People around the world are more connected than they have ever been before. Students have instant access to news, information, and people from all over the world. However, easy access to information does not guarantee that students will think critically or try to understand points of view or experiences that may differ from their own. Therefore, today’s educators have the important responsibility to build global citizens in their classrooms.
What is global citizenship?
According to the United Nations, the term global citizenship refers to the idea that a person belongs to multiple, diverse communities that are both local and non-local. Global citizens understand that their actions can have an impact on people and societies beyond the communities they belong to. Global citizens also try to be aware of events happening beyond their communities and how those events affect the people involved.
How does a teacher build global citizens in the classroom?
Global citizenship is not a simple concept to teach. It does not include certain facts, knowledge, or processes that students must master. Instead, teaching global citizenship involves guiding students to
- develop an awareness and concern for events outside their own communities;
- seek information from multiple sources and think critically about that information;
- try to understand experiences, ways of living, and points of view different from their own;
- consider the connection between different communities and the effects that different actions (by individuals, governments, or other groups or institutions) can have on others.
A teacher can encourage global citizenship with activities that help students learn about experiences and issues outside of their own communities. Teachers can help students increase their understanding of their role in the world with activities that expose students to new information, different types of people, and issues that may not be common in their own community.
This month in Teacher’s Corner, we will present classroom resources and activities that can help to foster a sense of global citizenship in your students.
Week 1: World Tour
Week 2: Current Events — Regional Reporters
Week 3: Global Pen Pals
Week 4: Using Skype in the Classroom
A key component of global citizenship is an awareness of experiences, ways of living, and points of view different from one’s own. The English language classroom provides an opportunity for students to practice English language skills while developing this awareness.
In this week’s World Tour project, students will select a region, continent, or country to learn more about. Students will conduct research in English and collect information using graphic organizers. They will use the information collected to create a poster or other visual representation. Students will also orally present information about the area they have researched to their classmates. After all presentations are complete, students will have a chance to reflect on the experience by writing a journal entry.
This activity works best with intermediate to advanced students. However, in a mixed-level class, beginner students can be paired with higher-level peers during all parts of the activity.
Reading, writing, speaking, and listening
During this activity, students will be able to complete the following tasks:
- Collect information from multiple sources
- Complete graphic organizers to organize their ideas
- Prepare a visual representation of the information collected
- Present about a country or region of their choice
- World map or globe, or a list of regions, continents, or countries students will research
- Access to the Internet or to a library with information about different countries (one suggested resource is the CIA World Factbook online)
- Poster board or poster paper (1 piece per group)
- Glue or tape
- Notebooks, paper, or index cards for each student
- A printer (to include photos, if desired)
- Timekeeping device
- This activity can be completed in one week, as described below. It can also be extended over a longer period where students complete portions of the work as time permits.
- Consider the size of the class and how you will group students for the activity. Ideally, groups should be 4-6 students and have an equal number of students in each group.
- Create a list of the groups beforehand.
- Each research group will need a name, perhaps the same as their assigned continent, region, or country.
- Within each research group, each member should also be assigned a number; for example, in a group of six students, each student would be assigned a number between 1 and 6.
- If pairing beginner students with a higher-level peer, assign the pair one number. Pairing students together also means that groups that include beginner students will have additional members.
- Depending on the number of students in the class, you may wish to assign each group a continent or region rather than individual countries. A smaller class size will have fewer groups, and therefore assigning regions or continents may work best. Assigning individual countries would work better for a larger class with many groups. If access to resources for research is limited, you may wish to assign only areas of the world for which you know information is available.
Research and Presentations
- Explain the purpose and steps of the activity to your class by saying, “We are going to complete a research project that will allow us to go on a world tour and learn about areas of the world that are different from where we live. You will work in a group to collect information about a specific part of the world. Then, everyone will have the opportunity to present information about his/her research to others in the class, as well as learn about different places from those in other groups.”
- Tell students their group information and the area they have been assigned to research. If they choose their own location, explain that they will have time to choose once they get into groups.
- Have research group members gather together and be sure that each student (or, in some cases, pair of students) has been assigned a number for later in the activity. If needed, give students time to choose a location to research.
- Tell students that they will use a graphic organizer (Appendix A) to collect information about the area of the world they will research. You can copy the graphic organizer onto the board or project it for students to copy into their notebooks, or make copies for students.
- Explain that students can split up the research task by giving each group member a portion of the information to locate, such as the area’s population, demographics, imports and exports, climate, etc. Alternatively, group members can all work together. Regardless, each group member must complete all of the information on the graphic organizer.
- If needed, demonstrate how to complete a portion of the graphic organizer.
- Review any Internet research guidelines that students should be aware of, or review any information they may need about using the library.
- At this point, you can either provide students with time to conduct research and fill in their graphic organizers and then explain the next steps later, or you can continue on to explain each part of the activity before giving students time to research. Depending on your students’ proficiency levels and their access to resources, provide at least 1–2 class periods for students to gather information.
- Once all members in each group have completed their graphic organizers, tell students that they will create a poster about the area of the world that they researched.
- Along with the poster, students will orally present information about their research. Therefore, they do not have to include every piece of information on the poster. Rather, the poster should be a visual representation of the country, region, or continent that will accompany the information they share.
- Allow students some creative freedom. Emphasize to students that the poster should be visually interesting and not just a list of facts.
- Ideas for posters include drawing a map and labeling cities or important landmarks, drawing or printing photos of items that represent important ideas or facts about the area, or illustrating important parts of the research with graphs, lists, or other visuals.
10. In addition to creating a poster, groups will need to decide how to verbally present information about the area they have researched to their classmates.
- Each member should have their own set of notes about the key facts they wish to share with their classmates. Remind students that each person (or beginner student paired with a peer) must have the research ready to present to a group of their classmates.
- You may wish to require students to present a certain number of facts, such as population, literacy rate, geographical characteristics, etc.
- If desired, give students time to practice their presentations within their research groups.
For the presentation portion, a jigsaw activity will be used. Students will learn about the areas that their classmates have researched.
- Students will form “exploration groups” with the classmates assigned the same number. For example, all of the students assigned number 1 will gather together as one exploration group. All of the students assigned number 2 will form a group, and so on.
- Exploration groups will walk around the room to each poster. At each poster, the one student who researched the area will present facts gathered by his or her research group to the rest of the students in the exploration group.
- As they listen, members of the exploration group should write down 2–3 interesting facts they would like to remember about each of the places their classmates researched. These notes will be used later after the rotation is complete.
- Groups should spend about five minutes at each poster.
- Once the exploration groups have had a chance to visit each poster and learn about all of the different places that groups researched, they can return to their seats. Each student should have his or her own notes to use for the reflection part of the activity.
1. Tell students that for the next part of the activity, they will use the information they have learned to write a journal entry.
2. For inspiration, have them choose a discussion question from a list. The following questions can be used, or you can create your own list for students. Copy the discussion questions on the board for students to choose from:
- What was one thing you learned about today that surprised you? Why was this information surprising? How is it different from our country/city? How do you think this affects the people who live in this place?
- Choose one of the places you learned about today that you found interesting. Think about the ways your life might be similar or different if you lived there. Write about what you think your daily life would be if you were living in that place. What would you eat? What jobs might you or your family members do? Would you go to school? What types of problems or opportunities might you have?
- Is there a place you learned about today that you would like to visit? What do you think you would see and do there? Imagine you are able to travel to this place. Describe what you think you would see, smell, taste, hear, or touch. What would be happening around you? Where would you go? Who would you like to meet?
- Were there any problems you learned about today? How are they affecting people? What can people from different places in the world do to help with these problems?
3. Once students choose a topic, allow them to write freely for at least 30 minutes. Remind students that they should not worry about making the writing perfect, but to just get their thoughts and ideas down on paper. This reflection can take a class period, or could be assigned for homework.
4. After students have had time to write, you can choose from a few follow-up activities:
- Have students form small discussion groups to share their journal entries and discuss their ideas with peers. Students can talk about what they found interesting about each other’s entries and if they share similar ideas.
- Collect the journal entries. Redistribute them to the class so that every student has a different classmate’s entry. Ask students to read the entry and write a response. They can write about whether they agree or disagree with the opinions, or they may add to an idea or reflection.
- Collect the journals and write a response to each student individually. Let them know if you found their ideas intriguing or interesting, and share your own thoughts on the topic as well.
This week’s activity allows students to increase their understanding of different ways of life while practicing language skills. By conducting, presenting, and listening to research, students learn about different areas of the world and how these areas are similar to and different from their own. As students reflect on this knowledge, they start to see the interconnectedness of people around the world and the possible effects of actions they take.
Activities about current events are an excellent way to help students develop an awareness of stories and issues in communities outside of their own. Often, educators may only use an activity in which students examine and summarize news stories once or twice during a course. This week’s current events activity is designed so that students regularly monitor and discuss news events from different parts of the world throughout a course or an academic year. Regular attention to global events encourages the development of students’ global citizenship.
High beginner to advanced
Reading, writing, speaking, and listening
Through this activity, students will be able to participate in the following tasks:
- Develop reading comprehension skills for non-fiction texts
- Understand and reflect on global current events
- Write and present news reports in groups
- A list of regions or countries that students will be assigned to as reporters
- Access to international news sources online or in print (Voice of America and News in Levels are two sites with news stories available for different English proficiency levels.)
- Notebooks or paper and pencils
- This activity is most effective when it is ongoing throughout the English course. It will work best if you regularly schedule a class period or other amount of time for students to report information and engage in discussion. The frequency of the reporting sessions can vary and can be weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly. Keep in mind that the more frequently the sessions are scheduled, the more students will have the opportunity to learn about and reflect on news events from around the world.
- Decide on the dates for the reporting sessions and discussion. Again, these sessions can be as frequent as your schedule permits, but the more often they happen, the more students will benefit from the experience.
- Decide how you will group students or if you will allow students to choose their own groups. Ideally, each group would have no more than four members.
- The number of groups will depend on how much time is available. Each group should have enough time to briefly share news stories from their assigned area of the world during part of the scheduled reporting session.
- If the class is large, one option could be to have one half of the groups present at one session and the other half present at the next session. In this option, a group would report every other session.
- Create a list of areas of the world that students will be assigned to research and report on. Depending on the number of groups, the areas could be continents, regions, or countries (either one country or a group of countries). Students can also choose their own areas.
1. Explain the purpose of the activity to the class by saying, “An important part of being a global citizen is to learn about events that are taking place outside of our own community or country. Knowing about these events and thinking about how they affect people helps us to better understand our role in the world.”
2. Tell students that in order to support this goal, they will work in groups and become reporters for an assigned or chosen area of the world. Say, “As reporters, your group will be in charge of monitoring news stories and events from the part of the world you are assigned. We will have regularly scheduled reporting sessions and class discussions. During this time, your group will give the class an overview of the news from your area. You will also listen to other groups and participate in a class discussion about global events.”
3. If desired, give students an overview of the news sources you plan to use for the activity. You can show them the websites or print materials you would like them to use, and ask if they have any other ideas about where to find news stories.
4. If your students need explicit instructions, you can choose one area of the world and model how to use the news sources to collect information. If needed, provide students with guiding questions, or use a copy of the 5Ws + H Graphic Organizer from Try This: Current Events in English Teaching Forum. You can also choose a news story and model how to record information on this graphic organizer. Otherwise, students can simply take notes about important news stories and the key elements they would like to share during the reporting session.
5. Let students know the dates for the reporting sessions scheduled throughout the course. Explain that they will have to regularly check the news throughout the period of time between reporting sessions in order to stay informed.
- If posting homework on the board or elsewhere, include monitoring the news as part of the homework. Remind students regularly about this part of the assignment.
- If students will need to monitor the news at school, periodically provide them time to do so.
6. During the reporting sessions, groups should gather together. Provide time for each group o share news stories from their area of the world. Groups can present in front of the class or from where they are seated.
- Emphasize to students that they cannot share every detail of each news item, but that they should focus on summarizing the key information. Summarizing may take some practice, but asking groups to stick to an allotted amount of time will help.
- Try to leave 15–20 minutes at the end of the reporting session for students to discuss what they heave heard.
7. Once each group has had a chance to share current events from their assigned area, you can use the remaining class time in several different ways:
- Lead a class discussion about the current events. The discussion can take place as a whole class or in small groups (either the same as reporting groups or different ones). Questions to ask can include: Which news story do you think impacts you the most and why? Which news story was the most uplifting, devastating, etc. and why? Which news story do you think will cause the most change in people’s lives? Is there a story you would like to know more about or to keep following, and why? Did any common issues or topics seem to appear in multiple areas of the world during this reporting session? If so, what were they?
- Ask students to write a reflection. If you plan to use this strategy often, you may want to have students keep a “News Journal” in a single notebook. They can respond to the questions above in writing rather than as part of a discussion. Another option is to have students imagine they are writing a letter to someone directly affected by the news story or event.
- Have students choose a news story and make a prediction. Students can predict what will happen next or as a result of the event. This can be done in writing or as part of a discussion. Students can also create an illustration or comic strip about what they think will happen.
- Write letters to government officials or the editor. If students are concerned about an issue or have strong feelings about an event or news story, you may want to guide them to write to the editor of the news source, or even to government officials, if appropriate. Depending on students’ experience with this type of writing, you may need to discuss the components of a formal letter and offer them support as they write.
Keeping up-to-date on current events outside of their own communities can help students develop an understanding of common issues affecting people around the world. By reflecting on these issues, having thoughtful discussion with peers, and potentially writing to newspapers or government officials, students begin to understand how their own actions can play a role in the larger global community.
Interacting with a peer from a different part of the world is one of the best ways for students to learn about experiences, ways of living, and points of view different from their own. Thankfully, today’s technology makes it easier than ever before for teachers to set up such interactions.
Matching students with an international pen pal gives them the opportunity to ask questions and learn about the daily life of a student from another country. In this activity, students will also share information about their lives and experiences in order to help their pen pals learn more about what life is like where they live.
High beginner to advanced
Reading and writing
During this ongoing activity, students will be able to participate in the following tasks:
- Communicate in English with a peer from another part of the world
- Develop informal reading and writing skills
- A world map
- Notebooks or paper and pencils
- Chart paper or a chalkboard/whiteboard and writing utensils
- A means of exchanging international letters, such as through e-mail, through file-sharing services (for example, Dropbox or Google Drive), or through a postal service
- If mailing letters, large mailing envelopes (to hold all students’ letters) and postage
Initially, this activity requires 1–3 class periods of 45–60 minutes to explain the relationship, to brainstorm questions, and to write the first letter. The amount of time required after these initial stages will depend on how much support students need when writing letters. After sending the first letter, students should be able to read replies from their pen pals and write a response letter in 1–2 class periods.
- The first step in this activity is to establish a relationship with an English teacher in a different country. There are many places to look for potential partner teachers, including your own personal network of English teachers, the American English for Educators Facebook page, Skype in the Classroom, or PenPal Schools. Explain that you would like students to be able to write letters to each other to learn more about each other’s countries and lives. Letters can be handwritten and mailed or sent via e-mail if your students have access. Teachers should agree upon how the letters will be exchanged and how often students will write to each other.
- Keep in mind your class size and students’ ages when establishing pen pals. Try to find a class that has close to the same number of students as yours and that has students close in age to your students.
o If there are extra students, you can assign two pen pals to a more advanced student in your class who could manage writing multiple letters.
o Students who are one grade level or year away from each other should still be acceptable for pen pals, but same-age peers may be best because students will most likely relate to each other more.
- Share a list of students’ names with the teacher from the other class. (For privacy, you may choose to only share students’ first names and last initials; for example, “Sarah B.”) Decide how students will be paired. Some teachers prefer to pair students of the same gender and with similar interests, if possible. However, students may gain more from the activity if the pairs are random. The pairing of students will be guided by the framework of your culture and context, as well as that of the other group.
- Discuss the details with the other teacher in advance so that students can begin writing to each other as soon as you introduce the activity in class. For example, decide how students will exchange letters: through e-mail, through file-sharing (such as Google Drive or Dropbox), or through the mail (one option is to mail students’ letters in one large envelope to the other school). Also choose the dates to exchange letters, and consider how much class time you can devote to students reading and writing letters.
- Introduce the activity to your students. For example, you could say, “I have been in contact with a teacher from [COUNTRY]. We are going to start writing letters/e-mails with his/her students who are also studying English. This will be an ongoing project, and you will write and receive letters with one of the students from the class in [COUNTRY] several times during our course/school year. By exchanging letters, you will get to learn about how students in [COUNTRY] live, and they will also get to learn more about your life.”
- Explain to students that they will be matched with one student from the partner class to exchange letters with him or her. If there are any students who will have more than one pen pal, you can also let them know at that time.
- Using a world map or globe, help students to locate the country where their pen pals live. Ask students to write down what they think life is like in the place where their pen pals live. If there is enough time, students can then discuss their ideas in small groups or discuss their ideas as a whole class.
- Ask students questions about the other place. Here are some possible questions to ask:
- What do you think life is like in ________?
- What is the weather like?
- What do people eat?
- What languages do people speak?
- What do you imagine a classroom might look like in ________?
- What hobbies or activities do you think students your age do for fun?
- What challenges do you think students face?
- What do you think a student your age plans for their future in ________?
- As students share their ideas, write the ideas on the board or on chart paper. Another option is for students to write down the ideas in their notebooks. This list of students’ ideas about life in the other place should be saved in some way so that students can think about these ideas later on when writing to their pen pal.
- Next, ask students to think of information they would like to learn about their pen pals. Students can discuss their ideas in groups or as a whole class. Make a list of these questions as well, and save this list for future use. For example, the questions can be written on chart paper and displayed in the classroom for students to refer to later, or the questions can be written on the board for students to copy into their notebooks.
- Remind students that when writing to their pen pals, they should also share information about themselves and their lives. You may want to create a list of things that students could share, such as their age, number of family members, favorite hobbies, favorite subjects, etc. Students can help think of ideas for this list. Again, this list can be posted on chart paper to use later, or students can copy the list from the board.
- Talk about the structure of the letter students will write. If needed, review the elements of a letter, such as the date, the greeting, the closing, etc. Remind students that in the body of the letter they should share information about themselves as well as ask questions to learn about their pen pal.
- Modeling a letter from start to finish is one option. Or, if your students are more advanced and are familiar with writing letters, you can briefly discuss the structure.
- Provide students with some time to write their letters. Offer them help as needed depending on their proficiency level. For instance, beginner-level students might benefit from sentence frames such as “My name is ________. I am ____ years old and am from ________. I go to ________ school. I have ____ brothers and ____ sisters.” More advanced students may be able to write independently or even complete their letter as a homework assignment.
- Students can write letters by hand, or if you plan to share them electronically, they can type them on a computer. However, students should not send the letters or e-mails until you have had a chance to review the content.
- Once students have had enough time to write their letters, review all of the letters to be sure that they meet the goal of promoting an exchange of information. While you may wish to let students correct errors that might cause misunderstanding, remember that the pen pal activity is also an opportunity for students to practice English, and therefore the letters do not have to be perfect.
- Once the letters are ready, you can send them to the partner class. Your students should also receive letters around the same time.
- When your students receive letters, give them time to read the letters and to share information about their pen pal with their classmates. Each time your class gets letters, you can remind them of their list of initial ideas about the partner class and their way of life and then discuss whether their initial ideas were correct or if they have learned something new. If you wish, write down what they have learned on chart paper or on the board. Students can also write down or copy this information in their notebooks.
- If needed, remind students how to respond to the letters they receive. They can react to something their pen pals have written, share new information, respond directly to their pen pals’ questions, or discuss something that is similar or different about their lives.
- Students should continue to write back and forth as often as you and the partner teacher have agreed upon.
- Throughout the exchange of pen pal letters, continue to have students reflect on what they are learning about the part of the world where their pen pals live. Encourage them to think carefully about first impressions they may have had that were actually wrong, or to find things in common in the ways they and their pen pals live. One possibility is for students to keep a journal and write about these reflections each time they get a new letter. Students can also participate in small-group or whole-class discussions about these topics, or even make a presentation about what they have learned from the experience.
By interacting directly with students around the same age, learners build a connection with someone outside of their own community. Despite the many differences that may exist in the daily lives of two students, getting to know each other by exchanging letters helps students to see that people often share common experiences, goals, and challenges.