August 7, 2016

Setting Up a Classroom for Cultural Appreciation

Throughout the year I expose my students to a variety of world cultures. I try to give my little guys hands on experiences as much as possible so they'll grasp that there is a whole world waiting for them beyond our little town! What a joy when members of our school and community come to our room to take us on a little tour of their country. Most visitors share elements of their native foods, ideas and traditions. Could this passion project of mine make a global impact in the long run?

Here is how I set up my students to be open to new cultural ideas. First, I prime my kids to be curious. I tell them straight out that they could learn about some habits and beliefs that may seem unusual. My enthusiasm and sense of wonder is authentic and contagious. "Are you ready to learn some really cool things about _____?" Their heads bob up and down. Yes. Yes.
Second, my students are banned from saying "That's weird." Apparently in elementary school anything different is weird.... and I want to meet it head on. Certainly they are not allowed to say it when our guest is present, but it holds true for the follow up discussions as well. A mind is less open, curious and appreciative if something is labeled as weird.
Third, I give them an alternative phrase - "Wow! That's interesting. That's different."
"Today we are going to learn about _______. You'll find there are many things that are different from what you are used to. You may want to think, "That's weird!" but instead, in our classroom we think, "Wow! That's interesting. That's different." Please keep that in mind as we begin our lesson today. I hang this mini chart and point to it during the year. It's free in my store!
Finally, we reflect on the experience. Thinking about new ideas and making connections make concepts stick. We write a thank you letter to the presenter. I use this set. At the beginning of the school year the thank you is modeled and completed as a group. Toward the end there is usual a group that likes to take on the thank you responsibility then shares with the class.
Perhaps this will help you instill cultural appreciation as well.

On a side note: I had to chuckle toward the end of last school year. I wear glasses and one time I took them off. My students had never seen me without them on. "Wow. You look weird." one of my cuties said. Suddenly, another student jumped in. "No she doesn't! She looks different and interesting!" Gotta love that!

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