Just Like the Old Days
Teaching SuggestionsPrint this Page
- Subject(s): Social Studies & Geography, Cross-Cultural Understanding
- Region / Country: Asia & Pacific Islands / Mongolia
- Grade Level(s): 3–5, 6–8
Students will examine and experience roles and customs of rural Mongolians through role-playing, and they will compare unfamiliar roles from Mongolia with everyday roles in the United States.
After reading the letter and participating in class activities students will be able to
- Chart their immediate family and their extended family, and show locations and amount of contact.
- Compare their family chart with others in their class.
- Describe the importance of extended families to traditional societies.
- Identify how extended families work together to accomplish necessary work.
- Demonstrate how a societal unit (a peer group) expresses hospitality to newcomers.
- Speculate on the impact technology might have on the traditional way of life in Mongolia.
- Biography of Jonathan Phillips
- Library books on families, such as All Kinds of Families, by Norma Simon; and Free to Be ... a Family, by Marlo Thomas
- Doughnuts, butter, bread, milk, and tea (Optional)
- Define hospitality for the class. Ask them to imagine that a new student will be joining the class the next day. Divide the class into groups of three to five and ask each group to brainstorm all the things the class could do to welcome such a newcomer to the school. Suggest that they think of all the school settings where the newcomer would go during the course of the school day (e.g., cafeteria, playground, gym) and how the person would be treated in those settings. Have each group prepare a short skit that dramatizes what would happen. After the students perform the skits, discuss what they have learned about hospitality at school.
- Read aloud a book about families, such as Free to Be ... a Family or All Kinds of Families. Ask each student to prepare a family chart that shows everyone in their family they know, including parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Ask to identify where each family unit lives and how often they see the people from those units. Explain that they will compare their information with information about a family in Mongolia they will read about next.
- Distribute copies of the letter to the class and use a globe or map to show the location of Mongolia. Suggest how long it would take to reach Mongolia by air or overland. Read the letter aloud with the class, or ask students to take turns reading portions of it. Point out that social scientists are very interested in life in rural Mongolia today, because it helps them understand what life was like long ago, before the impact of modern technology.
- Make a chart on the board or overhead that shows the people who live in the family unit in Mongolia. Ask the students to compare this family unit with their own. Emphasize the important role grandparents play in Mongolian culture and how they are treated with respect and cared for when they get older. Give the students time to share comparisons with their own families (e.g., do some children have grandparents living with them?).
- Assign seven parts for the roles described in Jonathan's letter and have students reenact the scene in which Jonathan enters the ger, and the action in the remaining four paragraphs. Help the students see how Mongolians value hospitality, and how Jonathan appreciates their hospitality. Discuss the roles each person has in the family, and how the work is divided up according to age, gender, and ability. Draw parallels with farm communities in the United States and help the students see that this division of labor is an efficient way to get work accomplished.
- Ask students to pretend they are going on a weekend camping trip without cars, plumbing, or electricity. Have them imagine what the experience would be like. Have the students draw parallels to life at the ger Jonathan visited. Then ask students how the trip would be different if they had modern conveniences.
- Ask the students to take the role of social scientists and predict how life will change in rural Mongolia during the next 50 years. What kinds of changes can they expect, and why? Have them work on a picture and essay that show what life will be like at the ger where Byamba's family lives, and in the surrounding countryside. (Will the ger still be there?) You can refer them to Jonathan's letter "What's Mongolia Really Like" for help in making their predictions.
- Have students find out more about the 13th-century Italian merchant Marco Polo, to whom Jonathan refers in his letter. Compare Marco Polo's writing and his role in sending information to Europe with Jonathan's writing and his role in sending information to Americans today.
- Have students build a model of a ger, or white felt tent, that they would like to stay in if they lived in Mongolia today. They can find out details necessary for building a ger by researching how gers are constructed. One particularly helpful site: http://mongolia.worldvision.org.nz/mongoliager.html.
- Mongolians are concerned about the fact that the Gobi Desert is creeping farther north into Mongolia every year. River levels are dropping and some rivers are drying up. Have students find out if other deserts, such as the Sahara, are also expanding, and how scientists explain such changes.
- Ask students to work with classmates to find pictures in reference books or on the Internet of girls wearing dels . Have students make a del, or identify someone in your area who could bring one to school to show your class and talk about Mongolia.
- Have students pretend they are the girls in the ger who haven't seen their Uncle Byamba in a year and who have never seen a foreigner. Ask them to write a story called "The Day the American Came to Visit."
- Jonathan finds that he now likes foods, such as borzag and bread with uuram, that he didn't like at first. Can students think of any foods they once did not like, but now favor? What made them change their minds? Sometimes we change our minds about other things that we don't like at first. Can the students think of some? [Students might suggest certain types of music, art, and games.]
Framework and Standards
- Expressions of hospitality are an important feature of many cultures.
- Division of labor helps traditional families accomplish essential work.
- Housing among different cultures can differ markedly.
- How do Mongolians offer hospitality? Why is it considered so important?
- How do we show hospitality in the United States?
- How are grandparents important in traditional societies? How are grandparents important in your own family?
- How does the ger reflect the needs of Mongolian families who live in the country?