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Almost every month of the school year has a specific designation for celebrating a different group’s contributions to our multicultural society. It is not until these special occasions come around again that most teachers pull out their cultural lesson plans for another year of generic discussions and readings. Unfortunately, cookie cutter units of study lose their effect on students as they continue through school because much of the information taught to them repeats several times, often with the same method of delivery. Try some new activities that can provoke enriched discussions and increase retentiveness of ideals, feelings, and thoughts in students. The goal of these three activities is to promote a better understanding and a stronger embrace of people outside of their own culture.
Each lesson activity within this article is adaptable for elementary, middle school, and high school students.
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Time required-1-2 weeks
- Inventory recording and storage: word processing software, presentation software, etc. and flash drive
- Fiction and Non-fiction culture books
Have students have to come up with an inventory of cultures, (not necessarily ethnically encompassing), operating at their school to include teachers, students and other school staff. Emphasize that cultures studied can also be social, occupational, or religious in nature.
A good way to open this activity is to compare “the cool kids" to another culture around the school that others believe is inherently different to show a contrast in norms, values, and mores.
After grading has been completed, students must share their inventories with the class to serve as a form of peer assessment. This part of the assignment is included to debunk myths and stereotypes towards cultures.
During the peer discussion, guide it in a way that points out how even what they consider to be too small to make a difference in how they perceive and treat others, like negative inner thoughts about cultures other than our own, can go a long way in hurting society.
Overall, this activity should challenge students to think more broadly.
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What I Like About You
Objective: Students will gain sensitivity towards other cultures on a classroom level with people they interact with routinely.
Time required-1-2 class periods
- Books on culture-fiction and non-fiction
- Note taking devices such as paper, or other materials.
Students must come up with a list of positives about each culture represented within in their classroom as part of a class discussion. Focus this activity on how each culture brings something positive to the table using past and current contributions to society as speaking points. Assign a book on your students’ level that provides insight to cultures that the students may be unfamiliar with, but at the same time, may hold prejudices against.
- Please review this article before choosing material for students to read to avoid having this lesson turn out to be one wrought with negativity and resentment. If are unsure about which books to choose, please ask for suggestions from other faculty, community members, family, or friends of different cultures.
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A Day in My Life
Objective: Students conduct research on other cultures through submergence into an opposite culture to report their findings.
Time required: 3 weeks
- Video recording and playback device
- Word processing software
- Presentation software and/or devices
As you assign student’s their new roles and identities, take care to make assignments that do not put the student in danger in any way. To safeguard against any negative outcomes from this activity, get parents to sign off on switch assignments to satisfy any district policies on notification of safety and for inclusion of parents on the assignment.
Have students take on the culture of another group by placing each student in another culture for two weeks. Do this by creating two lists of the students. In each column, take one the name of one student and pair it with another whose culture is different from the first to switch. Repeat until all students have a new culture. In cases of an odd number of students, pair the extra student with you or with a student already paired off for a partial switch as an alternate during the second week of the assignment.
While living life as another, ongoing notes must be kept and turned in twice a week to ensure that actual submersion has been initiated and continued for the duration of the assignment.
In addition, students must meet the following requirements to receive full credit.
Students must record each event for class presentation by video or still picture in cases where video is not available. When using pictures to prove completion of the assignment, a written report must accompany them.
- One meal at home or a social meeting place within the new culture
- One outing (1 individually and 1 as a group) with members of the new culture
- One activity where group customs are practiced with the new culture
These are the basic activity requirements for this lesson; feel free to adjust the amount of interaction for each one listed or add activities to fit your class situation.
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The ultimate assessment for each lesson is individual student feedback. Do they feel they can relate better to students of a different culture? Always choose activities that send clear messages of acceptance of others and appreciation for culture as a whole for optimal results.
Image: College of Central Florida
Three Diversity Unit Ideas to Promote Diversity & Cultural Awareness
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