Following up from the honor of being selected in Huffington Posts Top 12 Global Education Blogs of 2014-2017 I have been chosen again in this amazing group and for 2018 will be contributing to Huffington Post’s Education blog once a month. This month we look at the following highly controversial topic “What are your best tips for using a holiday event as a learning platform?” – here is my response:
As the festive season begins and the countdown to the holiday season gets closer, educators all over the world prepare festive activities to engage their students in learning at an increasingly difficult time of the year to hold on to student (and teacher) engagement. Whether it is nearing the Summer holidays in the Southern Hemisphere or the Winter holidays up North, Christmas around the world doesn’t change. While Christmas is at the forefront of the mind for a lot of us, we have to remember the makeup of our student and parent body and must take in to consideration festivities like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Hogmanay, and Pancha Ganapati.
But how do you use a holiday event as a learning platform? Here are 4 tips for doing just that ….
- Integrate it
Festivities and celebrations within cultures happen throughout the year and depending on where you are based, can be an ongoing disruption to teaching and learning programs. However, with reflective forward thinking, these activities can authentically and purposefully be integrated into teaching and learning. All it takes is time and some forward planning and of course, this all starts with knowing your students. Start the year finding out about the cultural backbone of your class and what they believe in. Once you are clear, plan out their significant cultural backgrounds and align celebrations with teaching and learning opportunities. These activities should not be stand alone, they should be integrated with thought into teaching and learning opportunities. At this time of the year, for many of us, Christmas becomes an opportunity to drop all ‘official learning’ experiences and do ‘Christmas Craft’. If we spend time thinking ahead, these activities could be linked to units of inquiry, mathematics subjects, reading and writing objectives and more.
My advice → plan ahead and think about authentic and purposeful integration of learning experiences.
- Connect it (globally)
As you integrate festivities into your teaching and learning program throughout the academic year think of these as opportunities to engage students in genuine collaborative and connected learning experiences. One of my passions is to connect students to the world. As you become a globally connected educator and develop a Professional Learning Network (PLN), utilize this to connect your students to the world. Having a global PLN provides you with a unique opportunity to have your students learn and share with people from countries all over the world and from cultures that are very different to their own. Create global collaborative projects or jump on board other platforms, such as Empatico to connect your students to the world in context-specific learning experiences.
- Have fun with it and encourage student agency
This one is simple. While I am proposing that we need to forward plan and link learning about festivities to authentic learning experiences, we have to remember that in order to engage many of our students, they have to LOVE what they are doing. One way of doing this is to make it fun! You know your students best! Engage them in unique ways by being creative and not printing off worksheet after worksheet. Get them to rework music videos, create their own, make music, re-write songs, the list goes on. Ask them what they want to do and link this to what you have planned. Student agency leads to student engagement!
- Celebrate ALL
My last tip is to remember that while you might have certain beliefs, this may not be the same for every learner in your classroom. Be inclusive of all and ensure that if you celebrate one thing, you should celebrate others. This ties back to knowing your students. Relationships matter. If you build a rapport, you will know your students. If you are still unsure, refer to point 3 and ASK them! Be inclusive of all and celebrate all. If we are to change our world, we need to be inclusive of beliefs, cultures, and ideas and not stick to ‘the way we have always done things’. Stand up for what is right and what is right for the learners in your classroom. As an example, if you are going to celebrate Christmas, be aware of all of the other celebrations that you should be promoting, integrating and connecting to within your community. Ask questions and find out what the PEOPLE in your community believe in to ensure that you are doing the right thing by everyone. Think about celebrations like Eid, Diwali and Chinese New Year.
Be an advocate of inclusivity and ensure that YOU provide authentic and purposeful opportunities to integrate festivities into your teaching and learning program. If you have examples of what works for you and ways you do this, I would love to see them so please share. Whatever you celebrate at this time of the year, share it and be proud of it. Happy holidays!