Monday, June 23, 2014

Teachable Moment: Global Citizenship

Nelson Mandela's statement that "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world" is popularly quoted by educators. Are you striving to inspire your young learners to change the world through your teaching? Today I am sharing a few ideas for building global citizens within the classroom through a stream of teachable moments.

Retrieved from
Global citizenship is certainly an essential quality for all students in today's world and it cannot be taught solely in a short two to ten minute part of your day. But, if you were to make sure that you were spending two to ten minutes of your day involving your students in some sort of activity or discussion that promoted global citizenship you would be getting somewhere!

Technology in education and, quite simply, in society, is what has made global collaboration possible. It is rather obvious that it will continue to enhance our ability to interact globally in the future, as well. So, as educators, we must equip our students to embrace this reality and to grow alongside it. To quote the Asia Society, a globally competent student is one with the knowledge and skills to:

  • investigate the world,
  • weigh perspectives,
  • communicate ideas,
  • take action, and
  • apply disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise.
Considering these components of global citizenship, I've come up with a few strategies you might consider incorporating into your daily lesson plans next school year

  • Draw Me Project: Inspired by some of the projects on global collaboration networks like ePals and SchoolsOnline (check back on Friday to learn more about these free resources!) this project helps young learners grasp the concept of different perspectives or views. The idea is to have students write descriptions of themselves, their family, their community, etc. and then to have other students draw the person, place, or thing based on the description written by the student. Ideally, you would be able to exchange these descriptions with students in another class locally or at a greater distance so that students were truly drawing based only on words, not on their own prior knowledge. Once the descriptions have been drawn they are given back to the original author who is able to recognize similarities and differences between what they meant/thought and what was drawn. This opens the door for a plethora of discussions on how each person interprets things uniquely and how different cultures influence the way we approach things or understand them.
  • Global Character Education: Many schools already incorporate some sort of character education into their school wide motto, monthly themes, etc. If your school already highlights certain character traits or values on a monthly basis this idea would fit right in for you. Pick one character trait to be spotlighted each month. This might mean reading a story each week to your class that helps convey the meaning of the character trait/value, having students brainstorm how they can reflect that character trait, or having some sort of tally for all the times students recognize one another demonstrating the character trait/value. To take things to the "global" level, consider having students think critically about how kids in other countries show these qualities. For example, in the United States we shake hands when we greet others, in China they nod or bow, in India they put their hands together like they are praying. Perhaps you could assign students a greeting that they must use for the week? Or maybe you have the students assist you in researching how these character traits/values are displayed in other countries - this even reinforces good research habits as students come up with appropriate searches with you!
  • Global Pen Pals: While it might take a little work for you to establish a relationship with a teacher abroad prior to the start of the school year, providing your students with the opportunity to communicate directly with students from other countries would be invaluable. You and your partner teacher might decide to write whole class letters back and forth or individual ones depending on the age of your students. You might also consider picking a theme or focus for the year such as "All About Me" or "My Community" to assist students in coming up with topics and in having relevant and relatable information to share.
If you find the topic of Global Citizenship intriguing, be sure to check back on Friday when I will be highlighting some of the free global education networks available to educators!