Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
A cultural artifact is an object that derives from and illuminates the history of a particular community. Artifacts can be, and often are, personal items, so students can begin searching for them in their homes. For example, an object like a family photograph will show the dress and environment of one's ancestors. Students can use almost anything: Inherited knick-knacks, clothing, and toys all convey something about culture. By writing about and comparing these objects, students recognize how historical forces shape all of the objects they encounter.
Teachers can incorporate this strategy by asking students to bring in photos of their relatives. In particular, teachers should encourage students to choose pictures of people who have had interesting, eventful, or unusual lives, or people the students know a lot about.
Students can then use these photos to introduce their relatives to their classmates. Teachers should ask students to describe the circumstances that shaped their relatives' lives: Where did he or she live? What was life like? What was expected of this person? How did he or she respond to those expectations? (Teachers may want to divide the students into small groups or pairs for this exercise so that each student can have more time to describe his or her relative.) By speaking about a relative's life, and by comparing it to the life of a classmate's relative, students are better able to articulate what's unusual or interesting about their families.
Teachers can then ask students to list, in a free-form way, memories of their relatives. Students should be urged not to censor themselves in this exercise. They should brainstorm a list of all the smells, sounds, sights, tastes, feelings, and words that evoke their relatives. This will help students gather concrete terms with which to describe their relative's specific qualities.
Students should use these sensory terms to create a brief poem about their relative. Teachers can have them present their poems to the class so that each student can compare his family's special qualities with those of other students' families.
By bringing Cultural artifacts into the study of literature, teachers encourage students to understand how objects in their lives express specific sets of beliefs. When students compare these Cultural artifacts in the classroom -- where every student's history can be placed in a broader context – they learn to appreciate more fully the different heritages of their classmates. In addition, the exercise helps students understand that literature – just like photographs, music, clothing, and dance -- can provide a lot of information about a group's beliefs. In other words, students should understand that books are just one form of expression among a range of forms within a particular community or historical period.