Here is an interesting activity to do in a multicultural classroom to build awareness of social and group identities.
- Write on the board this American proverb: “Show me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Ask the students to discuss what they think this means in pairs or small groups. Have a brief class share of ideas and provide the answer if you need to–lead to group identity.
- Use yourself as an example to model brainstorming group affiliations (this is from a cultural stand point, so this brainstorm should be an example of the teacher’s culture groups). List on the board some of your group affiliations (family, friends, colleagues, etc.). Ask students to suggest other groups and categories (continuing in the vein of the teacher’s culture, but adding some general groups as well). Write all of them on the board.
- Ask students to write down a list of the groups of which they are members following your model and adding new groups as necessary. Highlight that students should consider their cultures while doing this.
- Put students in pairs or small groups and ask them to share lists.
- Introduce the concept of social identity and highlight some or all of the following points as a class:
- Our social identity is linked to (to name a few): the roles we play in life such as student, teacher, parent, or sibling; our physical features such as ethnicity, gender, or age; and the memberships we hold such as belonging to a club, an organization, or a political party.
- We identify with groups because we share similar traits and concerns with their members.
- We add to our social identity by learning about our traditions, language, religion, genealogy, and social structures.
- How we communicate with others is not only affected by our culture but also by the group memberships we hold within that culture.
- Write Social Identity on the board and draw 3 bubbles below it. Label the bubbles: Personal, Social and Cultural. Ask students to draw the same title and 3 bubbles on a piece of paper.
- Using your group affiliations on the board ask the students to sort your groups into the categories. If the students put something in the ‘wrong’ category for your (the teacher’s) culture, guide them to the correct category. (see image below)
- Tell the students that they will now do the same activity with their groups keeping in mind their cultures. Allow students to sort their groups alone.
- Put the students back into pairs or small groups and have them compare their graphic organizers and note whether or not their partners have the same groups belonging to different categories.
- Class share of discoveries.
Adapted from Joe McVeigh and Ann C. Wintergerst’s presentation “Ten Techniques for Teaching Culture in the Classroom” at the 2010 national TESOL conference in Boston.