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Promoting Diversity in Your Classroom

by Elisa Shore

I have students from over a dozen different countries at the John Adams campus, so Im
always looking for ways to help students learn about their classmates different cultures,
celebrate their own unique diversity, and share this rich international experience with the
school. At the beginning of each semester, therefore, I like to create a bulletin board
highlighting the individual student, and his or her culture and country to promote this cultural
diversity. The following lesson will work for all levels of ESL, with adjustments for various
levels.

Step One: Activating the Schema


To activate students schema and get them ready for the activity, I begin by having students do
a simple Find someone who activity in which they interview several classmates from
different cultures on basic information like name, place of origin, languages spoken, hobbies
and interests, and occupation. After the interview activity, we board the name all the countries
represented in the class, and then have a brief discussion of what we can gain by having such
a diverse class. Usual responses include: having more opportunities to practice English by
working with a student who speaks another language, learning about differences in education,
work, social situation, and body language.)
Sample Find someone who... Activity:
Find someone who

Name

1. was born in a different county than


______________________
you.
2. grew up in the city.

______________________

3. had a big family.

______________________

Step Two: Forming Questions and Answers


Using cues or prompts from the textbook, or writing my own cues, I have the students work
with a partner to form questions about their past and present.
Examples:
Where/born

Where were you born?

Where/grew up?

Where did you grow up?

Did/live in the city?

Did you live in the city?

Did/have a big family?

Did you have a big family?

After boarding and checking the answers for grammatical accuracy, we review how one
might answer these questions, with attention to both grammar and content.
Examples:
Where were you born?

I was born in Mexico City, Mexico.

Did you live in the city?

Yes, I did. I lived in a big city.

Did you have a big family?

Yes, I did. There were eight people in my family.

Finally, students work with a partner from another culture and ask and answer the questions.
Step Three: Writing a paragraph
At this point, I show students a sample paragraph from a previous semester. For lower-levels,
the paragraph may have three or four sentences, while higher levels can handle two or three
short paragraphs. If you have access to a computer lab, you can have students write the
paragraph in Word, and insert an image or two of their country or hometown into the
document.
Step Four: Creating the Bulletin Board
I like to take a color photograph (35 millimeter or digital image) of each student pointing to
his or her country on a large world map. Finally, take the completed documents and
photographs, and place everything on a large bulletin board in a central location in the
hallway for all students to read and enjoy. You will be greatly rewarded to see a crowd of
students hovering daily around the board, reading the students stories and talking about their
own culture and country. The end result is gratifying for the student-writers, the instructor,
and the entire school!