Subcultures in The Classroom: Informing ELT, engaging students!

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More often than we expect, there is a disconnect between our well-meaning efforts to make English classes meaningful to students and their “whatever” attitude. Is it us? Is it them? Is it the books? We will review the application of key concepts from demographics and sociolinguistics as simple research tools, and their application along with ELT strategies. As teachers, we can develop skills to replicate our students’ subcultures and urban tribes, so that they can contextualize English as a relevant aspect of their lives, in ways conducive to their really speaking and writing.

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Subcultures in The Classroom: Informing ELT, engaging students!

  1. 1. Why are my students so different now? Why is there a disconnect between my efforts to make English meaningful to them and their “whatever” attitude? Is it me? Is it them? Is it the books?
  2. 2. Informing ELT, engaging students! SUBCULTURES IN THE CLASSROOM: From a workshop at VenTESOL 2011 and an infographic at: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/542050505123455708/
  3. 3. Coping with Changing Demographics, or “Why Are My Students So Different Now?” • Analyzing population trends, as well as economic and social patterns, is becoming crucial for educators. • School authorities often must reacquaint themselves with their institutions’ students, as well as find ways to address their social, physical, and educational needs. • Across the world, people are facing the challenge of living in changing societies. • Low-income, two-income, single-parent, and homeless families are all on the rise. • Drug and alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, and teenage dropout rates challenge schools. • These conditions spell an increase in students designated as "at risk”. Klauke, 1989 “My students are beyond recognition!” “What’s going on in their lives?”
  4. 4. Urban Tribes, or “What Are Our Students’ Worlds?” “Urban tribes are microgroups of people who share common interests in metropolitan areas. The members of these relatively small groups tend to have similar worldviews, dress styles and behavioral patterns. Their social interactions are largely informal and emotionally laden […]” “Urban tribes are groups of never-marrieds between the ages of 25 and 45 who gather in common-interest groups and enjoy an urban lifestyle, which offers an alternative to traditional family structures.” “Members of a subculture often signal their membership through a distinctive and symbolic use of style, which includes fashions, mannerisms, and argot.” Maffesoli, 1988 Watters, 2003 Hebdige, 1981
  5. 5. Music Stars Meet The Press: • The original project in book proposes a business-as-usual, same-old-thing poster on music festivals. • Teacher resets it to students as celebrity chit-chat, and offers them three delivery options; students choose press conferences, and consequently sort musical genres among teams. • After doing some research, team members cast themselves as:  One celebrity performer of the genre assigned  Four reporters from cable music or showbiz channels • Students rehearse and then play their roles. For analysis matrix of this activity, see next chart. Celebrities! (Lesson slides redacted for copyright reasons, procedure provided instead)
  6. 6. Analysis Matrix. Teens Event organization (music festivals), PR for celebrities, and interviews, in the context of interviewing roleplays as preparation and presentation of a classroom project Contextualization for Relevance Urban, Clubbers, EmosUrban Tribes / Subcultures • Learn: Organizing Web search results • Cooperate: Teamwork for roleplays and performances Life Skills Reading for fact finding, listening to questions, talking at interviews, taking notes Language Skills Concert-related vocabulary, (dis)likes with love / (dis)like / don’t mind / can’t stand, ability with good / bad at Language Systems • Performers’ songs teens dance to at parties • Teen mags, video channels • Websites with content fot teens, social networks Observation Sources
  7. 7. What is the difference between observing and participating? In the first, you remain an “outsider” and simply observe and document the event or behavior being studied. In the second, you take part in the activity while also documenting your observations. Mack et al, 2005 Qualitative Research, or “How to Get into Our Students’ Worlds?” What is participant observation? Participant observation is a qualitative method with roots in traditional ethnographic research, whose objective is to help researchers learn the perspectives held by study populations. As qualitative researchers, we presume that there will be multiple perspectives within any given community. We are interested both in knowing what those diverse perspectives are and in understanding the interplay among them.
  8. 8. Identification of people who receive a lot of attention from others People who stand out People who enter, leave, and spend time at the observ- ation siteHuman traffic How close people stand to one anotherPersonal space What people do, who does what, who interacts with whom, who is not interacting Physical behavior and gestures Who speaks to whom and for how long; who initiates interaction; languages or dialects spoken; tone of voice Verbal behavior and interactions Clothing, age, gender, physical appearanceAppearance What to Observe during Participant Observation Mack et al, 2005
  9. 9. Kids’ Style Expo: • Each team chooses an urban tribe, and makes a poster with pics and slogans. • They talk about themselves and their lifestyles as part of that tribe; their motto: “Represent!!” Values in Our Lives: • Children remember friends from other countries / urban tribes, and say something they appreciate about them. Values & Kids’ Style Expo (Lesson slides redacted for copyright reasons , procedure provided instead) For analysis matrix of this activity, see next chart.
  10. 10. Profiles of lifestyles and presentation skills, as a way to identify the moral / instill the value of a story at an expo Sport players, movie and music fans, cybergeeks • Think: Identifying a value in different examples • Act: Respecting different lifestyles Talking about friends not like themselves to infer value and find differences, talking about kids’styles, making posters Adjectives, There is / are, present progressive for descriptions of art, attire, and personality • Kids at the Mall • Disney, Nick, Cartoon Network • Channels’ sites, video games for different consoles Contextualization for Relevance Urban Tribes / Subcultures Life Skills Language Skills Language Systems Observation Sources Analysis Matrix. Kids
  11. 11. R&D for Editorial Projects, or “How Do ELT Resources Bridge Both The Students and Teachers’ Worlds?” • Needs analysis • Aims • Target demography (age, region, mother tongues, socio-economic & socio- cultural profiles) • Comparative analysis of existing resources for such target • Methodological framework and its didactic, SLA, linguistic, etc. support • Team of editor(s), author(s), ELT / didactic and other ad-hoc consultants, illustrators, and media & digital producers / developers • Field research with focus groups, polls, qualitative research (participant observation), or other instruments, subsequent results analysis • Manuscript, proof-reading, piloting of chapters in actual classrooms • Revising, editing, upgrading of manuscript • Devising of promotional & academic support • Print runs & release • Reader feedback for upgrades
  12. 12. Contextualization. Fields of activity, or “How to Make Our Students’ Worlds Part of An ELT Class?” Production: Where “new” knowledge is constructed and positioned. Contextualization: Where discourses from the field of production become ‘educational’ knowledge. Reproduction: Where pedagogic practice takes place. Bernstein, 1990 (1971)
  13. 13. Distribution of a society’s worthwhile knowledge. Transformation into a pedagogic discourse (suitable for pedagogic transmission) = Recontextualizing. Transformation of pedagogic discourse into a criteria / standards to be attained. Bernstein, 1990 (1971) The Knowledge to Teach, or “How to Make Our Students’ Worlds Part of An ELT Class?”
  14. 14. Make it Viral! • Teacher introduces topic unit by having students share info on hobbies and leasurely activities. • Class learns lifestyle adjectives. • Students think of / log in to their social network profiles, and find where to use the words learned. • Learners share their publicly available profile data in English with someone else in class, and talk about those received on their cell phones / tablets in teams. For analysis matrix of this activity, see next chart. Lifestyles and Web Profiles (Lesson slides redacted for copyright reasons, procedure provided instead)
  15. 15. Current affairs ranging from night life and leisure to environment Cybergeeks, cyberfriends, active and laid-back people • Me: One’s preferences and habits, personal action plans • Act: Recycling Asking and answering about lifestyles, reading and writing personal profiles Adjectives for lifestyles, simple present tense to talk about preferences and habits Learners’ outings and use of mobile devices Speed, Lifestyle TV, FTV, ESPN, TruTV MSN Messenger, Facebook, and Twitter Contextualization for Relevance Urban Tribes / Subcultures Life Skills Language Skills Language Systems Observation Sources Analysis Matrix. Adults
  16. 16. Now, we understand what produces the disconnect between our well-meaning efforts to make English classes meaningful to students and their “whatever” attitude, and how to prevent it. We have reviewed the application of qualitative analysis and participant observation, from demographics, as well as (re)contextualization of knowledge for (re)production, from sociolinguistics, as simple research tools. We have also applied them along with ELT strategies. As teachers, we can continue to develop skills that replicate our students’ subcultures and urban tribes, so that they can contextualize English as a relevant aspect of their lives, in ways conducive to their really speaking and writing. Let’s enter our learners’ world and bring it into the classroom, to trigger their interest and contribute to their building of authentic discourse. YES, WE CAN KEEP ENGLISH REAL, IN RELEVANT CONTEXTS!!
  17. 17. Sources Bernstein, Basil. Class, codes and control. Vol. IV. The structuring of pedagogic discourse. Routledge, London, 1990 (1971) Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning Of Style. Routledge, London, 1981 Klauke, Amy. Coping with Changing Demographics. ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, Eugene. 1989 Mack et al. Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide, FHI (Family Health International), Durham, 2005 Maffesoli, Michel. Le temps des tribus: le déclin de l'individualisme dans les sociétés postmodernes. Meridiens Klincksieck, Paris, 1988 Ramos, Andrés. (2011, May 28) Keeping it real with learners: Contextualization for relevance. Workshop conducted at the VenTESOL Nt’l Convention, Maracaibo, Venezuela. Watters, Ethan. Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment. Bloomsbury USA, New York
  18. 18. Informing ELT, engaging students! SUBCULTURES IN THE CLASSROOM: From a workshop at VenTESOL 2011 and an infographic at: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/542050505123455708/

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