Lesson 3: Culture as an Iceberg

Lesson Information

About this Lesson:

This lesson provides students with a foundation for understanding and analyzing culture as well as a useful tool to do so, which will reappear throughout the curriculum. This tool, the Culture as Iceberg metaphor, will help students recognize their own cultural lenses and, as a result, understand Arab culture more authentically.

The central focus in this lesson is on the relationship between culture in the abstract–the underlying values and assumptions of a society–and culture in the flesh–the specific behaviors that derive from those values. It is important to understand that what people do and say in a particular culture, whether it be in America or the Arab world, are not arbitrary and spontaneous, but are consistent with what people in that culture value and believe in.

The model of culture as an iceberg, introduced in this lesson, helps students visualize the relationship between observable customs and invisible values and assumptions by identifying them and placing them on an image of an iceberg.

Time

50 minutes

In this lesson, students will:

  • learn the culture as iceberg model.


Enduring Understandings

  • Culture is a shared way of life among a group of people with common beliefs, values and customs that shape their worldview.

Curriculum Framing Questions

  • How does culture influence our thoughts and actions?

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify the visible and invisible features of cultures.

Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning:

  • Properly place “features of culture” on an iceberg.
  • Participate in discussion and debriefing about the iceberg model.
  • Create an iceberg model about American culture.
  • Write short essay.


Curriculum Standards Information

Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Standard 2.1: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the culture studied.
Standard 2.2: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and perspectives of the culture studied
Standard 4.2: Students demonstrate understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.

Implementation

Materials Needed in Class:

Iceberg handout
Features of Culture Handout
Building Bridges: A Teachers Guide to Cross Cultural Understanding

Implementation Overview:

Click here to download PDF version

1.

Ask students to define culture. Give them five minutes to write down their definition.

2.

Have students share their definitions and try to come up with a class definition of culture. Guide them to the following: Culture is a shared way of life among a group of people with common beliefs, values and customs that shape their worldview. Explain to students that culture is both the values and ideas of a society as well as the customs and actions.

3.

Draw a large iceberg floating in the sea on the board or project the image of an iceberg provided here. Ask students: What do you know about icebergs? Emphasize the fact that most of the iceberg is hidden from view.

4.

Distribute the Features of Culture Handout and ask students to look it over. Explain that this list presents some of the features all cultures have in common.

5.

Ask students to identify those features from the list that they can see in the behavior of people and those that are invisible. As students share their ideas, record them above or below the waterline on your iceberg drawing.

6.

Point out that there is a relationship between those items that appear above the waterline and those that appear below it. In most cases, the invisible aspects of culture influence or cause the visible ones. Religious beliefs, for example, are “seen” in certain holiday customs, and notions of modesty influence styles of dress. Ask students to find other examples of this from the iceberg representation of culture.

7.

Use the following questions to help students understand how the Features of Culture can be used to enhance their understanding of other cultures.

  • Does it make sense to compare culture to an iceberg? Can you think of other things to which the visible and invisible features of culture can be compared?
  • How can a list such as “Features of Culture” help you understand differences among people? (Possible answer: Differences may seem less strange or unusual when we understand them as variations on fundamental characteristics that all cultures have in common.)

8.

Ask students to brainstorm what could happen if the visible features of one culture were interpreted through the lens of the invisible features of another. What are the limitations of our observations? How must we proceed so as not to misinterpret our observations? What steps can we take to begin understanding and growing our awareness of the invisible aspects of Arab culture?


This lesson was adapted from Peace Corps World Wise Schools Lesson, The Iceberg.

Homework:

Using the iceberg model that you learned in class, place information about your own culture on the iceberg below. You should have at least three visible and three invisible features. Write a one page essay explaining the relationship between the visible and invisible features

Supplementary Materials:

Additional lessons on cross-cultural understanding: