Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Creating Culturally Aware Future Citizens

I created my first actual "lesson" on Skype in the classroom!  (YAY for reaching goals and checking off things on "TO DO" lists!)  Then I used Twitter and Skype classroom to promote my lesson, and actually found the classroom that we ended up connecting with, through Twitter. 

The lesson dealt with our culture here in Texas, as students researched the REAL reason behind the recognition of Cinco de mayo in Mexico and the United States.  They hear about it so much here, that I thought all of my students should know about it.  This assignment also brought up some great discussion.  To begin, we discussed what our culture here in Texas is like, and then I had the students think about WHY our culture is how it is.  We discussed our proximity to Mexico and Central and South America and students shared their thoughts and experiences of immigrants coming through Texas to get into the U.S.
To begin their research, they scanned a QR code and were linked to an edcanvas that was organized with a few different resources they could use to research the topic.  This activity engaged students through reading and writing and they focused on summarizing and determining important details.  When they presented the information, they were able to practice their speaking and communication skills, (which we have been honing in on a lot lately with Skype).  They learned about the history of cinco de mayo and how we celebrate it today.  They compared what most people "think" Cinco de Mayo is about "just some tacos and a margarita" as one of my students said, to the real reason.

It was great to watch my students research, because the population of my students is about half and half African American and Hispanic.   I love to see their minds open up as they learn about culture!  It was funny, because it seemed that some of my African American students were more interested in Cinco de mayo than my Hispanic students : ).  I even had a student show his Salsa moves during our class!  My Hispanic students were also dancing in their chairs when the Mariachi music played on YouTube and had smiles spread wide across their faces! 
Studying different cultures and gaining an understanding of each others' cultures gives my students a common ground to stand on together, and a stronger way to connect with each other.
The real magic happened though, when we were able to connect with a 7th grade class from Iowa and share with them what we had learned.  One of my students opened up with telling about all the different Spanish speaking countries that his classmates come from:  Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, etc.  He struggled through the pronunciation of the names of the countries, but the learning that happened, was beautiful : ) .  Our students presented the information they learned as the 7th graders listened intently.  We then asked their class about what their culture was like up in rural Iowa...
I will say, having done a few Mystery Skypes, that I almost liked this Skype better, as it was more relaxed and I saw my students act in a more comfortable, social way as they communicated with these students from Iowa, and I was very impressed by their curiousity.  Our conversation quickly moved from geography, to what their school was like, to what they were studying in school, to NFL football, and finally to the excitment my students show when they tell someone about their tablets! 
Some questions that were asked between the classes included:
What is middle school like?
What is the class and school size?
What is your school mascot?
What is your state bird? 
What sports do you like to play? 
What crops are grown there? 
What is your favorite field trip you've gone on?
How many of you have visited Mexico?
What is the temperature like there?
How did you do on your state tests?  (one of my faves!)
What is the food like there?
How many of you have lived in Mexico?
How many of you have visited Mexico?
What are your favorite things about Mexico?  (To which a student responded:  "I liked that I was able to walk everywhere and my parents just let me go anywhere on my own.")
This was such an eye-opening experience for all of the students involved, and I love watching (most of) my kids grow more and more confident in their communication skills and willingness to talk and connect with others each day...


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