The Circle of Power and Respect: A Weeklong Thematic Focus on Heritage

For Middle Level

The heritage share has given my students with European ancestry new respect for our Hmong students from Laos.... It helped my community to build tolerance and acceptance.
-Matthew Christen

Matthew Christen, a teacher at Logan Middle School, La Crosse, Wisconsin, created a thematic focus for a week of advisory/homeroom meetings using the Circle of Power and Respect (CPR) format. A thematic CPR can lead to rich and rigorous academic extensions and social growth beyond the morning meeting time.

Purposes: To notice connections across (and differences between) cultures; to acknowledge the diversity in the school community.

How it works: Each day during the week, have two, three, or four students share something about their cultural heritage. You can add greetings, games, and Daily News messages that relate to the heritage shares to complete the CPR meeting

Getting started

  1. Before the designated week of Heritage CPRs, use the interactive part of your Daily News message to gather information from students about languages spoken by their ancestors. Ask them to research how to say "good morning" in their ancestors' language(s). See or similar websites for standard greetings in hundreds of languages.
  2. Volunteers sign up to share on one of the designated Heritage CPR days. The teacher may wish to go first to model the process for students.
  3. Match the daily greeting language options during "Heritage CPR Week" to students scheduled to share each day.
    Example: On Monday, you might have students greet each other in Mandarin ("Ni zao") or Shambaa ("Onga mahundo"), because the students sharing that day have ancestors
    from China and Tanzania who spoke these languages.
  4. Invite students to research and prepare to teach activities played by their ancestors (if they are unable to do this, other activity options are listed below).

Formal "Good morning" greeting each day, using languages of the ancestors of the students sharing

A student shares information or a story about her ancestry highlighting a custom or tradition related to it. Sharers may bring an artifact or picture related to the custom or tradition.

Example: "Here is a picture of my grandpa Raymond; he's Scotch-Irish. The week before Christmas he takes us out to cut down a tree on his farm. I am ready for questions and comments."

Students who have prepared to teach a game related to their heritage may do so. Encourage them to

  • Clarify the steps of the game and model how to play
  • Discuss the rules with the group
  • Monitor the game as it's being played
  • Lead a group reflection discussion that centers on what went well and what could be done better the next time.

Other games

  • I Never, customs or holidays not observed
    Examples: I have never celebrated the Asian New Year; I have never observed Yom Kippur; I have never received an Easter basket; I have never been to a wedding; I have never been to a cemetery.

  • Me Too, using customs or holiday traditions
    Examples: My family has dinner every Sunday with my grandparents; we go to a relative's house for Thanksgiving every year. Everyone who has also done so responds by saying, "Me, too!"

  • Cold Wind Blows, using family customs or traditions
    Examples: A cold wind blows for anybody who has received a Valentine's Day card; a cold wind blows for everyone who has been inside a place of worship other than his/her own; a cold wind blows for anyone who has a relative who has studied his/her family tree

See for complete games descriptions.

Daily News
Interactive chart ideas (some can be used for journaling or as a partner share or prompt for a personal essay):

  1. What's your favorite custom or holiday from your cultural traditions?
  2. What do you know and/or believe about how that custom came to be?
  3. What's something you respect or admire about a custom or tradition from a culture other than your own?
  4. Did people in your family immigrate to this country? If so, how many generations ago did they come to the United States?
  5. In writing, describe something you learned about someone else's culture while listening to your classmates as they shared yesterday.
  6. Why do you think people of different cultures sometimes do not get along? What price do they pay for rejecting each other's customs?

Plan for Success: On Monday, before the start of CPR, remodel appropriate listening skills and remind students how to ask interesting, open-ended questions. If a student brings in an object (photo, memento, etc.) to accompany a share, set the parameters for touching/examining the object before the share begins.

Christopher Hagedorn is a Developmental Designs consultant and staff writer for Origins. Scott Tyink is a Developmental Designs consultant for Origins

This article first appeared in Developmental Designs: A Middle School Newsletter, Winter 2008