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Read Part 2 here
There are four great ways to make sure you are giving students practice with seeing the world through other people's eyes.
Connect Students to Others
Whether it is with peers, professionals, or people around the world, connecting students to others in a first person interaction is a great way to get them to build curiosity, connection, and empathy.
Connect with Professionals
This can be through emails, letters, author talks, zoom meetings, and field trips (virtual or online).
When students learn about jobs that are being done in the world, or discover problems that real professionals are doing in the world it can spark ideas, passions, and questions. We have all heard stories about famous people who were inspired to become politicians, actors, animal activists, firefighters, doctors, athletes, or musicians when they were young because of the amazing event they witnessed by professionals. Having students of all ages connect with people who are experts in their field, helps ignite passions that they might not otherwise have known were there. This in turn develops a new view and perspective in which to see the world.
This can be within the school through volunteer work, performances, fundraisers, etc.
For a similar reason as above. When students see what is happening around them, they begin to see the world from a less selfish point of view. They develop questions and excitement that then creates new ideas and perspectives.
Today this can be online forums, virtual video chats, written letters, and it can be from anywhere in the world.
Learning about others from a first hand account can be a powerful teaching tool. Stories are often what exact change in people. Students, especially, are much more moved by things that have happened to people within their peer group rather than to adults. So its important that they are connecting on a personal level with peers who have lived different experiences than themselves. These kinds of connections, I believe, are the most important ways to build a better understanding and deeper perspective of the world. Since we can't all travel the world all the time, connecting with pen pals seems like a close second.
The ability to disagree with others kindly is a lost art. We must teach it to our students.
Allow students to choose sides or assign sides such as in official debate team rules. Debate on all kinds of topics from funny, serious, current events, pop culture, historical, or content related.
Allowing students a safe place to practice the art of debate gives them three main things
They are taught how to listen to others ideas carefully in order to give good rebuttals
They are taught how to respect others opinions by learning the rules of debate
They are taught how to lose graciously
Play Devil's Advocate
At any time you can have students take on a different perspective from the one they actually have. This can be during debate, a writing or creative assignment, or even as a peer reviewer.
Taking on the argument of the opposite view of your own is a difficult task, even for adults. But its great when students are able to think about what it might have been like for another group of people who were taught different than them, or who grew up in a different time period or cultural society. Practicing with this allows you to see that things aren't always what you first think they are and we should look at things from more than one perspective to truly understand them.
Teach How to Have a Disagreement
This can be taught both during a debate or when you are modeling and practicing how to have discussions online.
Students need to be taught not only how to disagree with others in a civilized manner in person, but they also need to be shown how to do this online. Giving students safe places inside your LMS (Learning Management System, i.e. Google Classroom, Schoology, Edmodo, Canvas, etc.) or creating teacher monitored class social media accounts allows students to practice the correct ways to read what they see carefully and how to engage with others in a polite and kind manner. This ability to listen and analyze more carefully helps build more of that perspective
There are three main genres that are great for building a better perspective on the world.
Historical fiction is a great way to give students a view of the world from a different time and place through story telling. Reading about how people felt, how they lived their day to day lives, and what was important to people during different time periods, gives students, and adults alike, the ability to see not only how similar things can always be, but also how quickly it can change. It's important to read from more than one historical era or region so that they can see patterns, learn from the mistakes that others in the past made, and build a perspective that allows them to make better decisions for the future.
Multi-cultural Fiction & Non-Fiction
Reading books from and about various different cultural groups is another great way to expose students to different perspectives. We have a Western-centric literary library in our public education today. And while I am happy that more and more cultures are being normalized within the literature we have access too, we are still basing a lot of our reading education in European fables, fairy tales, and biographies about similar boys, girls, men, and women. We must give students access to more stories, biographies, and true events that take them outside of their own cultures. They should hear true stories about people who are living in a vastly different way than them, today...not 50 or 500 years ago. They should be reading fiction from authors of different cultures to hear the different ways people think, talk, and view the world. It opens their eyes to the idea that maybe their ideas are not the only ones that are right in this world.
It's very important that students are reading about what is happening in the world, at an age appropriate level, of course. We must teach them how to read from more than one source and viewpoint, how to look for bias in journalism, how to find the most accurate and reliable information, and how to analyze what they are reading. It's a tough job, but the ability to sort through this and think clearly about the sensationalized news that they are being fed is an invaluable skill that students need in order to navigate the world with better perspective.
Higher Order Questioning
The kinds of questions that you ask your students often determines the paths that they take. If you are only asking questions such as "What happened?", "Where did it happen?", and "What are the sequences of events?" then you are not pushing your students to really think. If we want students to gain better depth of knowledge and better understanding of the world, then they need to be asked more questions like:
"What will happen if....?"
calls on prior knowledge
must also think ahead
practices pattern recognition
"If you were ______________. How would you feel? What would you do?"
helps make connections
practices critical thinking
"What does this imply?"
practices cause and effect
leads to problem solving
"If we know ________________, why does ___________ happen?"
practices problem solving
There are many more types of questions, like the DOK (Depth of Knowledge) stems, and the higher order thinking questions from the learning center that can help you ask your students the tough questions.
The most important thing about all of these ideas and types of questions is that you are really asking students to think for themselves and to come to ideas on their own. With practice over the years, this kind of learning and these kinds of questions begin to develop internally, which creates students who want to learn more.
This creates students who question and can think about things from many different angles.
Students who can think from multiple perspectives are better problem solvers.
Better problem solvers change the world.