This fall, turn "What did you do over summer break?" into a culturally immersive icebreaker activity!
“What did you do on your summer break?”
We’ll hear and ask this question left and right on the first day back to school. Have you considered how you can turn this into a culturally relevant icebreaker activity?
Begin by reminding your students that seasons are at different times of the year based on distance from the equator. So, school schedules and summer breaks vary. In the northern hemisphere, summer break is typically from June to August or September. Meanwhile, in places like Costa Rica, Australia, and Argentina, summer vacations are between December and February!
The length of the break varies too, with Italy having the longest summer break of all at thirteen weeks and South Korea having the shortest with only four. Have students discuss the pros and cons of having a longer or shorter summer break. Get them thinking outside of their own experiences!
In the United States, most of us grew up looking forward to summer vacations, no matter what we did or didn’t do. When you ask students what they did this summer, typical answers might include sleeping in, hanging out with friends and family, playing lots of video games, and watching a lot of television. These days, add binge-watching Netflix and consuming hours of TikTok videos to the list. Teenagers may also have worked summer jobs mowing lawns, babysitting, or working at a local grocery store or restaurant.
Have your students discuss similarities and differences between their summer activities and the summer activities of students in different parts of the world. It will expand your students’ understanding of other cultures!
One classic summer activity that students of all ages may participate in is summer camp. In fact, the United States has over 12,000 summer camps in operation! Some are associated with churches or other community organizations. Hiking, fishing and rafting are common outdoor activities, while other camps may be geared toward science or arts and crafts.
Many other countries also offer summer camps as a way for students to stay active and be outside. Have your students explore what summer camps are like around the world. They could also visit a website in the target language, such as in Spanish or French. Students can then compare and contrast the types of camps and activities available.
Approach this topic with sensitivity and the understanding that not all students have the same experience over the summer break. Don’t make it just about “what did you do?” Extending the activity to look at what other young people are doing in different parts of the world allows students to broaden their perspectives and feel validated if they are different from their peers.
Janet's teaching experience is in Spanish, having taught all levels, both AP Language and AP Literature, dual credit courses, and native Spanish speaker courses. After seven years of teaching high school Spanish, she joined the Carnegie Learning team, but she still serves as an adjunct Spanish professor at Lone Star College in Houston, as well as an AP Reader for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam. Her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish is from Geneva College, and she learned my Master’s degree in Spanish focusing on Hispanic Linguistics from the University of Pittsburgh. She enjoys traveling and experiencing new places (when there isn’t a pandemic). She also loves presenting at local, regional, and national world language conferences on a variety of topics from differentiated instruction to cultural biases and how they impact the classroom.Explore more related to this author