At first glance, it would seem that my homeroom is the least diverse class that I’ve had in years. We make up a pretty pale section of the Sherwin Williams paint swatches, with most of my class covering the gamut from eggshell to oatmeal. Even so, we have a selection of both primary languages and languages spoken at home that shows a different kind of diversity. I have students who speak Bulgarian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Ukrainian. I have another student learning Tagalog because her father is Filipino. She spent every spare moment today — including recess — practicing simple words from her Learn Tagalog workbook.
Because of this language diversity, I’ve discovered a couple of fun, easy things to do with my kids to make our differences part of our class, rather than something to overcome.
The first happens during recess. I bring a Bluetooth boombox with me out to recess. I had been playing my favorite music outside, but one afternoon, as we were walking out, I Googled, “Bulgarian top ten songs.” I popped the first result into my music app and clicked ‘Start radio.” V. came over to the bench as I was sitting there, watching the kids play, and said, “Hey! That’s Bulgarian!”
“Yes it is,” I told them.
As kids filtered back and forth around us that afternoon, one of the kids stated: “Bulgarian music is gooood.” My Ukrainian boy asked if I could play Ukrainian music next time. Yes, I can. And Yes, A., I can play Filipino music, too! My favorite so far has been listening to Karol Conka, a Brazilian rapper. I do have to check to make sure there’s no explicit tag on the song, I don’t want to shock S., my Brazilian student. Other Brazilian music that we’ve listened to was fun, but Ms. Conka’s is the best!
The other thing I’ve been doing has been drawing lots and lots of pictures. I draw during recess, and the kids love to watch. I’ve been having fun with language as I’ve done this. I’ve got these great Avery labels, two stickers to a sheet. I want to do at least one sticker each for my students. With my kids who have an international background, it’s a lot of fun to put something like, “X is pretty awesome,” on the sticker in their native tongue. Clearly, I don’t know all of these languages (I’m mediocre in French, I can tell you that you’ve fried a butterfly in Portuguese, and I know a couple of Spanish words), so I’m doing the easy route of using Google Translate. I know this isn’t great for extended conversations, but there’s something cool when M. looks at a sticker in Ukrainian that says, “M. is a good guy.”
Like I said, these aren’t capital-I important things by any means, but I really just love any little chance to celebrate who these kids are, especially through music and art. I’ll leave you with a custom message just for you, reader. I’ll let you look it up to see what it says.