The Reasons Teaching Multiculturalism in the Classroom is Vitally Important
Multiculturalism is here to stay. I am thrilled by that statement!
I have traveled to many countries around the globe. This wanderlust came from my mother who was born in Japan (my grandparents were missionaries there) and continued her whole life.
I enjoy people from other cultures very much. I find immigrants and visitors very interesting. They are far more fascinating than someone who lives near me and has never stepped past the U.S. border.
About ten years ago, I taught drama in a middle school in Missouri. During that time I was charged with teaching the students about drama and its many components. Since there was no set curriculum (Hallelujah!) I loved that I could create lessons and units as I deemed fit.
My Masters degree is in arts integration which was something I wholeheartedly agreed with, endorsed and supported.
At the end of each six week session, I would produce a small class play with my students. I mean, that’s what theater is all about, right?
This was the late 1990’s I think, multiculturalism was a big trend in education. Desperate to find scenes or plays about the topic, I began to research and adapt multicultural folk tales into short class plays. I needed them to be about fifteen minutes in length and suitable for other classes and my students’ parents to attend.
There are many reasons we need to continue to teach multiculturalism. First and foremost, the United States is a melting pot and that makes us unique in many respects. But that isn’t enough of a reason, is it?
The Reasons Teaching Multiculturalism in the Classroom is Vitally Important
I ran on to an article on Ascd.org, a professional organization for school administrators and educators. I think it says it best.
“People coming from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa differ greatly from earlier generations of immigrants who came primarily from western and northern Europe. These unfamiliar groups, cultures, traditions, and languages can produce anxieties, hostilities, prejudices, and racist behaviors among those who do not understand the newcomers or who perceive them as threats to their safety and security. These issues have profound implications for developing instructional programs and practices at all levels of education that respond positively and constructively to diversity.
Irvine and Armento (2001) provide specific examples for incorporating multicultural education into planning language arts, math, science, and social studies lessons for elementary and middle school students and connecting these lessons to general curriculum standards. One set of lessons demonstrates how to use Navajo rugs to explain the geometric concepts of perimeter and area and to teach students how to calculate the areas of squares, rectangles, triangles, and parallelograms. These suggestions indicate that teachers need to use systematic decision making approaches to accomplish multicultural curriculum integration. In practice, this means developing intentional and orderly processes for including multicultural content. The decision-making process might involve the following steps:
Creating learning goals and objectives that incorporate multicultural aspects, such as ―Developing students’ ability to write persuasively about social justice concerns. Using a frequency matrix to ensure that the teacher includes a wide variety of ethnic groups in a wide variety of ways in curriculum materials and instructional activities. Introducing different ethnic groups and their contributions on a rotating basis. Including several examples from different ethnic experiences to explain subject matter concepts, facts, and skills. Showing how multicultural content, goals, and activities intersect with subject’s specific curricular standards.
Virtually all aspects of multicultural education are interdisciplinary. As such, they cannot be adequately understood through a single discipline. For example, teaching students about the causes, expressions, and consequences of racism and how to combat racism requires the application of information and techniques from such disciplines as history, economics, sociology, psychology, mathematics, literature, science, art, politics, music, and health care. Theoretical scholarship already affirms this interdisciplinary need; now, teachers need to model good curricular and instructional practice in elementary and secondary classrooms. Putting this principle into practice will elevate multicultural education from impulse, disciplinary isolation, and simplistic and haphazard guesswork to a level of significance, complexity, and connectedness across disciplines.”
Aren’t these excellent ideas for multiculturalism?
Here is another….Theater is a fabulous vehicle to use in one’s teaching. It’s even better with multiculturalism. It is quite easy to teach about other cultures using plays and in fact, fun. There isn’t a jarring or obstructive shift in one’s teaching. I kid you not!
Here’s a Plan for You
For instance, let’s think about teaching about the country of Japan. One way to approach it from the basis of studying the country’s geography and culture. Those are obvious methods. One could also study the Japanese art of origami but again, it’s a fairly traditional pedagogy.
However, a teacher could teach about Japan in a more unique way– present a play based on a Japanese folk tale.
“What?” you say, “That sounds really challenging and I have limited time to put together the unit.”
This is where I can help you. 🙂
Picture This in Your Classroom
You have your materials you need to teach the basics to the students (maps, articles, coloring pages, worksheets, etc.) Once you have spent the time you plan for learning, segue to the play unit.
As I mentioned, I created several fifteen minute class plays. Plus, there are reader’s theater versions as well. You can incorporate them into your study of a culture or country today!
To date, there is one for Bulgaria, German, Japan, China, Alaska, India and one of the Jewish culture. Keep checking back, because more multicultural plays are added every month. These plays are written for fifth through eighth grade classes, however, I twice adapted Ojisan and the Grateful Statues–once for younger students (grades 2 to 4) and another version for students (6-9).
Check out here the one for lower elementary grades here: Ojisan and the Grateful Statues (Creative Dramatics Level)
Or a large cast script with unit at: The Little Girl and the Winter Whirlwinds
Here are some others….
Abdullah’s Gold is a funny story about being grateful for what you have and spreading your wealth with others.
Saturday, Sunday and Monday is a very funny tale with plenty of roles for the whole gang. My daughter remembers when she was a student of mine in middle school and we performed this play. It’s such fun.
Sedna, an Inuit Tale is engaging, full of spectacle and dramatic. It is one of my favorites!
Li Chi the Serpent Slayer tells the story of a girl as the hero.
The Brave Little Tailor is a funny take on the Grimm Brother’s tale, complete with a song for the Giant.
Here is a terrific multicultural musical lesson, too: Once on this Island
I challenge you to be different. Only you know what your students need and how they’ll embrace multiculturalism in your classroom. Your students will benefit from it and so will you.
What multicultural materials do you use in your classroom? I’d love to hear about them.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DeborahBaldwin.net