Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Multicultural Minute

This year I started something at our elementary school called the "Multicultural Minute", celebrating the cultural diversity within our own school.  I've had a lot of people ask me what it is and how it works, so here are the answers to some frequently asked questions!

1.  What is the Multicultural Minute?

It is a short segment during our Friday morning school assembly where we feature a child whose parents were born in another country or whose family speaks another language at home.  The child comes on stage, says "Good Morning Bledsoe (Elementary), my name is ____" in their language, counts to 10, and teaches us how to say "hello" and "goodbye".  The child and his family are also featured on the bulletin board in the main hallway which includes a large map of the world; this helps the student body learn their geography as well as get to know their multicultural peers.

To get a quick overview of how we implemented the Multicultural Minute at Bledsoe Elementary in Frisco, TX this year, here's a video featured by Frisco ISD-TV: Multicultural Minute

2.  How did the Multicultural Minute get started?

It literally came from a lunch conversation I had during a PTA conference in Austin last summer.  After attending a few Diversity/Inclusiveness breakout sessions, I heard a lot of interesting facts about the changing demographic of our schools in TX, and I realized that we didn't have a consistent way to highlight these different cultures.  I shared with our PTA president my idea about featuring a student/family during the morning assembly and calling it the "Multicultural Minute."  She loved it and we shared it with our principal, who was also totally on board.  I wasn't sure if we would have a lot of participation in our first year, but we ended up having 21 countries represented, 24 languages, and 43 student speakers!

3.  What is the purpose of the Multicultural Minute?

The mission and purpose of the Multicultural Minute is to celebrate the diversity at our school, help kids feel proud of their heritage, and open the minds of the entire student body to the value of each person regardless of racial differences.  Personally, this is such a stark contrast from how I felt growing up as a 2nd-generation Korean-American; I was embarrassed by my race, hated speaking a different language at home, and was ridiculed by others for being different.  The Multicultural Minute does the opposite and allows kids to see that being different is not bad- it's actually special and should be celebrated!

4.  What's the process to implement this at my school?

I recommend the first thing to do is talk with your PTA president and your principal to make sure you have their support.  After that, you can follow some of these processes I used this year.  Feel free to change and modify anything to best fit your school!


Create a flyer describing the Multicultural Minute and ask people to sign up if they are interested in participating in the program.  Ask for the child's name, grade, teacher, parents' email, country of origin, and language to be spoken.  We sent out the flyer during the first 2 weeks of school and I collected them throughout the year.  I also passed out the flyers during Meet-the-Teacher Night later in the fall.


Based on your responses from the flyer, organize a schedule of speakers.  We started out with a speaker every other week at the morning assembly and that worked well.


Using a map of the world (I purchased one at the local teacher's store), create a bulletin board that displays the following:

- Continents and Countries
- Speaker's family picture
- Name and grade of speaker
- Name of Country and Language featured
- "Hello" and "Goodbye" written phonetically in their language
-  Arrow pointing to the country featured
- Gold star placed on the country featured

Having a bulletin board displayed through the week helps the student body (as well as visitors) learn about the program, speak a new language, and get to know the participating students and their families.


Send out an email questionnaire to the speaker's parents 2 weeks before they are up for the Multicultural Minute.  Ask for the following information:

- Birthplace of the parents
- Birthplace of children
- When the family moved to the US
- Name of the country and language featured
- Written words for "hello" and "goodbye" in their language
- 1-2 interesting facts about their country
- Ask for a family picture (or an email with an attachment which I then printed out for the bulletin board)
- Ask students to wear any traditional clothing for the assembly. (One little girl wanted to keep wearing her traditional outfit from Pakistan all day long!)
- Ask students to practice saying "Good Morning, my name is _____", counting from 1-10, and saying "hello" and "goodbye" in their language.

Note: Some of the families did not use email.  In those cases, I sent a hard copy home with the teacher.  Also, there were times throughout the year where I had 2-3 different speakers for the same language, so I would combine and have them come on stage together.


Once you obtain the information from the questionnaire, write out a complete script of what you will say during the assembly and who will say what.  This should include everything in the questionnaire that you think is relevant and can fit within 1-2 minutes.  Send this to the parents a week before their turn so they can practice it with their children before the kids come up on stage.  In some cases, parents also wanted to come on stage and participate with their children, which was really special.  (We had a mom from Ghana sing their national anthem, and a mom from Australia help teach the Aussie war cry!)

Note: Our first few times, I did not write out a script and several of the kids froze once they got on stage.  It's difficult to get up and speak when you have 500 eyes staring at you!  I found that once I wrote out a script and asked parents to practice it with their kids at home, the stage fright greatly decreased and kids were more prepared for what was going to happen.


The most visible part of the Multicultural Minute is coming up on stage with your speakers and presenting them to the assembly.  In my script, I wrote out exactly what I'd say so that I could memorize the interesting facts about each country, introduce the student by name/grade/teacher, and make the "interview" feel really personal.  I don't think it's necessary to memorize the script, but it certainly made it easier for me to be more comfortable on stage.  It also helped to practice saying "hello" and "goodbye" in all the different languages beforehand!


After the Multicultural Minute was complete, I would put everything back into a folder that had a file for each country.  The file includes the printed words for "hello" and "goodbye" in their language that I used for the bulletin board, name of country/language, and the script used for the presentation.  This helped organize the countries/languages we featured this year in order to prevent overlap and repetition.  I would ideally like to see new countries and new speakers in the next year!

5.  Is there anything you would change for next year?

Yes.  I need help!!  It was a lot of work to undertake this on my own, and I would recommend having a team of people to help you with the flyers, the bulletin board, gathering information from parents, printing pictures, writing the script, and presenting at the assembly.  I am hoping to divide up the responsibilities next year so we can have a rotation of people who will present at the assembly.  Right now I have one other volunteer to present, but I could definitely use more!


Hope that helps!  If you have any other questions, feel free to comment and let me know how I can assist you.  I think you will find that this program will bring your school's community together and create a very welcoming and inviting culture!

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