Guiding Principles for Best Practice: Three Introductory Lessons

Barbara B. Brown
Boston University’s African Studies Center

Pedagogy for best practice on Africa benefits from:

  1. African voices, because Africans are rarely “heard” and often viewed as “recipients” of aid and pity and not as creators of their own lives
  2. Visuals, because kids’ visual banks are so narrow. Kids need a range of new “deposits” into their visual imaginations of Africa
  3. Connections with the U.S., because kids tend to think of Africa as “far away” and unconnected to “our” lives
  4. “Ahas” and “Wow, I didn’t know that” responses from kids, because kids need to be shaken up, out of their comfortable notions, to pay attention and to be ready to take on new concepts about Africa

The three introductory lessons below can work toward some of the above:

  1. The poster-size map “How Big Is Africa?” Ask students two key questions:
    • What difference does size make? (the “so what” question). The answer will surely start with something along the lines of “If it’s that large, then it must be diverse.” From there, encourage students to brainstorm the manifold ways in which Africa is diverse (physical geography, foods, religions, countries with their diverse politics and economies and cultures, clothing, history, etc.)
    • (for older students): What has kept us from recognizing Africa’s huge size? (Here the answers are varied from map projections, to racism, to lack of knowledge about the different countries, to media representation, to its marginalized status internationally. 

      More lessons and activities for multiple grade levels are on the above website and accompany the poster map.

  2. Bunmi Fatoye-Matory’s 1-page article from the July 1, 1996 Christian Science Monitor and reprinted in Global Studies: Africa(7th ed, p. 213, published 1997), “I Am Not Just an African Woman.” In this article, Ms. Matory explores with feeling and humor what it was like to come to the U.S. and to lose her identity as a Nigerian, an educated person with a certain professional background, etc. Middle and high school students can read this article and do responsive writing.
  3. Bingo: the US-African Connection is a game created for middle school kids to introduce them to the varied connections which crop up in daily life: linguistic,

Further Resources:

“I Am Not Just an African Woman” by Bunmi Fatoye-Matory

For information about additional resources, please contact:

Barbara B. Brown, Outreach Director
Africa in the School and Community
Boston University
232 Bay State Road
Boston, MA 02215 (617) 353-7303 or 353-3673