Can your students name any famous Arab Americans? What comes to mind? Maybe the Disney movie Aladdin? The U.S. State Department just designated April of 2021 as Arab American Heritage Month. Learning about different cultures and cultural and ethnic groups expands students' knowledge, opens their mind, and heightens their respect for differences.
As someone of Lebanese descent, Arab American Heritage Month is especially meaningful as we uplift and celebrate the contributions of Arab Americans. As well, this is an opportunity to address stereotypes and misconceptions--like the many found in the movie Aladdin.
I want to share with you an activity that I put together that covers contributions, culture, religion, language, history of immigration, and addresses some of the misconceptions in an age appropriate and culturally sensitive way. When we can tie our lessons to current events, our students can more easily recognize the value of what they're learning.
Arab Americans are those that have ancestry in one of the world's 22 Arab nations. It is important to recognize that people of these nations are not only politically diverse, but ethnically and religiously as well. But there is a common cultural and linguistic heritage.
This digital activity is set up to be completed in Google Slides. I suggest going through this as a teacher-led activity so that you have time for discussion, however it can be assigned for asynchronous learning. There are questions included that pertain to the videos and content, as well as drag and drop map skills.
Depending on where you live, you may teach in a classroom that is highly diverse. Or maybe your students have never met a Muslim or Arab. If you do have Muslim or Arab students in your classroom, be mindful to provide a space where your students feel comfortable. They should not feel as though they must speak on behalf of their entire cultural or religious group.
Many teachers express some level of uncertainty about the best ways to approach sensitive issues and topics. I suggest before beginning this activity to take a look at some helpful resources from TeachMideast, as well as the Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims. It is important to create a space that is open and collaborative where students feel they have an opportunity to share and listen to the views of others. Going over effective communication skills, and having a tolerant attitude toward multiple perspectives is critical. As well, it is important that students are aware that it's their responsibility to share their stance with factual evidence.
There may be times when a student says something problematic, and it is our responsibility as educators to disrupt these statements. If intolerance and discriminatory attitudes are left unchallenged, they could become engrained. We don't want our students entering society with unfounded prejudices and an inadequate understanding of diversity. This resource from the Oregon Center for Educational Equity is especially helpful during class discussions. You might choose a couple questions to ask or statements that feel natural to you. Print out this sheet and keep it handy.
Throughout this activity, there are videos with first hand experiences, stories, and examples of cultural objects. Critical thinking questions that pertain to the content is included throughout the activity. I've also provided answer keys for the questions related to the videos. These questions are set up as short answer but they are editable, so they can be changed to meet your class needs.
This activity highlights a number of Arab Americans that have made contributions in various aspects of society. While not an exhaustive list, this activity features people in medicine, science, sports, politics, and more.
This activity also includes an interactive map where students can learn about the Arab American demographics in their state (or any state). If your students are used to completing Google Slides activities in edit mode, one option is to install the Chrome extension that allows for Google Slides to be completed while in present mode. This means all of the drag & drop activities, the interactive map, as well as typing answers to questions can be done while in present mode. I just recently learned about this extension and it's a game changer!
I'd love to pass this activity along to you. While this activity is set up for Arab American Heritage Month, it can be modified and taught at any time of year. Click here to grab this resource for free.
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