Overview: Use this lesson to help students become more aware of their own culture and recognize its influence on their thoughts, behaviors, and how they view the world.
Activity (Methodology): Worksheet
Time: 15-20 minutes depending on discussion
- What Would you Do Worksheet (one per person)
Applicable Content Areas:
This lesson is applicable in all content areas, especially those that require students to think critically and view events from a different perspective. For example, the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, or even vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social sciences.
By the end of this lesson students will be able to:
- Identify at least 3 individual cultural characteristics.
- Describe how these cultural characteristics influence their behavior and perceptions of situations.
- Explain the importance of understanding cultural context before making judgments.
Getting Started: Pass out the What Would You Do Worksheet to each student.
- Begin by asking students to read each of scenarios in column one of the worksheet. Then, provide 2-3 minutes for students to individually record their initial response or reaction to each scenario in the second column titled What would you do?
- After time is up, bring students into a large group and ask for volunteers to share their answers aloud, noting any similarities or differences between students’ responses. Then, ask the class why they responded the way they did, and where they think their responses come from.
NOTE: This first column is meant to illicit one’s immediate thoughts, feelings, or evaluations about each situation. Student’s responses will likely reflect what their cultural background and past experiences tell them about what is happening.
- Allow 2-3 minutes for some brief discussion before sharing with students that people’s past experiences and underlying cultural values often dictate how they interpret/perceive a situation. And in turn, these often-unseen value differences can cause individuals to change their behaviors and respond to situations in different ways.
- For example, in the first scenario, most people from a US background tend to view animals like dogs as pets (or even family members) so in this context, throwing rocks at one might be considered aggressive, and not acceptable. However, in another cultural context, where dogs are known to carry diseases like rabies, throwing rocks may be perceived as a way to protect yourself from harm and therefore a positive behavior.
- Next, explain to students that you will now provide them a piece of cultural information that relates to each situation from the worksheet. Their task is to reflect on how their initial reaction/behavior would be different based on the cultural insight provided.
- Read each cultural insight aloud one at a time, allowing approximately 30-45 second in between for students to record their reactions/responses in the third column titled What would you do now?
After students have had time to respond to each of the scenarios again based on the cultural information provided, have students come together in your choice of one large group, or multiple small groups to debrief the activity using the information and questions provided in the discussion/follow-up section.
This short activity is intended to help students see everyday situations from a new perspective and encourage them to recognize the connection between their unique cultural values and upbringing and the ways in which they view and behave in the world. Consider using the following question to help students reflect on their learning:
- Where do these automatic reactions/responses come from? Can you pinpoint a specific value, memory, or experience that helped shape your initial reaction to any of the scenarios?
- How did your reactions or responses change based on the cultural information provided?
- What cultural values were at play in your first set of responses versus your second set of responses?
- Which (if any) cultural insights shared were difficult to digest or understand (i.e., how might calling someone fat be a compliment…)?
- What is “cultural relativism”?
Cultural Relativism is the idea that a person’s beliefs, values, and practices should be understood based on that person’s own culture, rather than be judged against the criteria of another. When looking at another culture’s practices it’s important to not judge based on what you think is “normal” or “acceptable” but rather what people within that culture feel is normal or acceptable in their own context.
This lesson can easily be adapted for virtual implementation using animated PowerPoint slides or platforms like Google Jamboard or Flipgrid for students to record both their initial and secondary reactions outside of any synchronous coursework. Or if you prefer not to use the worksheet provided, you could also consider having students anonymously make a list of behaviors or scenarios that are acceptable in their own cultures/home environments on a Padlet and then have them respond to each other’s posts with their initial reactions or responses prior to providing an opportunity for the original poster to offer cultural insight for the debrief portion of the activity.