The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages serve as a compass for student learning in my class. Prior to assessing student learning, I create learning goals based on the 5 Cs: communication, culture, connections, comparisons, and communities. For this assignment students explored empathy and the importance of identity through poetry, a podcast, and a documentary. Students utilized Flipgrid videos and Canvas Discussion Board to reflect on their learning.
Often with lower-level courses, culture is not taught in the target language due to limited vocabulary. This is not to say that target language vocabulary cannot be taught through these experiences, however, vocabulary acquisition is not the center stage when I teach cultural complexities and connections. This may seem counterintuitive to language learning. After all the goal is language acquisition. And yet, while some students become life-long language learners, many students will not pursue languages beyond high school. So, I ask myself what is the most common thread between students that pursue learning a foreign language versus those that do not? The answer I believe is that the heart of World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages is for students to embody cultural understandings about diverse and complex communities through the art of empathy.
Below, students explored the importance of empathy, diversity, and inclusivity through Maya Angelou’s poem titled “Human Connection” and an RSA Shorts film on empathy by Brené Brown. Students were asked to use Flipgrid to verbally reflect on diverse perspectives and the concept of cultural empathy with two learning prompts:
- What is Maya Angelou trying to express through her poem, and
- What did Brené Brown’s video teach you about empathy and why do you think empathy is important when learning about other cultures?
Students then listened to an NPR podcast titled “Hispanic or Latino?” and provided video responses using a compass activity that asked:
- Share something NEW you learned about Hispanic, Latino or Latinx,
- Share something that SHIFTED your thoughts about being Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx
- Share something that you felt EMPATHY for and why, and
- Share a WOW moment you had about the impacts of using “umbrella terms” (In other words, what did you learn about it?)
I provided students with feedback via the Flipgrid platform. The feedback provided specific ways to enhance reflections for future activities. This was an important component of this lesson as I knew students would need to dig deep for the final learning activity. The final learning activity had students view a BeyondTV interview with producer Harry Lowell on his documentary “We La Gente.” I utilized a discussion board paired with reflection questions for students to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the perspectives studied and their own. The reflection questions were:
- What are some misconceptions about color that people may have of Latinos and Hispanics?
- How did the documentary represent diversity?
- What misconceptions did you have about Hispanics and Latinos prior to these learning activities and how have your views changed and/or been reinforced?
Prior to utilizing the discussion board, students investigated how to appropriately post and respond to others. I also provided a rubric that embedded World-Readiness Standards to guide student reflections and community discussions.
I was truly moved by the depth of reflection that students showed throughout this multi-day lesson. What I love most about the use of video for reflections is the raw authenticity elicited from students. The videos were private and only viewed by me which I believe allowed students to be more open and heart-felt with their reflections. (I later contacted students individually to request using their videos for presentations.) The video experience also created a reflective foundation for students to build upon in the discussion board. Brené Brown says that “empathy fuels connection, while sympathy drives disconnection.” If educators take the time to teach empathy alongside culture, then students will feel connected with diverse experiences instead of separate from those experiences.