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Multicultural Activities in Class (by Vicky Loras)

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:

There are many opportunities in class to learn about different cultures

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.

Kids love to learn about other people around the world!

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!

16 Comments

  1. Barbara says:

    These are great ideas, Vicky!

    Even in my classes, which are not in the least diverse, I can imagine including some of these activities. Most of my students have either traveled someplace, or at least know someone in their family who has visited another country. They would enjoy sharing souvenirs, or pictures from those visits.

    And now, with Twitter and Skype, we can actually connect with students in other countries and learn about each other.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas, and your experiences!

    1. Vicky Loras says:

      Hi Barbara!
      Thank you again for having me on your blog!
      Thank you for your nice comments!
      I am happy that you find these ideas useful. You gave me two great ideas I hadn’t thought of before: connecting with other students around the world via Twitter and Skype. Thank you for that!
      Kindest regards,
      Vicky

  2. Hi Vicky

    Great post with lots of interesting ideas. One of the advantages of all these online stuff is that we are able to share all these activities after doing them in our classrooms and enable our students to learn about other cultures. Thanks a lot.

    And a big Thank you to Barbara for this great blog where all of us come together and share, share and share…

    Eva

    1. Vicky Loras says:

      Hi Eva and thank you for your comments!
      You are absolutely right, it is great to be able to share things online! I have discovered many things from other teachers around the world. I am glad you find these ideas interesting!
      Thank you again,
      Vicky

  3. Hi Vicky and Barbara

    A really nice post with great ideas for celebrating the multicultural environment that an English language classroom can be.

    At my college, we always have a Christmas and end-of-academic-year party and at each we encourage our students to bring music and food from their countries (the thing we most encourage is the food!). It’s always great, and creates such a different vibe when compared to the classroom setting we usually see the students in.

    All the best

    Mike

    1. Vicky Loras says:

      Hi Mike!
      Thank you very much for your nice comments!
      It is wonderful to see that multiculturalism is celebrated around the world – it is great that your college organizes these events! It brings everyone closer, makes us more aware that diversity is beautiful and as you mentioned….you can try specialities from many countries!
      Thank you Mike!
      Vicky

  4. Anna Pires says:

    Lovely blog post, Vivky! This brings back memories of my own childhood in Toronto. I’ve incorporated many activities from my school days into my own teaching, for instance Show & Tell on class blogs, which my students love.

    While reading this post I was reminded of the “Flat Stanley Project” in primary schools in Canada (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Stanley). A friend of mine once asked if I she could send me her son’s Flat Stanley and show him around Portugal. I actually had “Flat Stanley” join one my classes and my students were the tour guides. We then sent back to Canada a diary of his stay and all the material we’d created to be put on display. It was a wonderful cultural exchange.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    Anna :-)

  5. Vicky Loras says:

    Hi Anna!
    Thank you for your great contribution!
    Show and Tell on class blogs is a great idea! I am sure many teachers will adopt that idea.
    About the “Flat Stanley” project, thank you so much for the link and for your wonderful personal experience that you shared – all the kids participating in your “Flat Stanley” project surely learned a great deal and must have enjoyed themselves a lot! To tell you the truth (and probably because I just stayed in Canada the first eight years), I hadn’t heard of it….but you gave me great ideas for my students!
    Thank you so much for the ideas, Anna! I am happy you enjoyed the post!
    Kindest regards,
    Vicky

  6. Emma Herrod says:

    Hi Vicky

    What a great post with some really interesting ideas. I mainly teach adults but these are still lovely ways to encourage cultural learning in the classroom.

    I would’ve loved a shelf of such books at my school when I was younger but it wasn’t very fashionable then. Now however, in this area anyway, with such a high immigrant population, all the libraries and schools have books from around the world and the kids love them.

    The Flat Stanley idea from Anna has got me thinking!!!

    Well wishes from the UK
    Emma

    1. Vicky Loras says:

      Hi Emma and thank you for your wonderful words!
      You are right in saying that kids love multicultural books and things in general – they are so open to everything that has to do with diversity!
      Anna’s Flat Stanley idea is great, isn’t it? I loved it too!
      Thank you so much for visiting Emma!
      Kindest regards,
      Vicky

  7. ashton says:

    hi vicky,
    im a students in education course.can i ask for you opinion?

    1.how a teacher could prepare teaching aid/materials to suit the culture of each student(multicultural classroom)

    2.is culture become one of the features for a teacher in the process of preparing/creating teaching aid/material?

    3.can you suggest one way on how teacher can create a teaching material/strategy in a cross culture ‘community’ of students?

    hope to hear from you soon,
    ashton(bach.education MSU)

  8. Vicky Loras says:

    Hi Ashton and thank you for your questions!
    1. Regarding your first question, there are so many resources on the web and so many books to choose from, in order to find materials concerning various cultures. At the school I work, we made it into a research project for the children themselves and they really enjoyed it!
    2. Culture is becoming an important feature in the classroom I believe, as many projects from publishing houses come up and are very interesting for students and teachers (an example is the Dream In Color project by Scholastic Books, promoting Hispanic culture).
    3. Well, I always try to make use of learning opportunities whenever I can: be it Martin Luther King Day, Christmas (when countries have various celebrations), Mardi Gras….you name it! You can use cultural education almost any time you like! And the kids are very receptive and learn so much!
    I wish you all the best in your future teaching career and thank you again for reading the post and for your questions!
    Kindest regards,
    Vicky

  9. Elma says:

    Hello
    I am Elma and I am from Macedonia.I would like say that it is really nice from you to share your expreience with us. We are learning whole life!!!!!.I am a teacher for a primary school and a trainer for multicultural education long time. My current proffesion is supply officer in Army but i never stop to work as a trainer for multicultural education. I really like your ideas , so if you are in a mood we can change experience beetwen(ideas, activities and excercises). I have activities and excersises what help children celebrate their diversity in the classroom, because as a trainer i am taking part of making many traning-manuals for multiculturalizam in education.
    With regards
    Elma

  10. Kevin Cozma says:

    Thanks for the excellent article, Vicky. I am a Canadian teaching in Japan, and I try to include multicultural activities in my classes. I like the travel poster project very much. I will do this in my classes this September.

    I checked out your blog, too. It was very nice. Not only has Barbara created a great blog here, but I have found other great blogs through checking out the guest blog posts.

    Cheers,

    Kevin

  11. Just discovered this post now.
    These ideas can be adapted for any age group. Today multiculturalism has become an important issue everywhere!

  12. Becky says:

    Lovely post! So important for schools to keep increasing global awareness….

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