Encouraging students to be aware of the needs of the world doesn’t need to be complicated, and it doesn’t need to be restricted to social studies class. In math class, prayer groups, and world awareness day, Dawn has found activities that contribute to students’ academic progress while reminding them of people and cultures far away.
I came pretty much right back from China. I’d been studying Mandarin, there for a month, came back, went to Summer Term, and straight into teaching. And so of course Mandarin was still very much a part of who I was and it was fresh in my memory.
I decided one month that, “Well, this month—for the month of October, let’s learn how to count in Mandarin! This is going to be our special October theme.”[Students counting flashcards in Mandarin].
And so we would start off with one through five, and whenever we would count our flashcards, we would count in Mandarin one through five, and then we would do that for a couple of days and then we would add numbers six through ten. And then in Mandarin, it all builds. It’s just like building blocks. So once you know one to ten, why, you can go pretty much the whole way up to a hundred.
To them it’s just kind of cool to speak Chinese and whenever—sometimes I’ll randomly say, “Oh, by the way, pen in Chinese is bǐ.” And then they have fun, you know: “Oh! I have my bǐ.”
Actually the first year that I did it they were doing a short Mandarin course in high school at the same time. And so some of their older siblings were learning it at the same time as there were learning it in elementary. And that made it extra cool.
I would hope that by giving them this little base in Mandarin now that some of the sounds that we have in Mandarin that we don’t have in English they will be exposed to at a younger age. And it will also give them an incentive to continue pursuing languages later in life.
Prayer groups first of all are a time to pray for each other, and then to also pray for the nations of the world and to pray for their salvation and pray that God would send people to them. And maybe someday God will answer your prayer by sending you.
Along with praying for that country, as a group they’ve chosen this country and for the entire month they pray for that country and research it.
And when they research it they like to make a nice little poster Here they’re doing Egypt. They’ll often put the flag on. They find all kinds of neat facts, oftentimes stuff that I’ve never known: things that they eat; the kinds of animals that live there; they might include different languages; they might include a chart about the religions; or a map. They often will incorporate things that they’ve recently learned in school; so maybe they learned how to create a bar graph comparing different things and they’ll compare the different religions in that country.
So it’s neat to see them researching these countries. But then it’s also neat to see them incorporating things that they’ve recently learned in school.
The other thing I enjoy is: At the end of the month, then, they get up in front of the class as a group and they give an oral report. Maybe they’ll show pictures they’ve found in the encyclopedia, or they’ll just talk about it. And the students almost always have other questions for them like, “What do the colors on their flag mean?”
I’ve given them several pointers on oral presentation—it was natural for them to be holding the poster that they’re reading, and as they’re reading it, their back is to the class because they want the class to see the poster (forgetting that the class would like to see their faces as well as the poster)—and helping them learn how to hold it in such a way that everyone can see it.
In choosing the country it helps to build some team working skills and leadership skills. Each prayer group has a group leader and so that group leader is the one who gets the final say in in what country they’re going to pray for. But almost always you’re going to have at least one group that needs you to come along and help them learn how to settle the debate between three different countries. And help that group leader realize that sometimes if the majority is against him that sometimes it’s best to just give in and give what the majority wants. If everyone wants to do Russia then maybe it would be wise to do Russia. Or, “You know what, group leader? You are the group leader and so this time it’s your chance. There are three different countries here and three different people like three different things and so you just step up and choose. And everyone else, now it’s your turn to be a good follower.”
Another large part of prayer groups is praying for different missionaries that they know or that I know. And then also we—I post their monthly or weekly updates just as a way of helping them become world aware.
Some of the missionaries are missionaries who have come in and shared with the class, maybe during cultures day, which is when we dress up as people from other countries and share about countries that we’ve been researching, try some food from other countries and just take a trip around the world.
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CONTRIBUTOR: Dawn Breneman