The most common kind of travel blog features the teacher as a model, demonstrating curiosity and respect for the world around us. There are lots of ways to make learning about other cultures exciting:
Strategy #1: Focus on a Theme
Rather than offering students a travelogue of each day’s events, make your blog entries more interesting by focusing in on a theme. It could be anything from a common cultural symbol (Jewel in the Lotus) to an aspect of food preparation (Presentation is Everything). It’s also useful to choose themes that connect to your curriculum. For example, the Perspectives post focuses on different points of view rather than just showing the skyline of Shanghai.
Strategy #2: Choose Juicy Topics and Titles
Find ways to focus in on hot topics. For the 5th and 6th graders that I teach, topics like animals (Animals of Kyiv), food (Yuck or Yum?) and dating (Who’s Dating Who in China?) are going to be attention grabbers.
Strategy #3: Connect to Current Events
Use what’s happening in the news to get students’ attention! This past summer, the Olympics were big in the news, and so I wrote about my visit to the site of the Beijing Olympics (Water Cube to London). This strategy can also be used to raise awareness about current events that students might not know about otherwise (A Sad Day in Ukraine).
Strategy #4: Create a “Friend” to Help Pique Student Interest
Using a toy or stuffed animal as a mascot is silly, but makes following the blog more fun! Check out my mascot, Loki, in DC and In Ukraine and Turkey! I also used Loki’s picture as a method of alerting students that the upcoming post was connected to classroom activities .
Strategy #5: Go Multimedia!
(Notes: The video above contains short clips from the following posts. To view the full videos, click these links: Acrobatics, Khortytsya Island, Center of the Middle, Cappadocia, Hamam, Mr. Banaszewski, Classical Lyceum)
Strategy #6: Share Essays and Personal Stories
There are lots of ways to model global competencies without traveling. Essays and personal stories can show students how to appreciate other cultures right from home. For example, before I left for Ukraine, I got an opportunity to decorate eggs in a traditional style called Pysanky. By seeing me explore Ukrainian culture, many students got interested to learn themselves!
Some global competencies have nothing to do with other cultures, and a blog post can also model for students how to deal with difficult changes. For instance, one entry taught students how to process their emotions after the loss of our class pet (R.I.P. Mina the Newt).
One of the most powerful posts that I’ve written was about same-sex marriage. I wrote this after visiting a wedding of two older women who traveled from another state to marry in Massachusetts. After hearing students in both of my classes giggle at the mention of the topic, I decided to write a post to “come out” in support of same-sex marriage. At first, I was hesitant to bring up a political issue, but in the end, I decided that it was about modeling tolerance and respect for the diversity of people on our planet (Love is not a Political Issue).
Since I’ve returned home from my travels, I’ve found many other ways to connect my own life experiences to global competences. I used my experience hiking in New Hampshire to write about overcoming challenges (Climbing a Mountain). When my friends posted a video of their engagement on youtube and it went viral, I used it to talk about digital media (What Goes Viral?). The possibilities are endless.
Next page: ~ Students as Participants ~