Multiculturalism is becoming a reality for almost every country in the world and building awareness and sensitivity to this reality is a very valuable part of having a Native English Teacher in the classroom.
For several of my students, my classes are the first extended contact they have had with another culture and, let’s face it, there is only so much you can convey in between teaching them English. Having said that, many of my students are most engaged when I talk about my home country and the cultural differences between Korea and Canada. They love it. They ask questions. Students that I thought slept with their eyes open through all English classes start stringing words together to make inquiries. Given the importance of multiculturalism and the interest the students take in the topic, it’s a great concept to build a camp around.
Although the specifics will vary based on the teacher’s personal preferences, the levels of their classes, and the interests of the students, one solid format for a multicultural class is to select a different country/culture to focus on for each day. For obvious reasons you should avoid discussing the culture of the country you are teaching in, but you should also be aware of what other cultures the students are knowledgeable about and avoid them as well. Unless they are cultures into which you have significant insight and experience. The first day should probably be focused on your own culture as the students will already have some experience in that topic and likely a vested interest in learning a bit more about where you are from and why you are so different. Beyond that, choose cultures that you and your students might be interested in. Egypt is always a good one as there is a good chance that the students have at least heard of the pyramids and sphinx. France and the Eiffel Tower are popular along with Mexico and Brazil. Australia’s animals always draw a certain amount of interest as well. So choose your five cultures that will make up your five days of camp and then start preparing for each day. Most days can follow a similar format. Laid out below is an idea of what can be included in each of four 45-50 minute periods that make up a standard summer/winter English camp.
Teach Kids about Multiculturalism in a Camp Format
First Period: Warm up/Introduction
Warm-up activities are essential in camps. Many of the students have been up late with friends or are simply not that excited about having to be in school during vacation. These don’t have to be in any way related to the topic of the day. In fact, in some ways it is better if they are not. Things like arts and crafts activities go well here. Teachers might consider having a week-long craft project (pinata, or egg drop) and allocate fifteen or twenty minutes at the beginning of first period to working on that project. It allows the students to get back into the camp and does not start forcing them to use a lot of English when they are still half asleep. For the first day, have a game that requires an escalating amount of interaction to get the students comfortable talking with one another in the room.
The second part of this period is the general presentation of the culture that the students will be engaging with that day. Hit up a few of the highlights and the most popular things that culture is known for. Also, dig up a few of the strangest things about that culture/country. Weird foods, unique animals, cool cultural practices, things it ranks best/worst in the world, etc. are all great things to insert into this presentation to help keep the students interested.
Second Period: Activity Time
It is important that the second period involves some sort of activity to get the students engaged in the material, using English, and thinking about at least one aspect of that day’s culture. I am a personal fan of including food as a very important part of a culture, so in this period I like to have a recipe event for one (or more) of the traditional foods. These get more complicated as the week goes on. On the first day, they have to read a recipe, look up all the ingredients and learn the meaning of the measurements and instructions in English. On the second day, they have to pull all the ingredients/measurements out of a wordsearch and then compile the recipe. For the third day, each step is given in the form of a clue/riddle and the students must solve them as a group. On the fourth day, the class is given an activity where each group gets only part of a recipe and they must ask other groups for their steps/ingredients to compile a full recipe (this always results in some interesting deal making happening). Finally, on the fifth day, clue based recipes are cut up and hidden all over the school with scavenger hunt clues telling the students where they are located. They must find and solve the clues to complete the recipe.
For those who are not foodies, this period can serve to bolster the students’ knowledge of the culture/country. Activities can range. Cut up a map of the country and have them assemble it. Teach the steps to a traditional dance. Have a research and presentation activity (requires either access to computers or the teacher to supply the material). Anything that gets the kids actually engaging with the material, and preferably something that has them out of their seats for at least part of the time.
Third Period: Food Time
Based on space and material availability, this part can be tricky for some teachers. However, most cultures have at least one or two dishes that don’t require heating or a lot of materials to make them work. Obviously, my preference is to have access to the school kitchen for this part of the day. Select recipes that the students can understand and complete in a reasonable time. These are what they would find in the second period. Each group will make their own dish (sometimes they are all the same, sometimes each group has a different recipe) and then the teacher will be the taste tester and declare a winner.
An alternative (if the teacher is up for a bit of extra work) is to prepare the dish at home and then have a quiz based on the information that the students learned in the first period. Samples of the dish can be given out as a prize. This activity also works independent of any food and teachers can award team-based points to keep the competition interesting.
Fourth Period: Game Time
This is where the students will really get to start moving and trying parts of another culture. Most countries/cultures have certain traditional games that are well known (at least within that country). Many of these can be adapted for the classroom. It’s up to the teacher whether they want to make a compilation of these games and hold a mad-minute or relay style race, or focus on one larger game for the entire period. It will also be up to the teacher how they want to incorporate English into this period. If nothing else, the instructions should be in English. If teachers really want to add more English into the mix, they can use a relay style format and students must complete an English vocabulary test, puzzle, etc. before moving on to the next activity. To increase the competitive edge, winning teams can be awarded points based on how they place in these games.
While these activities do not even begin to capture the complexity of multiculturalism, they do serve to at least expose the students to elements of other cultures in a fun, positive way.
These interactions can lead to an interest and awareness down the line. On top of that, most of these activities are fun for the students and can give the teachers a good laugh as they watch them unfold.