Dr. Sulema Carreón-Sánchez • IDRA Newsletter • March 2022 •

Culturally sustaining instruction is a research-based approach that links students’ cultures, languages and life experiences within the classroom environment. These connections help students access rigorous curriculum and develop higher-level academic skills.

When using culturally sustaining practices, educators deliberately create a classroom environment that acknowledges all students, connecting cultural experiences within daily instruction, embracing students’ native language and their families as assets to learning at school and home, and communicating clear high expectations for all students.

Making these connections is especially important today as students and schools face the lingering effects of COVID-19, school shutdowns, interrupted instruction and social stress. Following are examples of introductory culturally sustaining practices.

  • Make students feel comfortable and open to sharing. For example, share your own experience about a subject first and then facilitate students in communicating their own experiences with each other in pairs or small groups before asking some to share with the whole class.
  • Use all sensory modalities (listening, speaking, reading and writing, movement) to introduce information while incorporating student experiences.
  • Listen to your students. Take time to let them share traditions, holidays, and family or other cultural activities they enjoy. Discuss ideas for incorporating these into classroom activities.
  • Choose content with stories and poems that reflect the culture of the students.
  • Continuously build authentic relationships with students and their families. Invite families into the classroom. They can read a book from their tradition or talk about a part of their culture that ties to your lesson.
  • Visit your school library and your community’s public library for resources, like eBooks, audiobooks, movies and related books.

See the IDRA EAC-South’s set of materials on culturally sustaining instruction and leadership for engaging with families and students from marginalized communities (Johnson, 2021).


Caldera, A. (May 2021). What the Term “Culturally Sustaining Practices” Means for Education in Today’s Classrooms. IDRA Newsletter.

GrapeSEED. (September 29, 2020). 7 Tips to Implement Culturally Responsive Teaching, webpage. Fink, L., (January 8, 2018). Culturally Responsive Teaching in Today’s Classrooms. National Council of Teachers of English.

Johnson, P. (May 2021). Culturally Sustaining Instruction Requires Culturally Sustaining Leadership. IDRA Newsletter.

Kelly, M. (August 28, 2020). 8 Things Teachers Can Do to Help Students Succeed. ThoughtCo.

Vasquez, V. (2022). English Language Learners and Culturally Responsive Teaching. Collaborative Classroom.

Sulema Carreón-Sánchez, Ph.D., is an IDRA senior education associate. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at sulema.sanchez@idra.org.

[©2022, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the March 2022 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]