If you’ve seen advertisements for my Global Humanities classes you might have wondered what “the humanities” really are. Maybe you looked it up on Google and thought the definition looked too overwhelming and highfalutin’ for 6th-9th graders. After all, “academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture” does sound a bit stuffy.
Simply put, what I mean by “Humanities” is basically a combination of the subjects we call History or Social Studies with the class Literature. I am a former English teacher and have found that the disciplines covered in school “English Language Arts” are really too broad and are better divided up into two parts: a content piece, literature, and a separate skill piece, writing and grammar.
Rather than teaching Language Arts and Literature together in a combined “English” class or “ELA” class, I like to study literature in the context of history or social studies. In the same way, I prefer to study writing and grammar in a separate environment from reading because I don’t want the anxiety that often comes from writing and grammar to infect reading. That may sound kind of harsh if your child loves writing, but if your child struggles with it, this practice will hopefully preserve their interest in reading.
One example, of many I could give, is pictured here–where my American Humanities class conducted a mock-trial during our study of the mid 19th century. We considered whether the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the characters, and the author were racist. This enabled us to study both the text The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and discuss the historical framework and ideas of racism. Our application of knowledge was a practical exercise rather than a written one. Additionally, the students got a bit of practice with considering the ideas of a courtroom. (I think my daughter may be considering law as a means of furthering her love of argumentation.)
In Global Humanities, offered 2019-2020, we will be studying 6 regions of the world: Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Oceana, and Central/ South American. We will be investigating a bit about their relevant geography, history, religion, and current events. At the same time, we will be reading literature that features those regions of the world. While we will certainly have written components to our class, the emphasis of instruction will focus on that learning the Humanities content rather than developing composition skills.