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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Role-Play Day: Teacher Creativity Motivates Students

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert

Interdisciplinary events can demonstrate the achievements of the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards, and they motivate K-6 students with learning opportunities related to those standards. Brainstorming about these interdisciplinary events allows teachers to share what they are doing in their classrooms and also stimulates ideas about how to expand single-grade-level student collaborations to be collaborations over multiple grade levels.

Second and third graders participate in a Culture and Choices Day, during which we showcase three distinct cultures with hands-on, learner-centered activities in food, clothing, art, architecture, music, traditions, culture, and conversational and written language. The integrated mathematics, social studies, and language arts focus is on helping young students understand economic concepts, the students' place in relation to these concepts, and the characteristics of various economic systems.

Prior to the exciting day, the teachers email each student a paper-money template for them to decorate and use as currency to finance their "shopping" at "community stores." In the morning, after an assembly about the day's agenda, the students divide into three multiage groups and decorate each classroom, creating original artwork to act as backdrops for these stores. Each cultural community -- Mexican, Japanese, and Hawaiian -- has its own store.

Students do hands-on activities -- such as creating Japanese origami birds, Mexican paper cutouts, and Hawaiian artwork -- during an hour-long visit to each community. Before lunch, we again assemble the children. They dress up in shirts authentic to each community and then role-play buying and selling items and counting out money and change as they act as shopkeepers and customers in the community stores. Each store sells products that represent one of the three cultures.

After lunch, the children rotate between classrooms to experience shopping in all the communities, and they take turns acting as shopkeepers. In the day's final session, teachers pose questions that allow the children to compare and contrast the three communities. Students also fill out an evaluation on how successful the day was for them. This year, more than sixty students participated in the daylong event, and only five students said on their evaluation that they would not like to do it again.

In part two of this entry, I share details about another event with you.

What do you think of this idea? Has your classroom or school done similar activities? Please share your thoughts.

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert
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Susan Morris's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

After reading this article, I thought this was a terrific idea. I teach 2nd grade in Illinois and I've taught about Japan before and we did lot of different hands on activities for the kids to learn about Japan. Now I teach Mexico and the kids really enjoy that. We celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the classroom and everyone brings in food from Mexico. We break pinatas and learn about how people from Mexico live. I only do one country a year, so I think this would be a great idea. We have five 2nd grades, so it would be beneficial for each class to choose a country and that way kids learn about five different countries in one day.

I previously taught in Florida where the schools are very diverse and we had a culture day there. Each classroom picked a country and on Culture Day we had a parade where all the kids carried a flag of that country and dressed as they would. It was very interesting.

Veronica Gonzalez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Wow! What an awesome experience you are providing for your students! In our grade level we do something similiar for Christmas. We do a Christmas Around the World Theme. Before the day starts, we provide every student with a passaport to travel the world. Then, when students' visit different countries we stamp their passaports. Each classroom is responisble for researching a different country Then the classrooms are decorated with student artwork, students' also put together poster boards with pictures displaying Christmas celebrations. While students' are visiting the different countries they do hands on activities that are related to that specific country. We also bring in at least one type of food that is associated with that country. This is truly a learning experience for all.

Danielle's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I found this to be such an exciting idea. I like how this welcomes diversity and the willingness to go beyond the textbook to learn about other cultures. The hands on experiences allows the students to really understand the different cultures. Incorporating the different types of food, clothing, music, etc. is such a great way for students to get a better understanding of the cultures!!

jason's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is a great way to motivate students. Also a great way to share what is working with teachers. This can improve teaching amongst grade levels because they work together.

Sarah's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This idea sounds very fun to try in a classroom. Students not only get a break from the everday classroom routine, but they also learn about a new culture. Students can learn to be more accepting and have a fun time. Good idea!!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Culture is all around us. It is extremely important to embrace cultures rather than force children to assimilate. I love to idea of having a multicultural week, fair, or day. It is important for our stduents to elarn about their cultures as well as the cultures of others.

Bridesmaid Dresses's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The truth is that teachers play an important role in the process of teaching students. I mean it depends 80% on them how the information arrives to the student and how he perceives it.

Unibet's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Very Great idea, i'm a french teacher and i think i will try it with my students... I teach in a small city but there is a lot of different culture, the students are very interesting in discovering ne culture but before i read this post i haven't got any idez how to make this possible. Il will test if they can share more than time in a classroom...

Thx a lot !

Katarina's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I enjoyed reading your posting. Great idea. I totally agree with it and also tried it out in diverse ways. It went very well. Children were very excited. However, I believe that it definitely depends on how the teacher manages this idea, if it has good outcome or not.

surebet's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm sure that role play teacher would increase students concentration in class and that they would be more productive and more creative. We need to reinvent school and to give our child a new education adapted to their behaviour and their time.
So let's act before they become bad boys

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