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Elaine Johnson suggests topics for Black History Month

October is Black History Month in Britain and an extensive programme of events is taking place in London and Birmingham to celebrate creativity and achievement in Britain by black people across the centuries. It is also an excellent opportunity for all languages teachers to develop activities which reflect the rich diversity of our pupils and acknowledge the contributions of people of colour who are French or Spanish speakers.

The national curriculum states that cultural development can be achieved "through providing pupils with insights into cultural differences and opportunities to relate these to their own experience and to consider different cultural and linguistic traditions, attitudes and behaviours". Materials which reflect cultural diversity can motivate reluctant learners, and contribute to equality of opportunity.

Up to key stage 3 I always introduce the topic "Le Francais Dans Le Monde" in Year 7 to establish the fact that French is spoken by people of different races and cultures in continents other than Europe.

Independent research:

* Pupils use the library and the internet to find out how many countries speak French. (Does anyone have an advance on 44?) The countries are shaded in on world-map stencils.

* Large world maps with colour-coded ribbons or flags can be used for display work. Maps in the target language are good for learning the names and gender of countries.

* Pupils find out about contemporary black French and Francophone sports personalities or musicians (examples are Thiery Henry, Patrick Vieira, Zinadine Zidane, Wycliff Jean) and make identity cards for them.

Group work:

* Groups choose a country and research its languages, currency, food, climate, music, dress, religion, sports * Groups could find out about prominent black Spanish-speaking people from Central and Latin America.

Whole-class activities:

* Games and quizzes can be used for Year 7 and 8. Pupils throw an inflatable globe round the class and the catcher locates a French-speaking country on the map within 60 seconds.

* Visit exhibitions which celebrate the history of women of African origin, who include women from French, Portuguese and Spanish speaking countries in West Africa and Latin America.

* Exchange materials photographs, postcards, e-mails and so on via the internet or by post with link schools in target language countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Key stage 4 to A-level Independent research:

* Search the internet (Yahoo France) to find out about current affairs, history, geography, music, art and cinema in black communities in France and French-speaking countries.

* Record or video interviews with native speakers. (The foreign language assistant may have roots in a Francophone country.)

* Read black French magazines such as Jeune Afrique and Amina * Complete mini-projects on a Francophone country.

It is important to emphasise to pupils that many people of colour also speak their own languages (for example, Arabic BerberCreole) in addition to European languages. Pupils can research historical and colonial reasons for this.

Black History Month is not only relevant to multicultural schools. What better curriculum subject is there than languages for promoting social development skills such as tolerance and empathy?

Sources of information

Embassies and cultural centres

Galleries and museums

Local libraries

Language course books and videos

www.blackpresence.co.uk

www.channel4.comblackhistorymapevents.htm

www.blackorama.comsaint-luciafrenchc..culture.ht www.be-black.com

Newspapers such as The Voice and New Nation

Television and radio

Pupils'friends and families.

Elaine Johnson is a former head of modern languages and teaches French part time. E-mail: johnsonela@hotmail.com

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