I did this assembly this week with years 7 to 10 and it seemed to work equally well with all of them. My context is a small-town mixed comprehensive in Somerset. Bear this in mind please!
Firstly, ask the form captains to come out to the front and stand behind you. Tell them that they are going to represent their tutor groups in a true or false ‘culture quiz’. If they believe the statement to be correct, they move to your right and if they believe it to be false, they move to your left.
When these statements are read, there is often some influence exerted by the audience. This should be encouraged!
1. In Saudi Arabia it is impolite to refuse a cup of coffee. True
2. In Spain a woman named Helena Lopez who married a man named Hector Portillo would be known as Helena Lopez de Portillo. True
3. In China the most junior person generally enters the meeting room first. False
4. In Ukraine all businesses are closed between 11:00 a.m. and noon for staff shopping escapades. False
5. When you visit someone’s house in Poland you may be asked to take your shoes off. True
6. You may feel free to cross your legs in the Middle East. True
7. When someone gives you a present in Japan, you should open it immediately. False
8. The numbers 6, 8 and 9 are considered lucky in China. Therefore, these three digits are firm favourites when choosing phone numbers, car registration numbers and room numbers. True
9. In the Arab world people stand closer than in Europe: one metre or nearer. True
Use as many or as few of these questions as you have time for. Ideally you will arrive at a point when there is a winner. Congratulate them on their cultural awareness. Award a prize as you see fit!
I then talked about diversity in school. I asked the students to guess how many miles from our school you would need to travel to find a school that spoke 21 languages and came from 15 different ethnic backgrounds. After taking some answers from students (which ranged up to 1000 miles), the answer came back as zero, as it was details about our own school that I had requested from SIMS. The idea is for students to reflect on the cultural diversity within their own institution.
Then, describe a multi-cultural experience where you have felt very isolated / alone / out of place. Say how you felt. I described being the only white man as far as the eye could see in a town in Ghana. Ask students to imagine how an ‘outsider’ would feel coming into our school.
Ask them to reflect on how difficult it would be to come from another culture, speaking a different language and trying to settle into a new school.
End with the thought that we are all different. Life would be exceedingly dull if we were all the same and these differences should be welcomed and celebrated.
Let me know how you get on!