Overview: Use this lesson to help students understand the difficulty of “unlearning” concepts and behaviors learned within their own cultural context. It also engages students’ critical thinking skills by challenging them to see everyday behaviors from a different perspective and formulate new ideas and solutions.

Activity (Methodology): Individual verbal task followed by group discussion

Time: 5-10 minutes

Materials Needed: None

Applicable Content Areas: Any area that engages critical thinking, problem solving, and/or offers opportunities for reflection.

Learning Objectives:
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
• Understand the difficultly of “unlearning” engrained cultural concepts and behaviors.
• View ordinary things, events, and values from a fresh perspective.

Getting Started: Explain to students that you will be asking them to complete two simple tasks individually. Then, after everyone has a chance to complete both tasks, you will bring students back for one large class discussion.


  1. First, ask students to name the days of the week out loud. You can expect students to complete this very quickly and should only allow about 10-15 seconds to complete it. NOTE: If conducting this activity with a multicultural group of students, consider instructing students to complete this task in their native language, or whatever language is most comfortable for them verbally.
  2. Next, ask students to say the days of the week in alphabetical order. You can expect this task to take significantly longer and should allow 1-2 minutes to complete it.
  3. After students have successfully completed both tasks or time is up, bring them back to debrief the activity in a large group.

Discussion/Follow up: 

This short lesson is intended to demonstrate the difficulty of “unlearning” engrained cultural concepts and patterns. The activity also highlights how challenging it can be to reorganize or use learned information in different ways and challenges students to come up with different strategies to complete both tasks. Consider using the following questions to debrief the activity:

  • How did you feel completing the first task?
  • What strategies did you use to complete the first task?

 – Typically, students will automatically name the days of the in the order that they occur in (Sunday/Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday/Sunday), as this is likely the order they are taught in school and the way they see this information presented most often. They may even be able to recite a short song or some other mnemonic device by memory.

  • What happened when you rearranged the days of the week?
  • How did you change your behavior to complete the second task successfully?

– Naming the days of the week in alphabetical order is likely much more difficult. The task requires a lot more time and effort because we are not used to putting the days in this order. You may have also noticed students using different strategies to complete the task successfully such as using a pen and paper, or silently saying the alphabet in their head while scanning the days of the week…etc.).

  • How does this exercise relate to intercultural learning and interacting with diversity?

Virtual Implementation:
This lesson can easily be replicated virtually by asking students to put themselves on mute during a synchronous session. You may also consider instructing students to complete the activity independently and respond to the discussion questions using various digital platforms such as Flipgrid or Padlet.

Content Area Extensions:
World Languages: This activity can easily be completed in the target language as a means to practice vocabulary and explore the target culture. For example, does the target culture calendar begin with a different day of the week than that of the U.S. calendar? For more advanced vocabulary practice, you can also have students recite the months of the year, or colors of the rainbow…etc.
You may also consider elaborating on the last discussion question by asking students how this relates to language learning in particular, both of them learning the target language, and native target language speakers trying to learn English.

History/Sciences: Consider using this activity when looking at a particular event in history. How does this lesson relate to how a country (or the world) has historically resolved conflict or responded to global/social issues? What can this activity teach us about responding to these issues now and in the future?

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