Teaching Interculturally in All Classes

I don’t know how many Culture-Related posts I’ll make but this is the first of a few.

We live in a global society, almost every aspect of our lives have some international connection. Whether students realize it or not, they are part of something bigger than their own communities, and will be more so in the not too distant future.

With the advent of the internet and the interconnectedness that is at our fingertips, students can tweet at people in Ireland, like instagram posts from China, view snaps on Snapchat from anywhere in the world, connect with people from Australia on Facebook, the possibilities are endless! But I believe that we have an obligation, as educators, to show students how to properly interact with other cultures.

BUT I DON’T KNOW ABOUT OTHER CULTURES. That’s fine, it’s a learning experience for you too!

In Language classes, it’s easy to introduce students to other cultures because it’s one of our standards. ACTFL, the American Counsel for Teachers of Foreign Languages, has recently updated their I CANstatements on interculturality, which I believe could be useful in any classroom if you are trying to move to teaching interculturally appropriate lessons.

I’m currently taking a Teaching Culture class in my grad program through MSU so this is just something I’ve had on my mind. One of the books that we have for the course is Intercultural Language Activities by John Corbett. What I LOVE about this book is that all of the lessons are in English and can be done with minimal prep. For language teachers it is a little more work because we then have to find language-appropriate resources, but for other contents you could use them as is because you wouldn’t necessarily have a “Target Culture” that you’re aiming for like a language class might.

In a language class we might focus on culture from a specific country, in a sociology class however, a teacher might focus on generational cultural differences. I think that is particularly important nowadays with the perceived gaps between Babyboomers, and millennials or Generation Xers and Generation Zers (is that a thing? I don’t know.) Not only could a teacher do an activity that requires students to reflect on their own culture, but will challenge their opinions on others by assessing the perspectives, the why’s of a culture.

A lot of the activities in the book could be easily transferred to an English class, or social studies class, but because I often try to think of how my activities can be transferred to Science or Math I’m going to try to adapt some of the activities for bringing culture to Math and Science.

For Science, teachers could pull in the cultural perspectives of Famous Scientists like in Corbett’s “Five Most Famous…” Students begin by listing famous people from their own culture as well as selecting another culture to investigate. Immediately my thoughts go to Darwin and his research, did his background in the UK affect how he perceived the world and how he came to the research that he did on evolutionism? Or what did the culture of Marie Curie do to support, or hold her back, what would be the reaction to her nowadays in our culture?

Math could do the same activity as I suggest with science, or perhaps a Math class could analyze the pride that a culture has in their sports team as suggested by their winning/losing record. Or maybe they could, and I realize that this is basic math, but it brings culture into math, find the average ages of perceived adulthood in relation to legal ages. Or maybe they could figure out some of the cultural perspectives of food, what cultures have higher caloric intake, and does that caloric intake relate at all to overall health?

These are just some basic ideas, but what I want people to think about when they are trying to incorporate other cultures into their classes is that students need a lot of reflection on their own culture and need to look at other perspectives from other cultures/generations so that they can make comparisons and have a better idea of what comprises their own culture.

I look forward to exploring some more cultural topics and ideas on how to incorporate culture into all contents and classes

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