For students: We hope this guide sharpens your reading skills and deepens your understanding.
For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from AramcoWorld, by teachers at any level.
Common Core Standards met in this lesson: RL/RI.1, RL/RI.2, W.1, W.2 (see details below).

—The Editors
Do you have comments? I'd be pleased to hear from you at 
[email protected].
—Julie Weiss

Iftar Potluck Baltimore: A Case Study in Multicultural America

Each year, Muslims who observe Ramadan fast from sunup to sundown every day of the lunar month. During Ramadan, breaking the fast each evening can become a community celebration. In "Iftar Potluck Baltimore," Laila El-Haddad provides snapshots of several of her neighbors in Columbia, Maryland. Each shares a story and a recipe. As El-Haddad puts it, her neighbors are "all American and all bringing with them different traditions." Taken together, they provide an example of the cultural patchwork that makes up the United States. By the time you have read the article and completed the following activities, you will be able to:

•Identify similarities and differences among the people profiled in the article.
•Define multiculturalism.
•Write about the benefits of people from different backgrounds joining together as a community.

What Do the People Profiled in "Iftar Potluck Baltimore" Have in Common? How Are They Different from Each Other?

The people profiled in "Iftar Potluck Baltimore" are similar to one another in some ways, and different in others. Of course, they are all included in the article because—to state the obvious—everyone Laila El-Haddad writes about is Muslim and is observing Ramadan. What else do they have in common? Make a list of similarities. The people are also unlike each other. For example, while all the people are Muslim, Ramadan means something slightly different to each of them. Make notes about these different perspectives. What other differences do you see among the people described in the article? List them. Make a graphic organizer that shows the similarities and differences—perhaps a Venn diagram or a multi-column table.

What Is Multiculturalism?

Step back from the specific details of the article for a few minutes and think instead about a framework for understanding these details. Faridah Abdul-Tawwab Brown describes her experiences of Ramadan this way: "Ramadan has always meant a time of reaffirmation of our own particular cultural stamp, and also it's been about sharing. It's always been a multicultural experience for us growing up." Use this quote as a starting point for writing a definition of multiculturalism. Research the term online to make sure you understand it well enough to define it accurately. (If you have already learned about multiculturalism in your studies, this will be a useful review and an opportunity to apply what you know to the article.)

How Is the Iftar Potluck an Example of Multiculturalism?

Now put the iftar potluck and multiculturalism together. How is the potluck an example of multiculturalism? Create a visual (mosaic, collage or map, for example) that answers the question. (You might also think about how the 14 snapshots of the potluck also support the idea.) Then put words to your analysis. Write an essay about the benefits of multiculturalism, drawing on content from the article for evidence and examples.


Common Core Standards met in this lesson:

RL/RI.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.                                                                                     

RL/RI.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas. 

W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid relevant and sufficient evidence, and reasoning.

W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization and analysis of content.