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Author: Anita Bamburger

11 fantastic resources to promote elements of international mindedness...

Culture shock for new EAL students is more or less extreme depending on the extent of the difference between their old culture and new culture. During the period of transition, creating bridges is crucial to help students identify similarities and differences between their home culture and the new one as well as making them aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each culture. Stagg (2013) states, "there is every reason to place renewed emphasis on the moral and cultural dimensions of education, enabling each individual to grasp the individuality of other people."

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights promotes the universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, this means the recognition and appreciation of others, the ability to live together and to listen to others (presented in this link in child friendly format). As Stagg comments, "They focus on embracing and celebrating diversity, they leave a lasting impression and encourage shared understanding and enjoyment of different cultures within the school and around the world." They also engender community spirit and can create an interest in students transitioning between different cultures.

Every subject can be used to embrace international perspectives. Literature provides a great means of understanding a culture. The school library should embrace cultures from around the world, have books in different languages and special boxes of books for students in transition.

Some great resources for developing open-mindedness about different cultures:

  • One of my favourites is 'Speak up Tommy' by Jacqueline Greene. It shows how a child can feel valued by giving their home language importance.
  • 'Subway Sparrow' by Maria Torres is a great book showing people of different cultures working together for a common goal.
  • The Disney film 'Pocahontas' is an illustration of people being antagonistic to each other and having a lack of understanding then being brought together through intellectual curiosity and tolerance.
  • A display of PYP attitudes (or similar personal attributes) around the school is a great way to promote international mindedness, being open minded and showing respect are key concepts.
  • 'When abroad do as the local children do' by Hilly Van Swollen-Ulbrich and Bettina Kaltenhauser, encourages children to try out things that are different in order to understand that prejudice is usually based on misunderstanding.
  • 'The Wizard of Oz' by Franc Baum encourages tolerance. Joseph Shaules in his book, 'The Intercultural mind' often refers to "Oz Moments", a feeling of disorientation or surprise when encountering novel surroundings or hard to interpret phenomena, allowing learners to consider differences. They help us see how our background shapes the experiences we have away from home.
  • Welcome signs in different languages shows acknowledgement and respect for the different languages and cultures in the school which subsequently gives students a sense of pride in who they are. This not only impacts on their confidence but also gives them a sense of belonging.
  • The curriculum should include global citizenship and understanding to encourage tolerance and world peace. Critical thinking is an essential part of this.
  • Open communication, acceptance of diversity, open minded inquiry, being flexible empathy for differences, creativity and resilience.
  • An excellent resource for younger children is 'Elmer and Rose' by David McGee which is all about Elmer the multicoloured elephant, the grey elephants and Rose, the pink elephant, all accepting each other for who they are and appreciating differences.
  • Ofelia Garcia in her book 'Emergent Bilinguals' emphasises the importance of maintaining opportunities for emergent bilinguals to develop their bilingualism and biliteracy as a common goal for all to raise self-esteem and therein of inclusion.

By including different cultures, faiths and nationalities, one would hope that feelings of potential alienation would diminish, providing one aspect of creating a more unified but diverse society. To quote my daughter's headteacher at a school assembly, "although there are problems in some parts of the world, in this school we all get along - it doesn't matter where you are from, what colour or what religion you are".

The EAL teacher has a key role to play in developing this ideal in supporting the class teachers, and using their privilege of having the smaller groups to identify each EAL child's individual need for support, not only for language, but by showing an interest in their home culture and promoting their positive integration in the new country and school. This helps avoid feelings of isolation.

The importance of understanding each individual EAL student's transition should not be underestimated.


García, O. and Kleifgen, J. (2010). Educating emergent bilinguals. New York: Teachers College Press.

Stagg, L. (2013). International Mindedness. Rochester: Urbane Publications Limited.

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