student success) culturally and linguistically responsive? This is a literal question. The task is that you would look at all that you do with a lens of responsiveness for who your students are culturally and linguistically. And all that you do, includes your classroom learning environment.

Creating a positive learning environment is actually the first step you should take when striving to create a learning experience that is culturally and linguistically responsive for your students.  The absence of a positive climate, which encompasses the vibe, energy, and feel of the classroom, makes CLR impractical for teachers to implement the prescribed activities that foster and enhance learning for underserved students. A CLR learning environment is one that conveys respect for every student, particularly the respect for the knowledge, experiences, and language that they are bringing to the classroom.

In creating your CLR learning environment, consider the three Ds: De-Blumenbaching, De-Commercializing, and De-Superficializing. These three Ds are assessed in order to help you uncover the ways in which your mindset affects your classroom learning environment negatively or positively.

D #1 - De-Blumenbaching

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach was a German anthropologist in the late 18th and early 19th century who developed a system of racial classification that divided the human species into five races based on physical features and perceived beauty (Caucasian, Mongolian, Malayan, Ethiopian, and American). Blumenbach’s work upheld the common belief that Caucasians were the superior race or as he called it "the most beautiful human." While Blumenbach’s theories about racial classification were discarded long ago, the underlying concept of the superiority of the Caucasian race persists in many subconscious and less explicit ways. Thus, as culturally responsive educators, it is necessary to “de-Blumenbach” ourselves, especially in the context of schooling and classroom learning environments. This means making deliberate decisions about the images you display in your classroom and seeking out materials that represent your students’ cultures, rather than the mainstream White Anglo-Saxon culture. Research has demonstrated how seeing or not seeing one’s culture reflected in media and literature can impact one’s identity. As a result, it is important that you critically examine your learning environments, textbooks, and the images around your school in order to make the necessary changes to move toward a more representative and culturally responsive environment.

D #2 De-Commercializing

Perhaps the best way to ensure that your classroom environment is representative of your student population is to display students’ work, to have images of students' whenever and wherever possible, and to authentically create signs and symbols in your room, rather than use commercial products in your classroom. By developing your classroom environment around work created by students, images of them, and self-created visuals,  you are automatically making your room more culturally responsive. When students see their own work and their images on classroom walls and bulletin boards, they immediately see themselves as an integral part of the classroom and school. By creating a classroom community that is built by students rather than with commercial materials, you are validating and affirming both students’ talents and their own personal perceptions of cultural identity.

D #3 De-Superficializing

When you are working to make your classroom environment more culturally responsive, it is important to go beyond the superficial images of cultural diversity and strive for authentic and genuine representations of your students’ cultures. For example, simply displaying a woven African basket in the corner of your classroom does not make your classroom environment more culturally responsive. Most students, even if they are from an African American background, will probably not notice let alone identify with this type of cultural artifact without intentional instruction. However, the purposeful use of bright and culturally meaningful colors to make a classroom environment more inviting and conducive to learning is an authentic and effective way to make your classroom more responsive and not superficial.

The CLR recipe for a culturally responsive learning environment is framed around eight elements:

1.    Print-rich Environment: 70 percent authentic and 30 percent commercially produced

2.    Learning Centers: reading, writing, listening, math, science, and cultural. Places where students can go and learn in small groups.

3.    Culturally Colorful: ethnic textiles, prints, artwork, and artifacts

4.    Arranged Optimally: allowing for presentations, movement, and teacher and student space

5.    Multiple Libraries: culture-specific, multicultural, content-specific, reading level, and signature literature

6.    Use of Technology: utilized and prominently displayed

7.    Relevant Bulletin Boards: cultural, student work, current unit, current events, and content-area oriented

8.    Displayed Student Work and Images of Students: current, ample, and unit-related

These ingredients are to serve as they would for an actual recipe—meaning that in order to create the dish, the chef absolutely needs these ingredients. However, the exact amount and mixture of the ingredients are left up to the chef’s creativity, intuition, and experience. This intentional flexibility supports the customization of the learning environment for the unique students in each classroom. In other words, the culturally and linguistically responsive learning environment should not be cookie-cutter or branded. The CLR classroom has to feel like home for the students.

November  #BeYou
Focus Behavior:

The institution negatively dubs spontaneity as impulsiveness. This label can be a misunderstanding of an actual cultural asset for many students. Culturally speaking, spontaneity speaks to students who thrive in impromptu learning contexts. This impromptu is based in improvising, which is a necessary skill is some contexts, such as music, sports, and even comedy. Being prompted "all the time" is confining for them as learners. Traditional schooling is confining, with much of the learning day being prompted - when to start, when to stop, when to go the restroom, when to eat, when to play, when to talk,  when not to talk. Here is the question: when do your students have opportunities to be without being prompted? When do the students have opportunities to improvise?

October #BeYou Focus Behavior: Communalism

September #BeYou Focus Behavior: Kinesthetic or Movement

August #BeYou Focus Behavior: Socio-centrism

See the skillset section of this issue for activities that validate and affirm communalism and for when students can #BeYou. See our website for the #BeYou campaign.

November 2017 Mindset Knowledge Builder:

Click Image for link
VABBing with Skillset

#BeYou  - Spontaneous Style

Do you ever wish you could be more spontaneous? Wish others would be?When we have students that approach learning in a spontaneous way, do we celebrate it and build off if it?Imagine instruction that values improvisation and allows learning to flow without a timer and a set plan.Spontaneity can be a great strength and an asset to learning!  Embrace it!  

By Gina Spoo, CLR Instructional Coach


Basic:   Shout Out

A response protocol that allows spontaneous thinking and sharing.  Do you have students that shout out the answer even before you have finished the question?  Are there questions you ask that require one or two words answers that many students would want to respond to quickly? If you answered yes, then incorporate the Shout Out Responding Protocol today!


  • Be explicit when having students Shout Out an answer or a response.  Tell students ahead of time that you are using the Shout Out Responding Protocol.
  • Use this responding protocol for answers that are short- one or two words answers
  • Practice; Explain the Why, and help students understand the role they all play in the learning that is supporting each other  
  • Explain that shouting out isn’t a competition, but rather creating a spontaneous, collaborative vibe!
  • Juxtapose the Shout Out with explicit Raise A Righteous Hand and/or  Pick-A-Stick to Build and Bridge to teach situational appropriateness in ways of responding, listening, and taking turns in the classroom.

Advanced:  60-Second Radio Spot (Responsive Literacy Activity)

This literacy activity puts a twist on traditional summarizing.  It supports and values a variety of communication skills, allows for learning through improv and acting, and encourages collaboration and cooperation.  How do you see it supporting the cultural element of Spontaneity? Check it out today!  


Premium:  Talk-A-Mile-A-Minute (Responsive Vocabulary Activity)

This vocabulary activity supports and values a variety of communication skills, allows for validation of home language, brings in learning through games, supports Tier 2 vocabulary acquisition, and encourages collaboration and cooperation.

  • This activity allows for reviewing and building  word knowledge of important Tier 2 words and content-specific Tier 3 words

  • It will bring a fun energy to the classroom.  Whether you teach 1st grade or 12th grade, how can this vocabulary activity be utilized to build word knowledge, VA home language and VA spontaneity in your classroom?

  • Check out these Google slides:  Talk-A-Mile-A-Minute Slides


Finally…  As you are planning your instruction, think about which students would benefit the most from these activities that VA spontaneity.  While these activities:  Shout Out, 60-Second Radio Spot, and Talk-A-Mile-A-Minute VA spontaneity; they also support self-expression, choice, increase deeper connections to the content/words, and provide a fun learning environment that is sure to increase engagement.


Let’s hear from you!

Share about it with #BeYou  #SpontaneityStyle  @validateaffirm on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

No "Smiling Pilgrims and Indians"  for Thanksgiving Please

How do you create a positive learning environment and responsive lessons for Thanksgiving?  Are your displays filled with books and images of smiling Pilgrims and happy Indians playing, and sharing a meal? Are the class discussions centered around mainstream Thanksgiving traditions? If the answer to these questions is yes, it is time to revisit your Thanksgiving mindset, book choices, lesson plans and room environment.  Reflect on the  the 3 D's discussed  and the strategies for Spontaneity outlined in this newsletter and check out the latest  Responsive Reads post linked here for resources.


Click image for link to Website

Order YOUR #BeYou Poster now at
How does Cory Miller from North St. Paul incorporate spontaneity in her lesson? How is spontaneity juxtaposed with more traditional strategies to teach situational appropriateness?   
Think like a coach -  What are other opportunities in this lesson to infuse strategies for spontaneity?
Click  image for link to video.
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