I lived in Canada the first eight years of my life, which means that my schooling was only for three years. However, the great educational system left me with many good memories which I have incorporated in my teaching the ten years I have been in the world of ELT. These tips work equally well in classrooms of students from every corner of the world and even with people from the same country (they can do a little bit of research first, before the activities and learn a lot at the same time!) The educational system in Canada is very much based on diversity and multiculturalism, so quite a few things have remained with me. I will mention some I put into practice with my students:
■ Show-and-Tell. Teachers can arrange a day of Show-and-Tell with the students and ask them to bring something from their own country (a souvenir, dolls in costumes, music, even a food sample) or perform something. For instance, when I was little I remember doing Greek dances, singing Greek songs, even reciting the Greek alphabet or a poem during Show-and-Tell! Kids just love that and then they can even do a collage or poster of everything they remember from that country. This past Christmas I presented Greek Christmas to the children along with another student who was also Greek and then the kids made a beautiful poster of it! We also had Christmas descriptions from other countries and it went down very well. The children were so interested and learned a lot of things.
■ A special library department or even a shelf with multicultural books and material. I remember our school in Canada having a great number of multicultural books (we practically “ate” them up!). To mention a few examples of multicultural books: “A Castle On Viola Street” by DyAnne DiSalvo, “The Story of Ruby Bridges” by Robert Coles and “The Crayon Box That Talked” by Shane Derolf and Michael Letzig. Of course, there are literally thousands out there!
■ Cultural evenings/days. Whether you teach at a public school, regardless of size, a private school or a language school, a cultural day can always be organized. The parents and their children and also the teachers can bring in food from their countries for everyone to try, even come dressed in local dress if possible. Everyone will enjoy that!
■ Document students’ travels to other countries. After a holiday, lots of students come back with many experiences from their trips. Instead of writing a dry report of how they spent their holiday, kids can make a large poster, sticking photographs, brochures and writing about their experiences underneath. They will enjoy it this way and at the same time document their moments in the country they visited. It will be useful for themselves, as they will have documented their experiences of coming into contact with another culture and if their posters are displayed on the school walls, they are there for other students to look at as well….everyone will learn! (Documentation of students’ work is generally very important to the learning process, according to Ron Ritchhart and his participation in the theory of Visible Thinking. You can also find information on Ron’s website and on the Visible Thinking website of Harvard University.
■ Organize trips to museums or galleries with exhibits from other countries. This is another way for students to come into contact with the history and art of another country and learn a great number of things. Some museums and galleries even offer hands-on experiences for kids, so they can create things they can even take home with them!
There are many opportunities in class where we can present multiculturalism to our students. As long as we avoid stereotypes and over generalizations, students can benefit a great deal from learning about people and the countries they come from. The most important thing they will have learned, however, will be how beautiful diversity is!
My name is Vicky Loras and I am a Greek-Canadian EFL teacher now living in Switzerland. My primary interest in teaching is the incorporation of multiculturalism in the classroom as a means of humanizing the educational process. My blog is at http://vickyloras.wordpress.com.
Thank you very much for this opportunity, Barbara! I appreciate it very much!