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Teach about different countries and cultures with this must-have compilation of creative ideas


Computers & Internet, Language Arts, Social Studies  


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8  

Title – Ideas for Teaching about Different Countries and Cultures
By – Kelly Radel
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – Language Arts, Computers / Internet
Grade Level – 1-8

Ideas for Teaching about Different Countries and Cultures:

  1. Give students the opportunity to learn firsthand about other cultures using pen pals. Check out to learn more about using pen pals within your classroom.
  2. Read picture books about different cultures and compare their cultures to your own. Students can write, journal or discuss similarities and differences. Here are some books that might be useful:
    • Children from Australia to Zimbabwe: A Photographic Journey Around the World by Maya Ajmera, Anna Rhesa Versola, Marian Wright Edelman
    • Houses and Homes (Around the World Series) by Ann Morris, Ken Heyman (Illustrator), Ken Hayman (Photographer)
    • Children Just Like Me by Susan Elizabeth Copsey, Barnabas Kindersley, Anabel Kindersley, Harry Belafonte
    • Hands Around the World: 365 Creative Ways to Encourage Cultural Awareness and Global Respect (Williamson Kids Can! Series) by Susan Milord
    • Celebrations Around the World: A Multicultural Handbook by Carole S. Angell
    • Children Just Like Me: Celebrations! by Anabel Kindersley (Contributor), Barnabas Kindersley (Photographer)
  3. Explore culinary traditions from other countries and cultures. Have each student make a recipe from another culture and bring it to class to share. Discuss other culinary traditions and how they are similar or different to your own. A book that may help you with recipe ideas is The Kids’ Multicultural Cookbook: Food & Fun Around the World (Williamson Kids Can! Series) written by Deanna F. Cook and illustrated by Michael P. Kline.
  4. Explore decorating traditions from other cultures and countries. These decorations can be made and used to decorate the classroom. Take the time to discuss which culture uses this tradition, for example how important origami is to people in Japan.
    1. Some resources that may be helpful for craft ideas are The Kids’ Multicultural Art Book: Art & Craft Experiences from Around the World (Williamson Kids Can! Series) written by Alexandra M. Terzian or Kids Around the World Create!: The Best Crafts and Activities from Many Lands written by Arlette N. Braman and illustrated by Jo-Ellen Bosson.
  5. Explore entertainment and games from other cultures and countries. Take a look at The Multicultural Game Book (Grades 1-6) by Louise Orlando. Play some of the games from other cultures. Are they similar to any games that you are familiar with or are they completely new to you?
  6. Explore the holidays and traditions celebrated by different countries and cultures. How are they different from those you celebrate? When are they celebrated? Are you familiar with this holiday or is it completely new to you?
    1. Some resources that may be helpful to you are Celebrations of Light: A Year of Holidays Around the World written by Nancy Luenn and illustrated by Mark Bender or Kids Around the World Celebrate!: The Best Feasts and Festivals from Many Lands (Kids Around the World Series) written by Lynda Jones and illustrated by Michele Nidenoff.
  7. Children can research a particular country for a period of time. Each student should be given a large cardboard cutout of his or her country. The students should research the products, famous landmarks, dress and traditions of their country. Students can decorate their cardboard countries on the basis of their research of that country. For instance, a student researching Columbia might place coffee beans on their cardboard to represent where coffee is grown, or a student researching the United States might design a small White House building to represent this landmark in their presentation. On the day that the students bring in their cardboard representations, they can dress like someone from their country. It might be a good idea to have all the projects placed in the gym or cafeteria for the afternoon so that the rest of the students in the school can come see the presentations. Another idea is to have the students make their projects on country shaped cookies rather than cardboard. The landmarks and features could be made with frosting, candies, sprinkles or other edible materials. Then have a “country cookie” party with the rest of the school.
  8. Did you know that in Argentina it is considered rude if you yawn? How about that in India if you shake your head slowly from side to side it means “yes” instead of “no.” Check out The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cultural Etiquette for other gestures and customs that may be different from culture to culture. It may be fun to role-play using this information. Send one student outside the classroom and as a class decide on a scenario. For example, in America, eye contact is a sign of respect however, Navajo Indians are taught that you show respect by avoiding eye contact. Have the student come back into the room, but have the rest of the students look down and not acknowledge him or her. After a few minutes have the student comment on how he or she felt when the classmates would not lookup. Then explain that although it felt like the class was being rude by not looking up, they were showing respect in the Navajo culture.
  9. Have students research their family heritage to see if their ancestors have come from other cultures and countries. Students may want to speak to their parents and grandparents about cultural traditions that they experienced. Discuss as a class what the students found.
  10. Be sure that the students are familiar with the story of Cinderella. Have small groups of students take a look at the following books, each are a different culture or country’s version of the story Cinderella.
    1. The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella written by Penny Pollock and illustrated by Ed Young,
    2. The Way Meat Loves Salt: A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition written by Nina Jaffe and illustrated by Louise August,
    3. Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China written by Ai-Ling Louie and illustrated by Ed Young,
    4. Smoky Mountain Rose: An Appalachian Cinderella written by Alan Schroeder and illustrated by Brad Sneed,
    5. The Persian Cinderella written by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Robert Florczak,
    6. Sootface: An Ojibwa Cinderella Story told by Robert D. San Souci and illustrated by Daniel San Souci,
    7. The Egyptian Cinderella written by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Ruth Heller,
    8. The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story written by Rebecca Hickox and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand,
    9. The Irish Cinderlad written by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Loretta Krupinski,
    10. The Korean Cinderella written by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Ruth Heller.


E-Mail: Kelly Radel

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