Tower Hill School: Promising Practices for the Classroom
Below are the promising practices that were presented to faculty on November 10, 2017. Thank you to all the faculty who shared both their promising classroom practices and their intercultural pain for the workshop! Also below is a form for submitting additional classroom tactics, followed by a form for submitting an intercultural classroom challenge.
Promising Practices: Intercultural Learning
Rolling Seat Assignment (aka. Front Row Experience)
- Article: news.ok.ubc.ca/2014/10/03/front-row-seating-encourages-cultural-diversity-by-accident/
- Presentation by Dr. John Burton & Noreen Website: 01.cms.ubc.ca/Asset45789.aspx
Rotating Pairs and Small Groups
Constantly remixing pairs and small groups that work with one another on problem sheets, labs, presentations and the like.
- Have the students choose;
- Have them placed randomly;
- Rare for a small group to be one gender or one cultural background.
From Timothy Weymouth, Science Department Chair, Middle School Science
Integrate Diversity in Exam Questions, Explain American References, Provide Incentive
- Feature non-Anglo names in exam questions. For example, Brendan may be the owner of a bagel shop, Kai may sell cut flowers, Suneetha may be a venture capitalist.
- Explain local culturally-specific examples for the benefit of international students: PB&J (don't assume local students know).
- Extra credit questions always have to do with world events and world news rather than American news.
From Patricia Carlozzi, Upper School Economics
Including non-Western texts that fit the thematic elements of a course.
- For example, including the Korean novel The Story of Hong Gildong (in Beowulf's Band of Brothers course) which features a Korean hero who is a classical icon in the Korean psyche (as Jay Gatsby might be to American cultural identity).
- Comparing non-Western hero-figures and their culture to that of the European warriors, such as Beowulf, Cuchulain, and Hrolf Kraki.
From Coleen Hubler, Upper School English
Recognize that institutional systems or race, class, and gender emphasize the importance of western art and actively and consciously work against this bias:
- Students are encouraged to see both themselves and those that are different from them in every way reflected in the artists and artwork studied;
- Each class begins with a mindful drawing/discussion warm up exercise using a master artwork as a prompt with an emphasis on non-Western art, artists of color, female, and non-binary artists.
From Jane Chesson, Lower School Art
Integrating multicultural content
- Through multicultural read-alouds and studying cultures of other countries (first grade).
From Ellie Bailer, 1st Grade
Focusing on Global Problems in Class
"I teach lessons that focus on global problems such as polluted drinking water, the use of solar power when electricity isn't available, and how to get crops to a market when trucks cannot do the job. In these lessons students observe that some things are different, like villages with limited electricity. They also learn how much we have in common with people from different countries and cultures. We still all need clean water, a safe way to prepare food, stay clean, and earn a wage. Students can be guided into loving problem solving."
Supporting International & Newcomer Students
Be explicit about your expectations around class engagement:
- For example, 20% of the overall grade.
- Be specific around frequency: "I need to hear from you once every three classes."
Provide explicit instructions on how and when to interrupt:
- Don't assume students know how to raise their hands. Might require coaching.
- Provide the language: "Excuse me, may I ..."
- Let students know what you prefer.
Provide alternate methods of class engagement:
- Asking a question in class.
- Sending you an email with a question of comment.
- Writing a question or comment on a note card.
Integrating Diversity into Your Curriculum
Ask students for international examples, and have students present:
- Aim for 5 to 10 "global examples" per term.
- Students submit a suggestion on a note card.
- Script for writing the suggestion is provided: "I have a global example of the lesson you provided. It is ... I would like the opportunity to share that example at the beginning of next class. My email is ..."
- Students present, you collect the examples for future use.
Use examples of social oppression or discrimination as the subject matter for teaching grammar:
- For example, when teaching about the difference of passive and active voice, use examples of how the media speaks about Aboriginal and First Nations People using the passive voice, and discuss what impact that might have on the public perception of Indigenous Peoples in North America.
From Jennifer Walsh Marr, Lecturer, Academic English Program, UBC Vantage College
Use multicultural literature and film to build intercultural attitudes and increase cultural literacy:
Supporting Courageous Conversations
Enforce an explicit "community agreement":
- Listen, and give each other adequate space to speak.
- Participate fully (assume people want to hear you).
- No one owns a monopoly on the truth.Challenge yourself (find that place between comfort and discomfort)
- Challenge each other respectfully: ask questions, refrain from personal attacks. Focus on ideas, perspectives and not people.
- Speak from your own experience instead of generalizing ("I" instead of "they," "we," and "you").
- Not about winning or losing. We are all here to learn.
- The goal is not to agree: it is to gain a deeper understanding.
- Be conscientious about non-verbal cues (your body language).
Don't burden your "diverse students" to educate the class
- Don't assume that the Black, Asian, Latino, white, indigenous Muslim, Christian, Jewish student, or student with a disability will have any literacy or confidence about their identity, identity politics, or their community and could speak about it with the class.
Provide methods of anonymous engagement:
Anonymous engagement creates an environment where students can share their perspective or experience without fear of being judged by their fellow students. Below are some methods I use regularly to encourage engagement and foster courageous conversations:
- Snowball Toss technique: leadershipchallenge.com/resource/snowball-toss.aspx
- Anonymous feedback form online