This semester, my seniors are exploring cultural criticism. They’ll be reading Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, which is an amazing wordless graphic novel. Following a man through his immigration story, the author does an amazing job helping the reader to understand the strangeness and overwhelmingness of the experience.
My classes, which are made up of some native-born students and many boarding students from around the world, have lots of personal experience with this topic, so it will be interesting to see their interpretations and how their experiences impact their approach to and understanding of the text.
Before I even introduced the idea of cultural criticism to my students, I started them off by exploring immigration, since that’s one of the central experiences of the protagonist. We watched a mini-documentary on Ellis Island (since the protagonist goes through a similar experience) and the students talked about why they chose to come to this country to study. They also did some research into the current issues surrounding immigration (this is a topic unto itself, considering the many controversies).
This activity is actually something I adapted from another teacher at our school, and it’s pretty neat. She uses an actual globe, but since I don’t have one of those (and because I tend to be rather techie), I used Random.County. Random.County generates a new county every time you reload the page! It’s pretty cool. One caveat is that some of the countries it generates are pretty obscure and some are disputed countries (they’re not officially recognized by the entire world). However, you can adjust the settings so these are weeded out. I left them in, since I thought it might be kind of cool to learn about these countries. Also, another neat feature that they include, is a little summary about the country with some simple facts/statistics. This is great, especially when you run into a county that you’ve never heard of!
For this assignment, students were writing a blog post. However, prior to writing this, they had to find an article about the country they were assigned. It could be any kind of article (sports, opinion, cultural, political, national, etc.), as long as it was related to that country.
Next they had to write a reaction to and analysis of the issue. They answered several questions pertaining to how the article was written (impact of language, bias, etc.), as well as questions about whether they feel that people should care and whether they have an opinion about the article, in addition to considering any possible connections to other global issues.
Here’s a link to the actual assignment, in case you’d like a copy. Have fun!