Top Teaching > Beth Newingham > Host an International Festival at Your School!

Comments: 10

Host an International Festival at Your School!

Main As I look at my students each year, I see such a variety of faces looking back at me.  This is because Troy, the city in which my school is located, is the second most ethnically diverse city in the state of Michigan.  I feel very proud to be a Troy teacher, and I believe that it is so important to celebrate the diversity that exists in my classroom and at my school.  Teaching my students to embrace their diversity helps create an atmosphere of respect and appreciation in my classroom.  One way that the other third grade teachers and I do this at our school is by hosting an International Festival each year.  During this time students research the countries of their ancestors and present their research at an International Festival to celebrate their different cultures through authentic costumes, patriotic music, and international cuisine.

READ ON to learn more about the research conducted by the students, the International Festival music performance, the exciting fashion show, and the International Taste-Fest.  A VIDEO also accompanies this post!  

Watch the International Festival Highlight Video



Conducting the Research

Before the research begins, students (with the help of their parents) determine the countries their ancestors lived in before coming to America.  They then choose one of those countries to study as we begin research/report units of study in reading and writing workshops for about a month.

Research books

The geography of the students’ countries, along with their countries’ popular cuisine, holidays, festivals, clothing, system of education, sports, and language are all studied as students use reference books and teacher-selected Web sites to gain information that is ultimately used to create a final report/book. Students spend lots of time in class using library books and Internet resources to collect information on the countries of their ancestors.

Research ann

They first take notes on index cards, each card representing a different topic of research (clothing, food, education, housing, holidays and festivals, popular sports, governments, etc.). They then write rough drafts before finally turning their research into a final report. The final research books are displayed for parents and all other guests at the International Festival to enjoy.

Research 1  Research cards




The International Festival Music Performance & Fashion Show

When we have concluded the research/report unit in our classroom, students take part in an evening performance where parents are able to watch the students sing songs and show off their costumes on our makeshift runway.


 On the night of the International Festival, we decorate the stage in our cafeteria with flags of the world and other decorations that celebrate the many cultures of the world including a huge Chinese dragon made with balloons, a light-up Eiffel tower constructed by a parent, and other things we can collect or make. We work with the music teacher in the school to sing songs that celebrate our diversity.


In between the singing, we call students’ names from each country and have them “strut their stuff” on a catwalk that we construct off the front of the stage. While students from each country are showing off their great costumes, we play music from their country. After they have their turn on the catwalk, students go to the microphone and share an interesting fact about their country before returning to their place on the risers.


Speaker Speaker1 

This festival does require some effort on the part of the parents.  Parents are asked to help their children put together a costume that reflects the country they are studying. (Of course there are always students whose parents are not able to help, so we teachers assist those students in finding a costume of some sort to wear.)  The costumes are worn during the night of the International Festival and for a morning performance we put on for the school.


Costumes1 Costumes2




International Taste-Fest

After the performance on the stage, students and their parents head to our gymnasium where they serve a food that represents the cuisine from their country.


Every country has favorite foods that are eaten by its citizens and some specific foods that are eaten only on special occasions. Students (with the help of their parents) are asked to make a favorite food from their country that will be served at the “taste-fest.” We provide parents with Web sites that have international recipes if they do not have any of their own. When deciding how much food to prepare, we remind parents that it is just a “taste-fest.” We ask that food be served in small sample portions for approximately 50–60 people.


Taste1 Taste4

All recipes are collected and are used to create an international cookbook. All families receive a copy of the cookbook so that they can make any of the delicious foods that they enjoyed at the taste-fest.

Cookbook1  Cookbook2

We also create passports for all visitors.  The passports list the names of the countries being represented at our festival. As students and parents try foods from the many different countries, they can check off those countries on their passports. This encourages students to try as many different types of food as they can.



Download Passport (Print Shop File)




Great Resource for Studying the Countries of the World

Here is a great resource available in the Scholastic Teacher Store that you can use to help your students research countries of the world and celebrate their diversity.  Click on the book to learn more about its contents.

International Children 

Search the Scholastic Teacher Store for more great books for conducting country research in your classroom.



How Do You Celebrate Diversity in Your School?

I'd love to hear some ideas about the ways you help your students celebrate diversity in your own classroom and at your school.  Please share your ideas in the comment section of this blog!


Do you want to know when I add new posts?  Subscribe to my blog! 


  • #1 Beth Newingham

    Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 07:01 AM


    I'm so glad your first International Festival went well! I'm glad you have been finding my resources to be helpful!


  • #2 Beth Newingham

    Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 06:59 AM


    There is no actual musical we use for this program. We just sing different songs that we feel capture to essence of the special evening. While we have changed our song selection over the years, some of our favorites are:
    Just One Candle by Teresa Jennings
    American Tears by Teresa Jennings
    Hello to All the Children of the World by Martin Kerr

    The songs are sung at different times between the introductions of the students from different countries on our fashion catwalk.


  • #3 Lillian

    Friday, May 28, 2010 at 07:41 PM

    Aloha Beth,
    I so appreciate your website and am trying a lot of your ideas and resources. We just completed a shorter version of your International Festival and both parents and children really enjoyed the program. Just wanted to say Mahalo (thanks) for your willingness to freely share all your wonderful resources.

  • #4 Virginia

    Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 06:34 PM

    Hi Beth,
    I am so happy to have a way to ask you questions. I love your website!I have wanted to do an International Day Festival/Program with my third grade team. My question is, do you have a recommendation on where we can get the musical? I cannot find one anywhere!
    Many thanks!

  • #5 Beth Newingham

    Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 01:01 PM


    While I do use my own money for many of the things I do in my classroom, I also count a great deal on parent donations and funds from our P.T.O. Our P.T.O. gives each teacher a nice amount of money to spend in our classrooms, and they are also generous when it comes to providing money for specific programs or special events (like the International Festival) that are done as a grade level activity. We are also lucky to have parents who are very willing to donate when it comes to food, decorations, etc.

    One thing that I am really trying to do now (especially in terms of my year-long theme) is to recycle. I keep all of the decorations and signs for each theme I have done in bins in my basement and plan to start recycling the themes next year by going back to the "Team" theme.

    Thanks for your questions!


  • #6 Olivia

    Monday, May 10, 2010 at 01:32 PM


    I have been a huge fan of your site for years, and now I read your articles often. My question for you is how do you pay for all of this? Not only the International Day,but your themed stuff in your classroom... Do you have parents donate it? An extra special PTA? I admire yoU!

  • #7 Beth Newingham

    Thursday, May 06, 2010 at 04:56 PM


    My way of getting the students' attention is as simple as saying, "If you can hear me raise your hand." We practice this a lot at the beginning of the school year. Students know when they hear me say that phrase that they must stop whatever they are doing and listen. I also try to never let the class get so loud that this phrase couldn't be heard. I will stop them just to remind them to work more quietly if necessary.

    This is certainly not an "amazing" suggestion, but it is what works for me:)


  • #8 Beth Newingham

    Tuesday, May 04, 2010 at 11:00 AM


    I'm sorry it has taken me a while to get back to you! In answer to your question about the passport, I posted a link to download the passport on the post below the picture of the girl holding a passport. You will need Printshop to open the file. It is printed as a half-sheet notecard. I printed mine on colored cardstock.

    I hope this helps!


  • #9 Rebecca

    Monday, May 03, 2010 at 05:20 PM

    Hi Beth,

    This doesn't have to do with the International Festival, but I couldn't figure out how else to contact you. I am finishing up student teaching (my last week!) and am feeling completely beat when it comes to classroom management. I enforce the strategy my co-op teacher uses (she has different colored stars, and each color star has a consequence i.e. warning, time out, etc) but I continue to feel inadequate at getting the kids attention. If you could email and let me know any thoughts or ideas I would so greatly appreciate it. Thank you always!!


  • #10 Megan

    Friday, April 23, 2010 at 05:28 PM

    My school is going to host a Multi-cultural night for the first time this year. Each class in the school is studying a different country and will have a display of what they've learned. I enjoyed reading this post and plan on sharing it with my colleagues. How do you make the passports?

Comments on our blogs are temporarily closed as we prepare to launch a completely redesigned site. Please check back.


The opinions expressed in Top Teaching are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic Inc.