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To explore the reality of migration and encourage all students to be welcoming.

by James Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore the reality of migration and encourage all students to be welcoming.

Preparation and materials

  • You could download a map of the world, and mark the countries where your students have family roots.
  • You could also log where your students have moved within your own country/town.
  • Prepare the introductory sketch.


  1. Introduction

    Two students have a short improvised conversation, but one student nods for ‘yes’ while the other one for ‘no’.

    Ask the students if it was hard to ignore the body language and just concentrate on the spoken word.
  2. The world is more interconnected than ever before. It is now normal for people to go and live in another country from their own, to learn a new language and adapt to a new culture.

    There may be international students in your school or your class. There will almost certainly be new people in your neighbourhood.

    People with different backgrounds have many things to offer which others do not – interesting stories and opinions, for instance; often, different beliefs; and the opportunity to learn more about the world around us.
  3. Moving to another town, city or village in the same country can be very hard. For those who move from one country to another, everything is harder still. They have to learn a new language and fit in to a different culture.

    Moreover, not every culture has the same symbols. In Bulgaria, nodding one’s head means ‘no’ and shaking it means ‘yes’.

    Meetings between Japanese and American executives stereotypically begin with the American performing a long, Japanese bow, to the surprise of the Japanese executive, whose arm is extended for a firm American handshake.

    Hence, moving to a new country takes a sense of humour, an ability to laugh at one’s mistakes and to see one’s customs as they really are: one part of one of many cultures and systems in the world.

    But even with the best sense of humour and the most open mind, new migrants and refugees will still struggle to cope at times, especially if their new home feels alienating and threatening. And new places are often, quite frankly, terrifying.
  4. This is where the host steps in. Non-verbal communication becomes extremely important. Although each nation has its own customs and ways, a few things cross all borders. In the early days, a single smile, inviting gesture or interested expression can turn a bad day good. In all cultures, acting in a welcoming and open manner is seen as an act of friendship, and no culture believes in rejecting such a gesture.

    Looking up some basic customs so that you can pre-empt difficulty is a thoughtful action that will help the incomer feel both welcome and accepted.

    Any small act of kindness or recognition can have a profound effect. It can make the newcomer feel more welcome. In addition, such acts will reward the giving person several times over.

    Act as you would want others to act to you, no matter where they are from.

Time for reflection

(Light a candle, and leave a short pause.)

Imagine that you have just arrived in this country from somewhere completely different.

Different weather.

Different language.

Different food.

Different facial characteristics.

Different manners.

How alone would you feel?

Now think about anyone you know who has recently arrived in school, even if the move has only been across town from another school!

How could you make the newcomer feel welcome?


Feature some music from students who have overseas links. You could ask students to play music live.

Publication date: October 2012   (Vol.14 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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