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Let's Go Some Place Together

May 05, 2012
Gale Sookdeo


Let’s Go Some “Place” Together

By Dr. Gale Sookdeo, NBCT

More than 25 members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) attended the workshop on Tuesday April 24th, 2012, at 52 Broadway in New York City. They were all members of the UFT ESL Committee. Using The Adventure in Your Community as last year’s National Geographic theme (2011), Geography Awareness Coordinator and NYGA Board of Directors member, Dr. Gale Sookdeo, presented Let’s Go Some “Place” Together. Not only did participants learn how to use this theme to capitalize on the diversity of their students’ cultural capital (prior knowledge and experiences), but Dr. Sookdeo described how she used the demographic data of her students to inform and to guide the instruction of writing. Attendees were impressed with samples of student work on display that demonstrated how this theme was translated into practice in her classroom.

Photo on the left: Dr. Gale Sookdeo; Photo on the Right: UFT members at the Let's Go Some "Place" Together Workshop (photographs compliments of Josie Levine).

She shared strategies and activities for engaging students in writing about the places in their communities and differentiating the writing instruction for all three levels: beginners, intermediate, and advanced learners .Using pictures or photographs, students were encouraged to describe evidence of different cultures in their communities around them. Their writing samples revealed they were proud to write about this aspect of cultural geography— different foods, music, festivals, religious observances, events, and places that hold their community together and create its identity. Listed below are the questions that scaffolded their thinking and guided the students’ responses:

1a) Who or what is in your community?

1b) What evidence is there of different cultures in your community?

2a) Select pictures of places/events/symbols/groups that hold your community together and create its identity.

2b) Explain why the places/events/symbols/groups are important to you.

Participants left with lesson plans, maps, posters, resources, and an unanimous request—indicated on their evaluation forms—for Dr. Sookdeo’s return and support with both geography and differentiation.

Example of student work, showing the cultural diversity of their community. (Josie Levine)