Expand Your Horizons: Bringing Variety Into the Classroom
Samantha Bremner, ELL Chair, Toledo
We’ve all been there. It’s time to teach a lesson about traditional cultures in your classroom. Break out the decorations, mix up or order the food, and settle on for another day to be discussed in World Language. For Spanish, it’s almost always Day of the Dead. It’s a valuable lesson from a beautiful culture. However, it is but one piece of the puzzle. There’s more to Mexican culture and the Spanish speaking world than this one holiday. Our job as teachers is to make the language come alive. In what better way can we do that than incorporating the beautiful cultures of the languages that we teach?
But how do we expand? Research. Google. Ask. Explore. Travel. Be curious.
Instead of only teaching the textbook culture, branch out. Find new facts that go beyond the outdated stock photos that we all use. I’m not saying to rewrite your whole year, but to branch out a little.
I did this in my classroom and made the challenge of identifying one new tradition or holiday per school year. This landed me with a tradition in Spain that I will never forget. The tradition is called , “Tío de Nadal” from Cataluña. If you’re a Spanish teacher or just curious, I encourage you to Google it. The kids will thank you for it. Consider it step one in your expansion journey.
The celebration doesn’t have to be limited to your language either. In my school, we had quite a few students that observed Ramadan. We included that in our research, too.
Consider it your own project or give the students a challenge. The most important thing is to incorporate the holiday beyond scratching the surface. Don’t merely announce that it’s Mardi Gras and call it a day. Make it an experience that the kids look forward to.
If you can’t make real food due to allergies or school policies; create art; listen to music; make a fool of yourself; and learn a new dance along with your kids. Break eggs over heads, something!
My challenge to myself, and to you if you so choose, is to expand your horizons and find a new tradition, recipe, holiday, something and make it come alive.