Yvonne Luce, a trainer on our professional development courses for teachers, shares a few practical ideas for the classroom.
Young people are growing up in a very complex, challenging world. As teachers, we play an important part in equipping them with the skills to take an active, confident role in it. One way of doing this is by refreshing our lesson ideas and including real-life issues with an international scope. Below are a few classroom ideas you can try, use, adapt and improve.
Find out about people and how diverse they can be
This activity develops students' communication skills and confidence in describing themselves and listening to others.
Working in pairs, students interview each other to find out likes, dislikes, favourite activities, foods, books, films, games, sports – the list is endless. They then create an 'identity box' to represent the person they have interviewed. A photograph or drawing of the person goes on the outside and within are pictures and words describing the inner person – things you can only find out through talking to each other.
The boxes students produce can be displayed together to represent the group as a whole community. It highlights diversity but also the many interests, feelings and hopes everyone shares.
Make connections between the local and the global
This is all about investigating the origins of everyday items. Students can begin by looking at labels in their clothing, the food they eat and the technology they use. What is the story behind my mobile phone, my banana, my football, my shirt? What is it made from? Where did it come from? How was it made? How did it reach me? What will happen to it when I have finished with it?
Such activities highlight interdependence, but also open the door to looking at supply chains, human rights, child labour, carbon footprint and sustainable living.
Develop an open-minded approach
Take photographs of familiar places or objects around the school from unusual angles: below eye level, from above, close up, and so on. Hold a quiz to guess the places or objects. Discuss how our perceptions can change depending on where we are looking from and why seeing the whole picture is important before we make a judgement.
Students can devise their own quizzes by cropping and editing magazine photographs and advertisements to challenge each other's perceptions and assumptions.
Encourage enquiring minds and critical thinking
Use film clips and stories to look at issues from different perspectives. A current favourite of mine is about a young person growing up in the amazon.
Read out a set of statements related to the film, for example: The destruction of the rainforest will bring wealth; it should be illegal to cut down trees; new roads bring new opportunities; drilling for oil will benefit the community; what happens in Ecuador is nothing to do with me.
Ask students to stand on a line to show if they agree or disagree with each statement. They should be prepared to explain their reasoning. Students are allowed to change position on the line if they wish, after listening to different viewpoints. This type of activity helps them to think about complex matters and realise that changing your mind can be a good thing.
Help pupils take action
Once young people begin to look into a global issue, they often feel the need to do something about it. Making animations, short films, dances or plays to share learning with a wider audience is valuable. Organising a swap shop or a fair-trade stall, customising old clothes to extend their use, collaboratively planning and leading activities for younger students, etc. These are just a few ideas that spring to mind. Giving students the chance to take on leading roles develops their self-confidence and sense of responsibility.
UK teachers, find out about how you can connect your school with schools abroad through the Connecting Classrooms programme, and see how global thinking can improve your school with our brand-new resource, World Class.