One for all and all for one
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
What is community? What is your community? Do you have only one?
In a recent faculty meeting during which professors examined the successes we had and challenges we encountered teaching a lesson in which community was an incorporated, but not principal theme, some faculty noted that their students had trouble grasping the concept of community. As a member of my program's reading and writing committee, one of my responsibilities is to revise lessons based on the issues raised in faculty meetings.
With my task at hand, I began considering and reflecting: What is community? What communities do I belong to? Is the concept of community universal or idiosyncratic, culturally-based or transcendent? Beyond the philosophical questions and the rich resources available, I had to envisage how — given our program parameters — I could design accessible, practical and successful activities for learners and educators.
I gathered (and continue to gather) sources and materials and designed this lesson.
As a constructivist, I begin lessons by asking students what they think, what they know, what they want to know and why. Students write their answers to: What is a community? What community or communities do you belong to? What do you want to learn about communities? Then, they share their answers with a partner or their group. As a large group, we create a mind map of their responses.
In my research, I found, "What Communities Are You Part Of?", a Huffington Post UK blog post by Brad Frankel, in which Frankel writes in casual prose about the many communities of which he is a member. "We are all part of many communities, ones that we probably don't even realize and pop up when we need them most, and I'm sure that we are also part of communities that actually do very little for us," he concludes. "So think about where you invest your time!"
I chose this as the reading to introduce the topic of community. The reading can be used to teach a number of skills: main point, details and examples, idioms and culture, not to mention how Frankel defines community and what he thinks of communities.
Ask students: Where do you want to invest your time? "Studying," my students — so consumed with high grades (and not necessarily learning) — may assert.
Analyzing that response is enough for a full-year seminar in itself, but it is possible to raise their consciousness and tap their critical-thinking skills by having them answer both where they want to invest their time and where they need to invest their time. Moreover, his post provides entrée into examining the history of and family of which community is a member.
Next, because South Korea, where I live and work, hosted the 2018 Olympics and Paralympics, I chose "Chloe Kim: America's teenage snowboard prodigy is ready for liftoff," because Kim is part of multiple communities. She is a Korean-American who speaks fluent Korean and has close relatives in South Korea. She is an Olympian, a snowboarder and a teenager. The article, in addition to addressing communities, is chock-full of examples to teach context and inference.
In my research, I found "South Korean Community Proud of its Heritage," whose obvious title makes it easy for students to find the main idea. Using vivid examples, the article examines the experiences of the first South Korean immigrants to Vancouver, B.C., how the immigrants created community and how the community has transformed over the decades.
The article focuses on how one immigrant, John Jihan Kim, was instrumental in establishing the community by opening the first Korean grocery and restaurant. "He saw a need," notes his son, Steve, "the community was growing." In addition to learning about forming and developing a community and seeing that community is (or can be) rooted in need, food, language and activities, students can quickly identify details, which will help them when they need to write their own.
Another useful resource I use is "Living in the Neighborhoods of a Cosmopolis: A New Community Culture in Seoul." The article examines how thousands of Seoul's residents living in thousands of neighborhoods "have come to take firm leadership over their lives, networking with one another and finding ways to improve the quality of life in their communities." Seoul supports the National Community Program (NCP) for many reasons, but most importantly because it "[contributes] to the greater public good."
In this article, students see their own city — or at least the city in which they attend university — as a preeminent example of what communities are and how and why they are established. Further, students may live in one of the neighborhoods, or they may know people who do, so they can draw upon their experiences when constructing and revising their knowledge of communities. The article is also excellent for examining vocabulary, context and inference, word families and examples and details.
As a final reading activity, I draw on the Korean Air webpage, "Responsibility to Our Community." It explains what the company does for the community it serves, explains why it philanthropically provides for its community and demonstrates that the company community is broad — not limited to Koreans. Having students analyze the information provides them an expansive view and definition of community.
Even though these activities are for a reading and writing course in which listening is not explicitly taught, I do include a couple of short listening exercises because they provide fuel for thought and discussion, and teachers can use them either to introduce community or to have students reflect upon what they have learned.
The first is deceptively simple but profound. In a 1:32 YouTube video with closed captioning available, a number of children explain community. The next is an audio-only recording of students at an American university answering, "What does community mean to you?" The recording is 2:25 and includes an English transcript.
If your class plan has time, have your students interview each other both before and after their examination of community and have students compare their responses and what they've learned.
Because I live and work in Seoul, I made a conscious effort to find materials to which my students could and would connect — authentic, timely and not abstract materials — but these materials are adaptable for any audience. Depending on the constraints and purposes of your program, you may want to expand the lesson plan on community.
If so, here are additional resources:
For "Khmerican" Adoptees and Their Families, Camp Reunion to Keep Bonds Strong: Examines various aspects of community: family community, adoption community, Khmer community, American community, Khmerican community and what creates community/ies.
Senior Living in Stylish Communities: Active Adult Retirement Communities: Explains the American concept of retirement communities and examines how and why some Americans are choosing to live in retirement communities. This article pairs well with "Social Isolation: A Modern Plague" and "Living in the Neighborhoods of a Cosmopolis: A New Community Culture in Seoul."
How One Pair of Socks Led to a Movement That Helped 350,000 Homeless People: When a college student took the time to listen to a homeless man, she's started a revolution that even celebrities have supported.
Social Isolation: A Modern Plague: Examines increasing American disconnectedness and the serious problems it causes. This article pairs well with"Living in the Neighborhoods of a Cosmopolis: A New Community Culture in Seoul" and "Senior Living in Stylish Communities: Active Adult Retirement Communities."
For short-track speedskater Thomas Hong, the fastest route is through the details: Explains how Thomas Hong adjusted to his new American community, how he straddles both American and Korean communities, and how he became part of the speedskating and Olympic communities. This article pairs well with "Chloe Kim: America's teenage snowboard prodigy is ready for liftoff," and "South Korean Community Proud of its Heritage."
People in the Community Lesson Plan: For elementary school students and early English learners, this can be adapted to teach community to Ss at any level.
What is community? Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit, has free online resources re: community. Free registration. Native English level/advanced level and not designed for EFL/ESL so materials will need to be adapted.
The Caring Classroom: Promoting Community-Centered Learning On Campus: A look at how and why educators should create and nurture a community-centered classroom and how a community-centered classroom operates.
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