Infusing Cultural considerations in your classroom, training or community group event can provide your group a rich and comfortable atmosphere to open up about topics of culture and diversity. Breaking the ice with hooks and prompts can help provide context and meaningful discussion.
This CLC Icebreakers and Exercises resource provides icebreakers, exercises, videos and movies that can be used when working with communities to facilitate interaction and active participation on relevant topics that are meant to promote learning as you train in cultural and linguistic competence. This and many other resources on this subject can be found through the Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Mental Health.
In Practice: translating activities to an online format
One exercise I tried from this resource in my online Guidance 150 online course was the “Cultural Iceberg” exercise. I was able to easily translate this activity to an online activity in our live web session in Blackboard Collaborate.
The students were very comfortable sharing with each other by this week (week 12) of our online course.
I asked them to brainstorm on the whiteboard what the word “culture” means:
We then talked bout an iceberg and how only 20% of an iceberg is what you see above the surface, and likened culture to the iceberg because there are some things you can tell about a person’s culture just by looking at them.
I asked them to identify aspects of our cultural identity that may be above or below the surface.
The anonymous nature of the “whiteboard” allows for space to free-flow brainstorm without being identified. I asked them to further identify aspects of their own culture that may be above below the surface.
I also paired the students up into breakout rooms and asked them to share information with each other about their culture. I asked the other person to stay silent and listen while the speaker spoke. Afterwards, we laughed and reflected that it felt a little like a dating profile to explain their culture in this way.
The students really enjoyed these exercises. When reading their final reflections and talking in class about times they were most engaged in class during the semester, our lessons in culture came up many times. They provided feedback that these kinds of exercises helped them feel a sense of community within the course, which to me is one of the most important outcomes to my teaching.