Culturally Responsive Instruction for Native American Students

Welcome to this professional learning series on culturally responsive instruction for Native American students. This series provides a framework for instruction that emphasizes experiential, active, and student-centered learning. It supports all teachers in creating culturally responsive instruction for their Native students. If you are already familiar with your students' cultures and communities, you should be ready to dive into implementing this framework. If you are not yet familiar, this series will guide you on your journey to become more knowledgeable. We do not provide lessons or curricula on particular cultures, histories, or languages. Instead we provide the pedagogical principles to support you in creating (or adjusting) lessons and curricula informed by and integrating your students' cultures. Implementing this process will pave the way for your students' to achieve success, both in and out of the classroom. 

If your role is to support teachers and advocate for Native students, this series is right for you as well. It can help you know what to look for in classroom observations, guide your feedback to teachers and schools, and inform your recommendations to improve programs for Native students.

This new series is a work in progress. It currently addresses the following questions.

  • What is culturally responsive instruction?
  • Why is it important for Native American students?
  • What does it look like for Native American students?


​Working Together!

We recommend that if possible, you work through this professional learning series together with peers in a professional learning community (PLC). This PLC can be in-person at your school site, or a video/phone conference-based community, e.g., across rural schools in a district.

Our vision for using these materials involves:

  • Individuals, on their own time, completing one section of the professional learning series at a time. This includes watching the course video and any additional material, such as completing any handout or inventory activities that go along with the section. To support productive meetings, we’ve included a document on establishing meeting norms below.
  • After completing the section activities, individuals come together and meet with their PLC and discuss:
    • What they’ve learned through the videos and application activities
    • Questions that have come up
    • Experiences/reflections related to culturally responsive instruction in their classrooms
    • Goal setting for each participant

           Linked below is a sample meeting agenda for these meetings.

  • Additionally, teachers may come together for Video Study Groups (VSG). These are more targeted meetings to provide peer feedback to one another based on video recordings teachers take of their classrooms. To support this effort, we’ve included a sample initial meeting agenda and an agenda for follow up VSG meetings. 


Meeting NormsPLC Meeting AgendaVSG Meeting Agenda 1VSG Meeting Agenda 2


Let's get started!

The series of videos and tasks are presented sequentially and build on each other. Follow the steps to complete each section before moving on to the next video.

watch video


1. The What and Why of Culturally Responsive Instruction

This section introduces culturally responsive instruction and explains why it's critical for the academic success of Native American students.


Steps to complete section:

  1. Watch the course video
  2. Click on the link below to answer the Exit Questions for this section. 


Exit Questions


watch video


2. Understanding Culture and Native American Diversity

This section provides a framework for considering culture in classroom settings and explores the range of diversity among Native students.


Steps to complete section:

  1. Watch the course video
  2. Answer the Exit Questions for this section. 
  3. Complete the Student Inventory - either for teachers or for those who support teachers


Exit Questions | Student Inventory for TeachersStudent Inventory for those who Support Teachers


watch video

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3. Foundations for Culturally Responsive Practice

This section elaborates on the foundations for our instructional guidance in this series, including traditional Native American values, epistemologies, and educational strategies, and general principles of culturally responsive instructional practice.


Steps to complete this section:

  1. Watch the course video 
  2. Answer the Exit Questions for this section. 
  3. Complete the Culturally Responsive Practice Inventory - either for teachers or for those who support teachers


Exit Questions | Culturally Responsive Practice Inventory for TeachersCulturally Responsive Practice Inventory for those who Support Teachers


watch video

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4. Where to Start: Initial Guidelines for Instruction

This section provides initial guidelines for providing culturally responsive instruction for Native students. It covers the areas of: instructional strategies, instructional activities, norms of social interaction, and teacher attitudes. It links these guidelines to specific, traditional Native American teaching and learning methods.


Steps to complete section:

  1. Watch the course video
  2. Click on the link below to answer the Exit Questions for this section. 
  3. Complete the Initial Guidelines handout - either for teachers or for those who support teachers. Note: you will be prompted to make a copy of the Google doc before using. 


Exit Questions | Initial Guidelines: Handout for Teachers | Initial Guidelines: Handout for those who Support Teachers


watch video

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5. Going Further: More Guidelines

This section provides more guidelines for providing culturally responsive instruction for Native students. It covers the areas of: instructional materials, curriculum, and parent and community involvement. It links these guidelines to specific Native American values and epistemologies.


Steps to complete section:

  1. Watch the course video
  2. Click on the link below to answer the Exit Questions for this section.
  3. Complete the More Guidelines handout - either for teachers or those who support teachers. Note: you will be prompted to make a copy of the Google doc before using. 


Exit Questions | More Guidelines: Handout for Teachers | More Guidelines: Handout for those who Support Teachers


If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Barbara Jones at



Additional Resources

Formative Assessment for Improving Native American Student Learning and Language Development: A Series of Professional Learning Modules

This series addresses formative assessment implementation with Native students across content areas with a focus on language development, including academic English and Native language. Students' levels of prior content knowledge and language development vary greatly from one to another. It is important that instructors know where each student is on their learning pathway, and then target instructional experiences that are matched to their levels. With formative assessment, teachers have the tools to do this work. It is only in connecting with students where they are on the pathway, that they are able to progress towards meeting their Learning Goals. 

Formative Assessment in Action

The Formative Assessment in Action Spotlight aims to provide educators with resources that support learning about the formative assessment process. The spotlight includes classroom videos that showcase formative assessment in action, and opportunities to deepen learning about formative assessment with video viewing protocols. Educators can use the opportunities to analyze others' practice with an eye towards incorporating new learning into current instructional routines. Note: you'll see some of the same classroom videos that are in this professional development program, plus many more!

CSAI-Developed Curriculum and Instruction Resource Collection

This is a series of resources that assist teachers and those who support teachers to plan teaching and learning of College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS) for all students with a focus on formative assessment.

High-Leverage Principles of Effective Instruction for English Learners

New college and career ready standards (CCRS) have established more rigorous expectations of learning for all learners, including EL students, than what was expected in previous standards. A common feature in these new content-area standards is their emphasis on students’ use of language to articulate and convey understanding of the content. The heightened role that language plays in CCRS presents new challenges for EL students and their teachers by calling for improved instructional strategies that simultaneously address language and content-area learning.

The purpose of this resource is to provide teachers of EL students with effective, high-leverage learning and teaching principles that can be incorporated into daily instructional plans and routines.