Gaining Cultural Insight
This opening of the school year assignment, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? is a novel way to invite students to write a narrative essay based on two different books or literary works. It also can be adapted for history, science or math classes. Rather than focus on fictional characters, students could choose as dinner guest(s) a current politician or historical personal for social studies, a scientist or mathematician for those classes, and even a current and historical artist or musician for those classes.
The conversations during the meal could include dialogue among the dinner guests about concepts being taught in your class. Asking students to write about what they recall from earlier courses could make for an insightful, no stress formative assessment. In some cases, it may be appropriate to ask students to use the “jargon” of your course in their writing. Post, print, or project words they are expected to know and/or learn.
This should be an ungraded assignment for which students receive full credit for complete, on-time, in-time presentations.
I first used it with seventh graders as a way to learn more about them at the beginning of the school year when they were asked to write about two books from their summer reading list. This also can be adapted to be an oral presentation.
I’m confident you’ll be able for figure out additional ways to discover which students read and write about books and who can accurately imitate and punctuate realistic dialogue. Give it a try with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
With careful oversight to avoid revealing family names, this assignment could be an interesting one to share in safe online environments with students in other schools, states or countries. It would be a good way to share specifics about cultural practices and cuisines.