Promoting Diversity in Your Classroom

by Elisa Shore

I have students from over a dozen different countries at the John Adams campus, so I’m always looking for ways to help students learn about their classmates’ different cultures, celebrate their own unique diversity, and share this rich international experience with the school. At the beginning of each semester, therefore, I like to create a bulletin board highlighting the individual student, and his or her culture and country to promote this cultural diversity. The following lesson will work for all levels of ESL, with adjustments for various levels.

Step One: Activating the Schema
To activate students’ schema and get them ready for the activity, I begin by having students do a simple “Find someone who…” activity in which they interview several classmates from different cultures on basic information like name, place of origin, languages spoken, hobbies and interests, and occupation. After the interview activity, we board the name all the countries represented in the class, and then have a brief discussion of what we can gain by having such a diverse class. Usual responses include: having more opportunities to practice English by working with a student who speaks another language, learning about differences in education, work, social situation, and body language.)

Sample “Find someone who...” Activity:
“Find someone who…”Name
1. was born in a different county than you. ______________________
2. grew up in the city. ______________________
3. had a big family. ______________________

Step Two: Forming Questions and Answers

Using cues or prompts from the textbook, or writing my own cues, I have the students work with a partner to form questions about their past and present.
Where/born “Where were you born?”
Where/grew up? “Where did you grow up?”
Did/live in the city? “Did you live in the city?”
Did/have a big family? “Did you have a big family?

After boarding and checking the answers for grammatical accuracy, we review how one might answer these questions, with attention to both grammar and content.
“Where were you born?” “I was born in Mexico City, Mexico.”
“Did you live in the city?” “Yes, I did. I lived in a big city.”
“Did you have a big family?” “Yes, I did. There were eight people in my family.”

Finally, students work with a partner from another culture and ask and answer the questions.

Step Three: Writing a paragraph
At this point, I show students a sample paragraph from a previous semester. For lower-levels, the paragraph may have three or four sentences, while higher levels can handle two or three short paragraphs. If you have access to a computer lab, you can have students write the paragraph in Word, and insert an image or two of their country or hometown into the document.

Step Four: Creating the Bulletin Board
I like to take a color photograph (35 millimeter or digital image) of each student pointing to his or her country on a large world map. Finally, take the completed documents and photographs, and place everything on a large bulletin board in a central location in the hallway for all students to read and enjoy. You will be greatly rewarded to see a crowd of students hovering daily around the board, reading the students’ stories and talking about their own culture and country. The end result is gratifying for the student-writers, the instructor, and the entire school!

Click here to see photos of the bulletin board

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