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When choosing the theme/topic for the Term IV assignment, I did not have much freedom. Samuel Powel Elementary School has a spring thematic unit that all students in the school are subject to. This year s theme is Africa. Because my curriculum falls in the midst of this thematic unit, I was urged heavily to choose a topic that deals with Africa. I chose to focus on the Ashanti, a tribe located in Ghana. With this choice, the fourth grade at Powel School will be kicking off their thematic unit with Ghana and the Ashanti. My curriculum will help students learn important information about the Ashanti. Because this curriculum is embedded in every discipline (literacy, math, science, and Social Studies) being taught, children will be able to gain the most crucial information about Ghana and the Ashanti. Talking to an office worker, Miss Maggie, who is from Ghana, I was advised to talk about the history of the Ashanti, the culture (food, traditions, folktales, and home life), and to discuss their role in Ghana. In my curriculum, these topics are addressed in Literacy, where every child will become and expert on one facet of the Ashanti life and will then teach their peers, in Math, where food and currency will be discussed, in reading, where folktales will be read, and the history of the peoples will be center of discussion, and
in science, where the foods and terrain of Ghana will be studied and become a hands on experiment. All of these lessons within my curriculum are part of the greater study of Social Studies. Because the students will be learning about the Ashanti and Ghana in an integrated curriculum, all mandated standards from the state will be met. In literacy, students will meet such standards as essay writing, compilation facts in the form of paragraphs, diction and syntax appropriate for fourth grade, grammar, and spelling. In math, students will be incorporating aspects of Ashanti life into their Everyday Math curriculum. Here, recipes and currency will be used as an extra support for fractions, conversions, and time telling. In science, students will be studying plant growth, the life cycle of a plant, and the process of composting. All of these lessons tie into Social Studies, where children will be becoming experts in another culture, learning to compare other cultures to their own, and learning about their role, and the role of other cultures, in the world.
While the options for my integrated curriculum were not vast, I feel that I have created an interesting two weeks for my children. To begin the curriculum, I have asked Miss Maggie, a well-known office worker and grandparent of one of the students, to come speak to the class. By doing this, I feel the material will become relevant. If the idea of an alien culture is introduced with no context, students may begin to ask, Why is this important to me? By having someone they are all familiar with come in and tell them about the place, I feel they will be able to see how Ghana and the Ashanti are important to their lives.
Other ways I have made this topic interesting to the students is by creating numerous hands-on lessons. By actually going out and planting native Ghana foods, by cooking actual Ghana recipes, and by journaling their thoughts about the experiences they gain every step of the process, children will be more apt to want to join in on the lessons. I have chosen to make their thoughts and ideas central in the journaling process because I feel they will have much to say about each lesson they are being taught. I feel that students will enjoy having their thoughts and opinions heard. By taking a look at these thoughts and ideas, I can modify the lessons to fit their needs in more appropriate manners. I feel that children will be motivated to participate and answer questions if they feel that their thoughts are being heard. Because students have the opportunity to choose a subtopic to focus on in the literacy portion of this lesson, they will be able to construct their own meaning of information through the fact finding portion of the assignment. This portion is independent research where students will be able to gather facts that they find important. It is in this lesson that students will be able to express their own thoughts about the material they find interesting. Furthermore, every lesson has been planned to pull on the different types of intelligences that my students may have. This was done deliberately so that every child feels his/her strengths are being targeted and utilized. Many of the tasks that children will be asked to participate in are tasks that will help them make real world connections. For example, the notion of studying a different culture and finding appreciation for that culture is a life long skill that children can use. It is very uncommon that my students will never come in contact
with some different from than in a cultural context. Learning nonjudgmental appreciation for others is something that can help them with these future interactions. I hope to present many of the tasks in this way. I think that once children understand the basis for tasks, rather than thinking it is simply to occupy time in the school day, they will be interested in engaging with the material. Math is the one exception. For the majority of math lessons, rote tasks will be in place. This will be the case so that valuable skills and methods can be practiced and mastered in the Everyday Math curriculum. I come to this program with an anthropology background. It was my cultural anthropology classes that urged and inspired me to become a teacher in an urban setting. The Ashanti are a heavily studied culture amongst many cultural anthropologists. In my undergraduate coursework, I was exposed to the tribe of peoples in several classes. I found their perseverance and traditions to be fascinating. While I was not given the freedom to choose my curriculum, I have found it interesting nonetheless. I want to transfer my love and passion of diversity to my children. I think it is crucial that students are exposed to as much diversity as possible considering the United States is quickly becoming a magnet for diversity. No only can students learn about, and from, those that are different than they might be, but they can also gain a respect for said peoples. It is no uncommon to assume that how one does something is the proper way to do it. I hope my students gain the knowledge that difference is good, and sometimes, better. Through the course of this lesson, I hope my students find that which may be strange and foreign to be
exciting and useful. For the same reasons that I want my children to study the Ashanti are the reasons that I find this curriculum interesting.
Based on observations I have made within my classroom, I am confident this curriculum is developmentally appropriate. In fourth grade at Powel School, I have observed my students independently research other cultures, read folktales, and carry on discussions about such topics. In shared reading, several folktales have been read and dissected. In a previous literacy lesson, facts were found for a unit on the Amish. When discussing my curriculum with the fourth grade lead teachers, they felt the curriculum would be appropriate because it is an extension on lessons that have been previously taught. According to Piaget s developmental stages, my students should be in the concrete operational stage. In this stage, most children are between the ages of seven and eleven. My students are roughly nine and ten years of age. In this stage, children are able to think more logically with concrete example. It is in this stage that children are no longer egocentric. Because of this, studying another culture through a nonbiased lens is appropriate. Similarly, Vygotsky has a theory for development of children. In his theory, he believes that children learn from hands-on experiences. Because this curriculum is extremely hands-on, children would be gaining valuable knowledge through experience alone. This deems this curriculum developmentally appropriate based on Vygotsky s theory, as well as Piaget s theory.
This curriculum is accessible to students in several ways. At Powel School, we have the amazing resource of having a Ghana native working in the office. Having Miss Maggie come talk to students is a resource unlike any other. Also, Powel School has an outdoor garden that the children can utilize when growing Ghana foods. The community offers the Penn Library which is less than fifteen minutes walking distance away. Here, there are shelves full of books on Ghana and the Ashanti. The classroom houses a student who is a Ghana native. This is a time when this seemingly shy student can shine and thrive. Finally, there are African performances taking place at the Annenberg Center on the University of Pennsylvania s campus. A field trip to view several performances and music is already scheduled for the week before this curriculum will be taught.
This curriculum provides for the opportunity for children to make many connections. The first connection that students can make is to a previous unit taught in the fourth grade at Powel School. The Amish were studied in great detail earlier in the year. The children will be able to make connections to that unit and draw similarities and differences between the two cultures. In addition, students bring much capital to the classroom. According to Yosso, people possess many different forms of capital. My students come to the classroom with cultural capital, familial capital, linguistic capital, and navigational capital. In the fourth grade, there is a bilingual, ELL student. He is responsible for translating for his mother and father. With his linguistic capital, he can communicate with double the people I can
communicate with. With his ability, he can relate to the Ashanti who cannot speak with the English peace corp. members. Several of my students are from places outside of the United States. I have a student from Bangladesh, India, and China. Furthermore, there are several Muslin and Jewish students between the two fourth grade classrooms. With the diversity in my classroom, children come with a different set of traditions and backgrounds. These traditional and background differences have allowed my students to possess a great amount of cultural capital. With this capital, students can better understand and assess other cultures like the Ashanti. Also, many of my students have brothers, sisters, cousins, and parents in the school. Their familiar capital is great. With this capital, children can make connections to other families of different cultures, and can draw conclusions about the culture. Finally, living in West Philadelphia, my students have a great sense of navigational capital. Because many of them have been traveling this city since their younger years, they have great knowledge about public transportation. Also, they are very skilled in looking at maps because of this. They can use this capital to understand the layout of Ghana and Ashanti regions. The community of Powelton Village and Mantua offer a space for connections, as well. The funds of knowledge found within this community can help children connect to the material. There is a free library located several blocks from Powel School. Here, children can continue studying and researching the Ashanti and Ghana. There are several members of the community who are from Ghana, Miss Maggie being one of them. The arts center and the community center offer African dance and artwork at several times in the year, as well.
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