Generally, this is an eighteen week unit in drama which proposes to expose fourth grade gifted students to the myths and plays of African and Latin American cultures. Specifically, it aims to promote social acceptance of cultures other than one’s own. I hope that through this enhanced awareness, these Students, are better able to learn from each other in the classroom and live together in the larger communities of this society.
It should be noted that the group for whom this unit is intended is made up of students who regularly attend four to five different elementary schools, but come together one day/per week for TAG resource room programming. These children have been socialized in segregated school and community environments. Many of them are unaware of the beliefs and practices of others who belong to different ethnic or socio-economic groups. Many are unfamiliar with the language of other groups, uninformed, or rather misinformed about values or value systems of particular cultures.
Within a given group of academically successful students, there is open resistance to developing a group cohesiveness that is much needed for effective learning. Coupled with that resistance is an even greater opposition to simply working with members of different ethnic groups. Within a classroom where cooperation is as much a part of the learning process as is individual performance and thinking skills and abilities, ethnic division is not acceptable social behavior.
Past experiences have shown me that “gifted” children have very little interest in getting to know each other, and a lesser concern for how their self-imposed lines of division affect their learning and living together. In order to help these first year students find levels of comfort within their new group and foster an environment in which they are free to learn from each other, early boundary breaking and socialization activities are necessary.
It is important for any teacher who may wish to use this unit, or any part of it, to know that the planning is based on a team teaching approach, in a self-contained classroom setting, with a physical space that is the equivalent of two rooms. Students are with us for, at least four hours of the day. Also many of the students are highly skilled, independent learners and self-starters.
It is my hope that as students increase their knowledge of the cultural backgrounds of their classmates, they also increase their appreciation for, the similarities, rather than focus solely on the differences that exist among themselves as a multi-cultured group. I would like to help the children understand that it is our differences that make us unique and that these differences cannot be judged on the basis of one’s own culture.