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EDUTL 727O28 Somali History, Language, & Culture

This is a professional development course intended for in-service teachers. The focus is on developing new and deeper understandings of Somali history, language, and culture that are particularly relevant for and can be translated into practice by educators. Such understandings will help teachers enhance their relationships with Somali students and their families, gain insight into the challenges faced by Somali immigrant-refugees in classrooms and beyond, and explore strategies that will improve the educational experience of Somali students and their families. Dr. Leslie C. Moore is the course coordinator.

In this course students will:

  • Develop a framework for viewing Somali students and families as people whose participation in schooling and American society as a whole is shaped by Somali culture, sustained upheaval in Somalia, and experiences in the Diaspora.
  • Expand knowledge of Somali history, social organization, religious beliefs and practices, language and literacy practices, and experience in the Diaspora.
  • Explore a variety of strategies for working with Somali children and their families in classrooms and other educational settings.
  • Develop new skills as informed & critical consumers of sources (print, video, & web-based) that claim to provide sound information and/or advice for practitioners who want to know more about the Somali community.


Readings  The course textbook (required) is The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away, By Abdi Roble & Doug Rutledge, University of Minnesota Press, 2008. The instructor will supply via Carmen articles for in-class discussion and/or homework.

Technology  We will use Carmen in several ways in this course, so check it regularly. You will watch at home some videos streamed via Carmen. I will post assignments, readings, web sites, grades, & other information for the class.

Off-Campus Field Experiences – Monday through Thursday the course is held off-campus in the main classroom of the Somali Women’s and Children’s Alliance in the Global Mall, 2210 Morse Road. This provides an immersion experience for students in both the community organization’s offices and the “Somali mall” in which these offices are located. Friday the course will be held at the Hale Cultural Center, OSU.

Course Responsibilities & Evaluation –

  • Participation: You will read the course textbook before the course begins and bring the book to every class. Bring to class the readings assigned for that class meeting. As you read all course readings, write down a few questions, comments, & reflections for me and/or your classmates. Bring your notes to class to refer to during discussion.
  • Viewings: Videos will be shown in class. The instructor and guest speakers will make recommendations for viewings outside of class.
  • Website Evaluation: You will identify, critique, and present to your classmates a Somali Studies-relevant website sometime during the course. In preparation for this you will complete the OSU Libraries’ net.TUTOR tutorial ‘Evaluating Websites’.
  • Lesson Plan and Reflection Paper: The final assignment has 2 integrated parts. The first part is the modification or development of a lesson plan to (a) support Somali students’ learning of academic content and/or skills, or (b) support non-Somali students’ learning about Somali history, language, and/or culture. The second part is a short paper in which you reflect on what you’ve done in the lesson plan & why, making use of course concepts & materials. Due one week after Class 10.
  • Evaluation: Grading will be on an S/U basis. Instructor will use participation, attendance, and completion of class assignments to determine grade. Detailed instructions and rubrics for assignments will be shared at the first class. Because this class depends heavily on participation, more than 3 unexcused absences will result in a grade of U. Email instructor if you will be absent.


Schedule of Topics, Readings, Assignments

Before the course begins, you will read in its entirety The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away. Before each meeting, you will complete an Inquiry assignment in which you write your reflections on a given topic, guided by the instructor’s questions.

MEETING 1  Introduction to the course / Somali History

Speakers: Lidwien Kapteijns, Hawa Siad

Reading: Abdi, A. (1998). ‘Education in Somalia: History, Destruction, and Calls for Reconstruction’. Comparative Education 34(3) 327-340.

Film: ‘The Parching Winds of Somalia’ (1985, Charles Geshekter)

Inquiry:  What do you know about your students’ and their families’ experiences of the Civil War? / How do you think these experiences impact their schooling here? / How do you think your knowledge of Somali history and Somali refugees’ experiences of the Civil War shapes the way you work with Somalis?

MEETING 2  Somali students as English Language Learners / Somali art / Somali women’s voices / Somali students’ dual-life experience

Speakers: Abdinur Sh. Mohamed, Diriyos, Lidwien Kapteijns, Abdirazak Farah

Reading: de Oliviera & Athanases (2007). ‘Graduate Reports of Advocating for English Language Learners’. Journal of Teacher Education 58(3) 202-215. / Kapteijns & Boqor (2009). ‘Memories of a Mogadishu Childhood, 1940–1964: Maryan Muuse Boqor and the Women Who Inspired Her’. International Journal of African Historical Studies, 42(1) 105-116. / Excerpts from Saa Waxay Tiri: Maansadii Iyo Waahihii Xaawa Jibriil / And Then She Said: The Poetry & Times of Hawa Jibril (2008)

Inquiry: What do you know about your students’ families, social networks, and religious practice? / What bearing do you think family structure & social networks have on Somali’s educational experience in Ohio? / Do you think being Muslim influences Somali children’s participation in public schooling? If so, how?

Slideshows: Somali students as English Language Learners / Somali students’ dual-life experience

MEETING 3  Somali Documentary Project / Structure of Somali poetry

Speakers: Abdi Roble, Doug Rutledge, Tariq Tarey, Diriyos, John Johnson

Reading: Review The Somali Diaspora, Roble & Rutledge (2008) / Ali Jimale Ahmed (n.d.). The Somali Oral Tradition and the Role of Storytelling in Somalia. Minnesota Humanities Center. / Somali Folktale Project (n.d.). Lyndale Community School, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Inquiry:  What did you know about the Diaspora before this course, and how did you learn it? / What do you know now that you did not know before? / What more do you want to know about it? Why? / How do you think your new understandings of the Diaspora will shape the way you work with Somali students & families?

MEETING 4  Sociology of Somali poetry / Somali cinema / Somali language

Speakers: John Johnson, Abdisalam Aato, Adulkadir Abdi

Reading: Center for Applied Linguistics (2002). The Somali Language, Language and Literacy, chapters of Somalis: Their History & Culture. / Excerpts from Dr. Johnson’s forthcoming book, to be provided in class for reading after his lecture.

Film: Selected excerpts of Somaliwood films

Inquiry 1:  What do you know about Somali art forms, and how did you learn it? / What bearing do you think students’ knowledge of Somali art forms might have on their participation in school? / What role you think Somali art forms (could) have in the classroom and the school?

Inquiry 2: Bring in a list of patterns you have observed in the language use of your Somali students. If you have writing samples from any of your Somali students, bring one or two with you to class (names and any other identifiers removed). What do you know about the Somali language, and how did you learn it? / What role is there for Somali language in the classroom? / What do you know about your Somali students’ ESL instruction?

MEETING 5  Students with limited formal schooling / Somali Bantu / Engaging Somali parents / Update from Somalia

Speakers: Brenda Custodio, Abdi Issa, Abdikarim Omar, Hodan Khalif, Abdalla Kassim

Readings: Center for Applied Linguistics (2002). The Somali Bantu: Their History & Culture. / Bigelow, Martha (2008). Somali Adolescents’ Negotiation of Religious and Racial Bias in and out of School. Theory into Practice 47(1) 27-34. / Lindkvist, Heather (2008). The Reach and Limits of Cultural Accommodation: Public Schools and Somali Muslim Immigrants in Maine. Pp. 164-203 in Just Schools: Pursuing Equal Education in Societies of Difference.

Film: ‘The Letter: An American Town and the ‘Somali Invasion’’ (2003, Ziad H. Hamzeh)

Inquiry 1:  What did you know about Bantu before this course & how did you learn it? / What do you know now that you did not know before? / What more do you want to know about it and why? / Given your new understandings, would you treat Bantu students any differently?

Inquiry 2: Choose an incident of conflict/problem you have witnessed between students (Somali-Somali or Somali-other), between Somali student(s) and a teacher or administrator (possibly yourself), or between Somali parent(s) and a teacher or administrator.  Why do you think the conflict/problem arose? / (How) was it resolved? / What confused and/or frustrated you about the conflict/problem? / How might your response to the conflict/problem be different now than it was then? / How do you engage with students’ families when problems arise?

Slideshows: Working with students with limited formal schooling / Somali Bantu subculture / Engaging Somali parents

School of Teaching and Learning
The Ohio State University
333 Arps Hall
1945 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43210