Waking Up, Stepping Out
Teaching SuggestionsPrint this Page
- Subject(s): Language Arts & Literature, Cross-Cultural Understanding
- Region / Country: Asia & Pacific Islands / Kingdom of Nepal
- Grade Level(s): 6–8, 9–12
Students will focus on a rich and colorful description of a culture unfamiliar to most of them, and then compare the similarities and differences they find between Nepali culture and their own.
After studying the letter and engaging in activities, students should be able to explain how or why
- Cultures endure over time.
- Cultures in other regions differ from our own.
- Our similarities as people can bridge cultural differences.
- People can adapt to new cultures.
- Waking Up, Stepping Out by Steve Iams
- Ask students to record in their journals a list of holidays they personally celebrate and descriptions of how they are celebrated, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Ramadan. Record students' responses on the board. If there is little diversity in the responses, ask students to name other holidays they personally might not celebrate, but that others do. They may also consider differences in the way holidays are celebrated (e.g., wooden shoes set out in the Netherlands for Sinter Klaas instead of stockings for Santa Claus). Ask students why there are differences in the holidays they celebrate. Guide students to arrive at the conclusion that we are raised with different traditions stemming from different cultures.
- Ask students to define "culture." Give them a few minutes to write a response and share with a partner; then have them share with the class. Put one or two definitions on the board and explain to students that they will be testing these concepts of culture during class.
- Explain that the students will be reading a letter from a Peace Corps Volunteer in which he describes the people in a Nepalese village as they go about their daily activities. If students are unfamiliar with the Peace Corps, give them some background on the organization's purpose and function. Show them Nepal on a map and give them some information about the country.
- Once students have a context for the letter, give each student a copy of the letter and the T-chart. Ask students to read the letter carefully and as they read, to record similarities and differences they see between the Nepalese culture and their own culture in the appropriate columns on the T-chart.
- Allow students time to read the letter and make notes. Pass out two stick-on notes (preferably different colors) to each student. Once students are finished, ask them to record a similarity on one note and a difference on the other and place them on the class-size T-chart. Review with the class and ask them to draw conclusions about what they see recorded. They should address, but are not limited to, the following:
- Gender roles
- Socioeconomic factors
- Typical activities (e.g., drinking tea)
- Ask students to consider these as aspects of culture and revisit the definitions they wrote earlier. Do the definitions still work? Do they need to be broadened or narrowed? Make the appropriate adaptations until the students arrive at a definition similar to this: "The behavior patterns, art, beliefs, values, institutions, and other products of human work and thought typical of a population or community at a given time, often passed down between generations."
- Give students the following writing prompts and ask them to respond in their journals: "What do you think it would be like to live in this village in Nepal? What if you were trying to fit in? What would you have to get used to? What would you have to adapt to?" Allow them to read their responses to a partner or to the class.
- Focus the class discussion on the concept of similarities. There are many actions and beliefs Iams describes that are different from what we may do or think in the United States, but if we dig deeper below the surface, there are many core similarities. Help students to see that while Janak, for example, wore white clothing and confined himself to a corner of his house for 10 days after his father's death (which may seem unusual to students), he was grieving for someone who died—an emotion or experience they can all understand. Ask them to identify other ways the villagers and Americans are similar on a core, human level.
- Conclude the lesson by asking students how people from different cultures can best get along and survive together. For homework, have them answer this question, using the letter and their own knowledge as support for their positions.
Framework and Standards
- People, settings, and routines define the culture of an area.
- We can learn to adapt and fit in to a culture that is not our own.
- What is culture?
- What elements define culture?
- How do people from different cultures adapt in order to live together?