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With diversity spreading more and more throughout early elementary classrooms, I believe it is a great learning opportunity for students to share their culture and way of life with others. Many teachers offer a themed study about individuals and how everyone is unique yet fits into the classroom dynamic. I believe these studies can be taken one step further for a larger social studies unit that can be incorporated throughout the school year.
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Beginning the Lesson
- Books on diversity and culture
- Large United States Map
- Large World Map
- Parent involvement is especially helpful for this study since they can help provide additional materials about the cultures outside of the United States, as well as speak to the classroom about a specific area. Parents generally also help their child fill out questionnaires about their place of birth, etc.
Questions that can be asked:
- Where were you born? (Show on the map)
- What is this area like?
- What are your favorite activities to participate in there?What foods do you eat there?
- Why did you come to live in America?
This lesson can be started by each child making a portrait of themselves, with their unique features and clothing. They can share where they were born, where they’ve grown up, and how long they’ve lived in their current state. This helps students that are shy get to know their friends and feel as though they are part of a group. They can share some facts about themselves, such as what activities they enjoy and what kind of foods they like. Once everyone has completed their portrait, these can be displayed around the room.
Each child can then help select a book about their place of birth to read. If the majority of the class is from the United States, an excellent book is Train of States, by Peter Sis. Once a child’s place of birth has been discussed, pictures or logos that represent each child can be placed on a map in the classroom. It is really fun to track on a large map where the class has lived and explored. Parents can even add their own logos and pictures if they come in to volunteer in the classroom, or this can be made into more of a family project where each child adds their parents or family members information.
To further the lesson, students can bring in for show and tell different things about their home state. It's fun to see cowboy hats from Texas, or Disney stuff from California or Florida. This always gets the kids engaged and excited about sharing stuff with others. Encouraging map discussion during this show and tell time also reinforces where states lie on the map or globe - encouraging geography skills.
While learning about the different people within the classroom, students are also receiving valuable insight and information about the different states and locations around the world, as well as about the way of life in places that are different from where they currently reside. Students are often enthralled with the many cultural differences, even within the United States.
Project based class activities often bring classmates closer together and allow for more intimate learning. From this basic social studies lesson, students can explore further into different countries, cultures, and more.
With parent involvement multicultural day or state discussions can take place, which opens the door for kids to learn about social studies in a whole new way.