4 Ways to Bring Global Perspectives to Your Classroom
Connect Your Students with a World of Voices and Stories
Today’s students are growing up in an increasingly “small world,” or a more interconnected world, where technology allows for simpler, quicker, and accessible international connections between individuals and groups. As students enter into this global space as citizens, learners, and workers, they too will have the opportunity to communicate with, influence, and be influenced by people that live vastly different lives — culturally and geographically — than they do now.
In order to thrive in a globally connected environment, students will need to develop certain skills — including cultural awareness, active listening, and empathy. From the classroom, exposing students to globally diverse voices and places can be difficult. Many adults cite travel as a means for experiencing new cultures, empathizing with people whose lives differ from their own, and becoming a member of a global community. While some students may go on to study abroad or independently travel after high school, many others may not have the opportunity to do so — which means much of their exposure to global perspectives and space to exercise global communicative skills and empathy may come from the classroom by the time they enter college or career.
Here are just a few resources that teachers can seek out in order to integrate global stories into the classroom and to give students the opportunity to interact with new perspectives in a safe space.
Literature is perhaps the most obvious choice to widen students’ horizons. Ensuring that your classroom library is stocked with novels, picture books, and nonfiction that represent a vast array of perspectives from across the world can lay a strong foundation for global awareness among your students. When building your selection, you might consider the balance of ethnicity among characters as well as diversity of authorship. Seek out stories that foster empathy for characters, spark interest in a new culture, or share histories of places with which students may not otherwise be familiar. The limitations of literature as a means for global connections of course are the lack of interaction between students directly — but literature can serve as a starting point for conversations, questions, and other class projects.
Here are a few lists of children’s or young adult books that foster empathy, focus on cultural awareness, or feature diverse characters and authors:
30 Of The Best Books To Teach Children Empathy -
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Culturally Responsive Books for Students
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Student to Student Connections
For a more social approach to fostering global connections, many educators actually seek out classrooms in another part of the country or the world and work to foster a relationship between students in each classroom. A more traditional way of pairing students with a far-away peer may be through a simple pen pal relationship — or, for a more digital approach, teachers may employ video chat tools. These New Jersey educators have used digital tools to connect their students with peers in South Africa and have established a multi-year long relationship with students in Tennessee. Projects like these require a close relationship between educators or principals from schools across the globe in order to align goals, select technology, and maintain momentum. Fortunately, there are programs and organizations that can help make the initial connection. The New Jersey educators from the blog above use a program called Empatico. Other related programs include TakingITGlobal, Mystery Skype, or simple online pen pal activities.
Join Global Activities or Groups
While ongoing programs like pen pals or video chats can help your students establish lasting, individual connections with peers across the world, larger organized events or programs can serve as an exciting supplement to your curriculum throughout the year. Simply participating in globally-extended celebrations can open windows for students to connect with peers in new places. Here are just a few examples of global events applicable for PreK-12:
- The Great Kindness Challenge. Hosted by global nonprofit organization Kids for Peace, The Great Kindness Challenge is a week-long event where students commit acts of kindness in their schools and larger communities. In 2019, over 13 million students participated from over 24,000 schools across 110 countries. Together, they committed over 650 million acts of kindness. Many schools who participate in the challenge share their stories on social media, so you can connect your students’ experiences during the week with those from classrooms around the world. For more on The Great Kindness Challenge, see:
- The Global Math Project. This program brings global connections to a specific discipline. Another week-long global event for students and teachers, Global Math Week invites students to find joy in mathematics. Educators who sign up for the program will gain access to a special curriculum that walks students through a unique math story that intends to engage all students in math. To connect participating classrooms with other classrooms around the world, the program encourages sharing experiences throughout the week on social media. For more on Global Math Week, see:
Uplifting Mathematics for All: 10 Million Strong. Have you joined?
By Raj Shah, Ph.D. and James Tanton, Ph.D.
Global News & Current Events
In addition to literature, events, and individual connections, students can benefit from exposure to international news and current events occurring across the world. Many social studies and ELA classrooms already engage in this kind of work by keeping up with global news, providing students with context for current events, and holding discussions about the implications of those events. Open discussion or writing activities about international news can help students exercise key critical thinking skills through a lens of empathy, global awareness, and openness to new perspectives. To expand students’ exposure to international stories and to engage in a variety of class discussions, educators may consider integrating current events into courses where they may less frequently be mentioned, such as science class.
For more on fostering empathy and to take a deeper dive into culturally responsive classrooms, see: