Go Global 

Increase the Peace

A Global Social Studies curriculum 

Table of Contents

Step 1 - Find an International Classroom Partner
Step 2 - Exchange Student Information with International Teacher
Step 3 - Introduce Project to Your Students
Step 4 - Introductory E-mails
Step 5 - The Class Video (optional)
Step 6 - Student Research
Step 7 - The 2nd E-mail
Step 8 - Reasons and Evidence
Step 9 - Building the “TED Talk”
Step 10 - Student TED Talks
Step 11 - The Class Videoconference (optional)
Step 12 - Reflection

Your first time using this curriculum, if possible consider using it with only one class section (such as an elective, or an Honors class).  Because you cannot completely control this curriculum (since you are working with an international partner, likely in a different time zone), it can sometimes make coordinating multiple classes difficult!

Reach out to your local World Affairs Council chapter.  Invite their members to serve as judges of your students’ presentations.  WAC chapters are usually very excited to collaborate with their local high schools.

Step 1 - Find an International Classroom Partner
Find international classroom partners at least two months ahead of time.  Think about if certain countries will better fit your learning goals, and reach out to more potential partners than you actually need (some will never get back to you, and it’s ok if they all say yes since many of your students will actually volunteer to have more than one pen pal).  Explain to potential partners that your students are researching “What can we learn from other countries?”  

Africa has been historically tough to partner with, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!  In the spirit of GGIP, consider partnering with countries with whom America has not had the best relationship.  The goal of GGIP is to use citizen diplomacy to build better international relationships (and help prevent WWIII).

Or as Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie put it: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Be sure to mention the size of your class when looking for partners, so you can find a partner class that’s a similar (if not exactly the same) size.  Also include the ages of your students, so you can be sure to match them with pen pals of the same age.  If you can’t find a class that’s exactly the same size, partner with a class that’s bigger than yours instead of smaller.  You will be able to easily find students of yours who are willing to take on a 2nd pen pal! 

 Once you confirm a partner at a pen pal site (and double-confirm they are an actual classroom teacher!) - it can be easier to exchange e-mail addresses and communicate through regular e-mail - in case you forget to check the pen pal website.  If you do use a pen pal site’s messaging system, you may be able to adjust their settings to send notifications of new messages to your e-mail.  Confirm that the international teacher wants their students to practice English (which is often the case).  Then you can explain to your own students why they should not to put their e-mails through Google Translate!

Step 2 - Exchange Student Information with International Teacher
Establish goals and timelines with your partner teacher.  It will never go exactly as you plan (remember, you don’t have total control over this project since it’s a partnership!), but having a basic outline will help keep you both on the same page.  

Decide how you want to conduct the student e-mail exchange.  Will students e-mail each other directly?  Will they put all their e-mails on a Google Doc, which you will then send abroad to your partner teacher?  Will they CC their pen pal’s teacher on the e-mail so your partner can be sure their students received all the e-mails?  

Exchange student names, genders & e-mails and decide which of you will create the student pairings (typically boys go with boys, and girls go with girls, but inevitably the numbers won’t match perfectly for same-sex only pairings).  Decide which class will write the first e-mail, and by what date.  It can be easier for you to volunteer to write the first e-mail, as it will put things more under your control (and less on waiting for the partner class).

Step 3 - Introduce Project to Your Students
Introduce the learning goals and explain the rationale of the project (see Appendix A).  Answer all of your students’ questions about the project.  Send a letter home explaining the project to parents/guardians (see Appendix B).  Share a document with your students that has all of the pen pal pairings.  This document should have names, genders, and e-mail addresses.

Step 4 - Introductory E-mails
There should be at least one short activity to introduce your pen pals’ country to your students.  Britannica School (school.eb.com) is a great reliable source you might use.  Students need to start learning the basics of their pen pal’s country before they e-mail them, as it will help them create better questions to include in their e-mails.  You could give a brief lecture on the country, or have the students do online research themselves.  Make sure your students understand where the country is on a map.

After your students have a basic understanding of their pen pal’s country, they are ready to compose their first e-mail.  Below are suggestions for what your students might include:

1st E-mail to Your Pen Pal
-Remember, English may not be their first language - so keep your sentences simple.  And don’t use slang!  Use correct capitalization.
-Introduce yourself by stating your name, age, gender, hometown, state & country
-Include your grade, school, and favorite subject
-Mention hobbies, interests, and activities
-Perhaps your favorite TV shows, movies, music and food
-You may also include information about your family
-Ask questions!  But don’t ask any you can easily look up the answer to online!  That’s a wasted question!
-Offer to answer any more questions they may have about the USA
-Tell them you look forward to their reply

Decide how you will hold students accountable for sending an e-mail.  Collected?  Graded?  CC’ed to you?  CC’ed to partner teacher?  Placed on a Google Doc sent by you?  Showed to you on their screens right before/after sending it?

After the e-mails have been sent, follow up with your partner teacher(s) to be sure all of their students received an e-mail.  It’s important that no student is left out, or your partner class may lose motivation to continue the collaboration.

Consider taking a class photo to send to your partner class.  Leave room in the photo to photoshop students’ first names on to the image, so your pen pals can match names with faces (You should be able to easily find a student volunteer to do this for you).

In subsequent classes for the rest of the project - you might start class by having students check their e-mail, and asking who has heard back from their pen pal.  Ask for volunteers to read them aloud to the class.  Many students enjoy sharing these e-mail, and other students enjoy hearing them.  Students may also enjoy hearing you read e-mails sent to you by the partner teacher.

Step 5 - The Class Video (optional)
This is an optional component of this project (Appendix C).  Your students can create a video collaboratively to teach their pen pals about your students school/town/state/national culture.  Have a class brainstorm about what is important to know about our culture, then have students choose which parts they will be in charge of creating.  Each student can be in charge of a 20-30 second clip.  

Ask your class who wants to be in charge of editing the video clips together into the final product.  In exchange you can excuse the student editor from having to also create a section for the video.  Establish a clear procedure for students to get their short video clips to the student editor (ask your student editor how they prefer to receive the clips).

Once the student editor finishes the 5-10 minute video, it can be uploaded to Youtube (private or unlisted), and shared with your partner teacher.

Step 6 - Student Research
The goal of GGIP is to answer the question:  “What can we learn from other countries?”  Luckily there is a great website for answering just that!


This website provides good, objective, data-based evidence of things that other countries statistically do better than the USA (the data used on this site is taken from the CIA World Factbook).  It essentially compares the standards of living between the USA and every other country.  

Click on the name of your pen pal’s country.  The green statistics indicate a data point where the other country outperforms the USA.  The red statistics indicate a data point that the other country does do not as well as the USA.  A blue statistic indicates a data point that could either be better or worse than the USA, depending on additional factors.

The green categories are what we can learn from that country!

Take this opportunity to explain the concept of quantitative data to students.  Have your students study the green categories to see what interests them the most.  Ask them which green topic they most want to find out the WHY behind!  Then have them indicate their top choices, and this is how you can create 3 or 4-student  “TED Talk” presentation groups.  These groups will be created based on interest.  Is is now these students’ job to research the reasons why the pen pal’s country does their topic better than the USA.

Word of caution: sometimes it’s not as black and white as the “green vs. red” might indicate!  For example, the fact that Russians are 33% less likely to be in prison is highlighted in green (indicating something Russia does better than the USA).  After talking to their pen pals, students discovered that this statistic may well come from the fact that more criminals get away with more crimes in Russia - which is clearly not a good thing.  Another example: the fact that in India people use 95% less electricity per capita than Americans is is highlighted in green (indicating something India does better than the USA).  But after researching this fact, students discovered that this statistic was in large part due to the fact that so many Indians still do not even have electricity - which is clearly not a good thing.  The lesson here, sometimes even hard data can be misleading!

Students can now begin their online research.  They must find out the reasons why their pen pal’s country is better at this particular standard of living.  As they begin compiling the reasons (usually there are two or three reasons behind each green statistic), tell them they must also have data/evidence that proves each reason.  Have students use these two questions to guide their research:

1. WHY is your pen pal's country better at your topic?  What are the REASONS?  

    (Hint: there are usually multiple reasons that contribute to such big differences between societies)

2. What is the EVIDENCE behind those reasons?

    (Each reason mentioned above needs at least one piece of evidence that helps prove your pen pal's country does it better)

As they conduct research, they should also start a list of questions that they may want to ask their pen pal.  Their pen pal becomes their primary source as far as someone who is actually living out these statistics - a valuable research resource!  Take this opportunity to explain the concept of qualitative data to students.  Information they gain from their pen pal will be the qualitative data they will eventually use in their TED Talk presentation.

Reminder: ifitweremyhome.com explains WHAT the other country does better, but it does not explain the reasons WHY.  Students will have to conduct research on other websites for that!

Step 7 - The 2nd E-mail

The 2nd e-mail to pen pals should be about the topic students chose from ifitweremyhome.com.  Students’ research should have helped them develop questions about their topic that they can now pose to their pen pal.  These questions will help your students gain inside information (from someone who actually lives there) into the reasons why the other country does it better.

Students should explain in this e-mail why they are asking the pen pal potentially strange questions.  They should mention the statistic from ifitweremyhome.com that spurred their research.

Example:  “We learned that in (pen pal’s country) people live 2.1 years longer than they do in the USA, and I’m trying to find out why.  That’s why I’m asking you about your diet!:)”

Questions should focus on the personal experience of the pen pal.  These questions should not be hard for the pen pal to answer.  Your students should not be asking their pen pal to do the research for them!

Step 8 - Reasons and Evidence
After conducting research online, and getting their questions answered by their pen pal; your students will hopefully have a general understanding of the reasons why the other country performs better with regards to their chosen topic.  Have students in each group collaborate to provide thoughtful final answers to the following critical questions:

1. WHY is your pen pal's country better at your topic?  What are the REASONS?  
(Hint: there are usually multiple reasons that contribute to such big differences between societies)

2. What is the EVIDENCE behind those reasons?
(Each reason mentioned above needs at least one piece of evidence that helps prove your pen pal's country does it better)

Step 9 - Building the “TED Talk”
Students now know the two most important things necessary to give their GGIP “TED Talk”:

1. They know what we can learn from their pen pal’s country 
(aka - their group’s chosen statistic from ifitweremyhome.com)

2. They know the reasons why the other country does it better (from their online research and from talking to their pen pal), and they have evidence to support each reason.

Next step?  The group must collaboratively decide what exactly we should change in our country to be more like the other country.  Whatever the group decides, is basically what their TED Talk will be asking the audience to do!

Here is the 5-point rubric you can give your students to show how their TED Talks will be graded (Appendix D):
1. Answers the question “What can we learn from other countries?” by
clearly explaining what it is we can learn from another country.

2. Must explain the reasons WHY the other country does it better

3. Must explain what exactly we should change in our country to be more like the other country

4. Was the presentation ENGAGING?  (Did it grab your attention?  Was it interactive?  Did it include a story?  Was it clear the presentation was rehearsed?)

5. Was presentation time split evenly among group members? 

TED Talks are more than slideshows.  They are meant to be especially engaging, interactive, and entertaining.  Toward that end, use the “Top 10 Tips for Effective Public Speaking” (Appendix E) to show students how to make their presentation engaging, interactive, and entertaining!  It’s up to you to decide how many of the “Top 10 Tips” you require them to include, but #1, #4, #9 and #10 are especially effective!

Step 10 - Student TED Talks
If student TED Talks are actually going to be engaging, then students must first practice!  If possible, set aside a class solely for rehearsal presentations.  Use the rubric to tell each group what they did well, and what they need to do better on the actual presentation day.

The GGIP TED Talks can have even greater impact for students when members of the World Affairs Council attend as judges.  Students appreciate the fact that members of their community care enough about their learning to show up, and these members of the community are the ones who care the most about international issues.

You can give rubrics to each of the judges for the evaluation of the student TED Talks.  After each TED Talk judges should tell students what they did well, and what they can do even better the next time they present.

Step 11 - The Class Videoconference (optional, but recommended!)
This is another optional component of this project. It can difficult to arrange with the time differences, but a classroom videoconference with the pen pals is a very powerful learning experience for students.  

If you are able to arrange it, here are some tips that will make it go smoothly:
1 - Conduct a test videoconference session with your partner teacher before the date of the videoconference, to make sure everyone has the correct usernames.  You may suggest to your partner teacher that students could spend the videoconference taking turns asking questions.

2 - Have your students all decide beforehand on a question they will ask during the videoconference.  You may even want to approve each question before the date of the videoconference.

3 - Also decide on the order of students ahead of time.  Who will ask the first question?  2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc?

Step 12 - Reflection
At the conclusion of Go Global - Increase the Peace, students should reflect on what they learned.  Here are some questions you might pose to your students after all the TED Talk presentations have concluded:
1. What can we learn from other countries?
2.  What is the benefit of gaining another perspective on these important topics?
3. What was the most interesting thing you learned from your pen pal?
4. Are we more alike our pen pals?  Or are we more different?
5. What was your favorite part of this project?
6. How could this project be improved? (Aside from getting more e-mails from our pen pals - unfortunately I can't control that!)Type your paragraph here.