As the saying goes, “travel broadens the mind”. This is because it opens us up to new experiences, new cultures, new people and new ways of thinking - shaking us from our assumptions and forcing us to re-evaluate what we think we know about the world.
Within schools, helping children to see the world beyond their village, town, city or, indeed, country is an important part of the learning process. 86% of students say being prepared for their future in a global world, understanding and learning about different cultures, is important to them [source: School report 2023, published by Pearson]. There are numerous fun, engaging and beneficial ways that schools can bring an international element to school life.
Here are some ideas from teachers for how to do just this - from simple games and activities to educational visits across the world.
‘Give it a go’ languages sessions
If you’ve got staff who can speak a host of different languages, why not consider arranging “give it a go” language sessions, says Adam Lamb, an MFL teacher in East London.
“In my learning area, several of us have different languages including Russian, Catalan, Slovak and Austrian. We decided to [hold] sessions in which students could try out some of the languages that their teachers speak but don’t teach,” he explains.
“Not only did students get to indulge in new languages, but they also got to see their teachers speak a language they have heard they can speak but never necessarily heard them speak - great for boosting relationships.”
Put on an international breakfast
Karen Carter, headteacher at Lockerbie Primary School, in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, says a fun way of engaging with other cultures is by enjoying their breakfast delights.
“I lead each session and we start with a song from the target language and either a quiz or share some information about the country then enjoy the typical breakfast from the country - thanks to our wonderful catering staff.”
Foreign film screenings
Lamb says getting sixth-formers and staff to work together to host a foreign film club has been a great way to engage all the school in a cultural activity with an international focus. “This helped raise the profile of the sixth-formers with the lower school students; but also was a nice opportunity for students to experience foreign cinema,” he says.
Quizzes and competitions
Quizzes are always a fun way to engage children in learning new information. You could task them with learning facts about a certain country, continent or the world at large - from capitals and costumes, to languages and learning practices - and then host a quiz. Try the British Council's Great Languages Challenge as a starting point.