Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
During Cultural immersion, all the members of a classroom -- teachers, students, and guests -- share a sensory experience of the culture being explored. Whether this involves teaching students a traditional dance or taking them on a tour of a neighborhood or community, the goal is to immerse the class in an authentic experience of the culture.
In beginning a cultural exchange, teachers may want to look for environments that are representative of the culture. For instance, teacher Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens took her class on a tour of Chinatown. If possible, teachers should also bring along a "guide," someone familiar with the culture and area who can lead the class through the experience, providing commentary and insights to which students might not otherwise be privy.
It is understandable that not all classes can take such field trips; still, there are many other ways to offer students an authentic experience, and teachers should consider all the resources available to them. They can bring in artifacts, photographs, artwork, music, literature, food, and posters to transform the classroom as much as possible. It might be a good idea to invite some knowledgeable guests, preferably members of the culture being studied, who can provide their own artifacts and stories. Whatever approach is taken, teachers should make sure that the environment stimulates the students' senses in terms of the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the culture.
Once the students have been introduced to the new cultural experience, teachers should ask them to glean information about the culture by using their senses. Students can list sensory information about how the environment feels, how it smells, what it looks like, and what it sounds like. Students can then use these descriptive words to write a poem about the new place they've discovered.
By immersing themselves in rich, authentic cultural environments and utilizing all of their senses, students learn that every experience can help them to understand and appreciate other cultures, whether that experience is reading a book, eating a meal, or participating in a traditional ritual.
For students of literature, this sensory method of learning is particularly valuable because it encourages them to perceive how reading -- often a private, intellectual pursuit -- is contextualized by the communal, living aspects of a culture.
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