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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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Peter Czerniejewski's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It's a great idea that the teacher had students do an activity to learn about different cultures. It involved food, music, art, clothing, and conversational and written language. The children had a fun time and learned about other cultures. The school responded to societal diversity by attempting to promote understanding and acceptance of cultural and other differences. This is a great way to show the difference of cultures in school. If we could only transfer this to outside the classroom so society would be able to live together in peace.

dcull's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We have a very diverse community and try to keep that as an every day part of our school day. I do teach Christmas around the world and we make treats from all around the world and decorate our classroom for each place we "visit" on our journey. The students are told stories from the countries and cultures we visit on our seasonal journey.
We also have a multicultural night each year at our school where we invite families of all cultures to come share their foods, customs, etc. Last year we had spotlight nights where different cultures were represented for the evening with foods, videos, question and answer with people from that culture so that we can all learn about other cultures. Of course, the food brings more out!!

Min Chiu Kuo's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think its a great idea for not only students but also the teachers to learn about other cultures. I remember in 6th grade geography class we had to learn about other countries, and i think that idea would help the students learn better because they get to get involve and hand on the project. And i think by learning the culture differences, the students will respect other cultures more.

Dr. Katie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I really like the ideas that you incorporate through the Q&A in your evening theme because so many times, other families in a school do not realize the wonderful customs of other countries. What you are doing builds respect for learning about our neighbors and world! Food always is a draw, but the excitement of getting to meet new people in a community is often a draw also!

Jill Simmons's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Using interdisciplinary units is a wonderful way for students to learn. When I taught at the middle school, the students had different teachers for each subject. However, the teachers collaborated to teach a few interdisciplinary units. My favorite unit was when the students were learning about the Ancient Greeks in history. In reading, they studied Greek Mythology. In math, they created an ancient Greek house, by using measurements, perimeter, area and circumferance for each part they added. The students also had to explain their projects in writing. The students saw the Math teacher caring about writing. Also, they saw how the classes intermixed.

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