Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Different But The Same

My first block high school ESL class is much more diverse than any other one of my classes.   There are seven of us, including me, with seven different countries represented.  Four of us are Spanish speaking, two of them speak Lao and Thai, and one of them speaks Telugu.  All cultures and languages are equally validated and celebrated as we share our backgrounds, traditions and values with one another.  As they learn/practice English, they also pick up some invaluable skills that will help prepare them for a global marketplace.

Today is Wednesday and we are going on fall break for the next two days.  So instead of our weekly Show & Tell, they engaged in an icebreaker activity.  We had an icebreaker at the beginning of the year, but after gaining two new students, I thought it was time to have another one.  They were given a list of 12 questions to ask each other and they had one minute to answer each question.  After each question, they had to switch partners and talk to a different classmate. Questions ranged from favorite foods and colors, to weekend plans and post-high school plans to questions about family and birthday traditions.  Nothing intrusive, but certainly a way for them to get to know each other.   After they completed the activity, they were asked to review the answers and determine whether or not they would respond to the question in the same way.  We ended the session with a blog post where they reflected on what they learned as they compared and contrasted.

While this icebreaker was designed to help them get to know one another, I used it to reinforce comparing/contrasting skills.  I also took this opportunity to help them see that even though we all come from different nations and don't have one common native language, we have many similarities in tastes, traditions, celebrations and dreams.  One obvious common thread is that English is our second language (myself included) but there is so much more that brings us together.  

It was a great moment and a nice way to send them off on their fall break.  And I can't end without thanking Shelly Terrell (@ShellTerrell) -whom I've never met, but is part of my awesome PLN - for the icebreaker activity idea.


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