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Culture teaching in foreign language classroom


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  • 2. TABLE OF CONTENTSI. Introduction …………………………………………………………….………….. Page 1II. Culture Matters for Teachers ……………………………………………….. Page 2III. Present Culture in Foreign Language Classroom ……………...…... Page 3IV. Build an Inclusive Culture ………………………………..……………....... Page 5V. Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………….. Page 7References …………………………………………………………………………….. Page 9
  • 3. Culture Teaching in Foreign Language Classroom [Tienny Makrus]I. Introduction Foreign language learning is comprised of several components,including grammatical competence, communicative competence, languageproficiency, as well as a change in attitudes towards one’s own or anotherculture. L. Damen (1987) in Culture Learning: The Fifth Dimension on theLanguage Classroom defines culture as follows: "Culture: learned and shared human patterns or models for living; day- to-day living patterns. These patterns and models pervade all aspects of human social interaction. Culture is mankinds primary adaptive mechanism" (p. 367). Banks, J.A., Banks, & McGee, C. A. (1989) in their bookMulticultural Education defined culture as: "Most social scientists today view culture as consisting primarily of the symbolic, ideational, and intangible aspects of human societies. The essence of a culture is not its artifacts, tools, or other tangible cultural elements but how the members of the group interpret, use, and perceive them. It is the values, symbols, interpretations, and perspectives that distinguish one people from another in modernized societies; it is not material objects and other tangible aspects of human societies. People within a culture usually interpret the meaning of symbols, artifacts, and behaviors in the same or in similar ways."Culture Teaching in Foreign Language Classroom by Tienny Makrus 1
  • 4. Therefore, we defined culture as the behavior, patterns, beliefs,and all other products of a particular group of people that are passed onfrom generation to generation. The Products result from the interactionbetween groups of people and their environment over many years. In keeping with the convention within the field of Foreign LanguageEducation of referring to language abilities as separate skills (e.g.,listening, speaking, reading, and writing), teachers often refer to cultureas the "fifth skill". Unlike vocabulary and grammar, which are concrete intheir content, culture is quite fluid and amorphous and therefore difficultto define. In general, culture as the fifth skill emphasizes the learnersability to perceive, to understand, and ultimately, to accept culturalrelativity. Culture as a fifth skill refers to a set of abilities: • The ability to perceive and recognize cultural differences. • The ability to accept cultural differences. • The ability to appreciate and value cultural differences.II. Culture Matters for Teachers How can teachers build awareness of their own culture, especiallyvalues and beliefs? Understanding your own cultural background andconnecting that background to the foreign students in your classroomcreates a rich learning environment in which teacher value each other.Culture Teaching in Foreign Language Classroom by Tienny Makrus 2
  • 5. The following activities can deepen your understanding of the ways inwhich your culture influences your practice as a teacher. Learn about your own history, heritage, community, family, and culture, as well as other groups to which you belong. Talk to friends and family; share stories, and listen to the stories of other’s life experiences and family histories. Write about your celebrations, traditions, beliefs, and cultural practices. Reflect on the things you value in your life including significant artifacts, customs, family events, and the ways in which you celebrate them. List some characteristics of your culture. Consider your communication style and other cultural norms. List the things that you do in your classroom that come from your cultural perspective. Check your list with a teaching colleague. How are your lists different and similar?III. Present Culture in Foreign Language Classroom Use reflection and inquiry as you explore and examine how yourown culture identity emerges and influences your professional practice.From the list below, chose some topics that you would like to explore withyour foreign language students. Discipline yourself to journal yourCulture Teaching in Foreign Language Classroom by Tienny Makrus 3
  • 6. observations; categorize some of the incidents that happen as you movethrough your inquiry. Be sure to find someone with whom to share yourexperience. Remember that learning is shaped through interaction withothers. Write about and reflect on the current culture in your classroom.Use the questions as guidelines for reflecting on your own teachingpractice:  BELONGING. How are students greeted in my classroom? Who is silent and who participated? What kinds of adult / student interaction patterns occur? What about student to student? To do this over time, you might want to make a class list and begin to make checks by students’ names as they enter your room. Review this information at the end of the week, and record your observations in a journal. Collect three or four of these weekly observations and share them with a colleague. Invite a colleague to observe your classroom, and share notes. Are you observing psychological or cultural differences?  CONDUCT. What are the rules of conduct in the classroom? Who knows what they are? How is following them recognized? How are errors corrected? What kinds of conduct are allowed, and what kinds are not acceptable? What happens to students who follow the rules and to those who do not? How does this affect their status inCulture Teaching in Foreign Language Classroom by Tienny Makrus 4
  • 7. the classroom, school, and their neighborhood? To answer these questions, take some data in your own classroom. You could ask students to answer these questions in small groups, and record their responses. Alternatively, you could observe your classroom carefully as you go about teaching. Notice the number of times that you reward and reprimand students. Write these numbers down. Also, you may begin to note the gender and race of students. Is there a difference based on these characteristics? Watch for patterns that emerge from your notes. Invite your colleague to observe your classroom, and then discuss her observations.  LEARNING. Pay attention to these issues. Who is earning the highest grades in your class? Who is engaged in learning? With whom do you spend time, and who gets little of your attention? How much time do you spend giving feedback and to which students? Which students are suggesting topics for learning and doing? Which students wait for you to lead them? Notice patterns among boys and girls, among cultural and linguistics groups, and among the students with varying abilities.IV. Build an Inclusive Culture Be aware that an inclusive culture is not just about sharing culturalexperiences, but about using the diverse background, values, andCulture Teaching in Foreign Language Classroom by Tienny Makrus 5
  • 8. experiences that individual students and teachers bring to the classroomto expand our understanding of how our world works. Understanding ourown and others’ culture is about creating spaces to not only recognize andvalue diverse culture, but to support the inclusion of new values andbeliefs into our everyday lives and activities.ACTIVITIES:  Create professional development opportunities that allow teachers time to reflect on their cultural heritage with peers (memoir writing, artifact sharing, and shared cultural celebrations).  Share your experiences, celebrations, and important events with your students. Integrate storytelling (writing, speaking, drawing, and creating) into your curriculum.  Bring in your cultural “artifacts” that may or may or may not be familiar students, and have students hypothesize and discuss their purpose, meaning and value.  Create space that everyone in your classroom can access. Together make a class quilt, student bulletin board, or family photo album.  Integrate celebrations into your classroom in which everyone in the class can share—have the class make up their own!Culture Teaching in Foreign Language Classroom by Tienny Makrus 6
  • 9.  Use conversations about your own cultural background and experiences to prompt students to share their own backgrounds and heritage.V. Conclusion By way of conclusion, we should reiterate the main premise of thepresent study: the teaching of culture should become an integral part offoreign language instruction. ‘Culture should be our message to studentsand language our medium’ (Peck, 1998). Frontiers have opened and neverbefore have nations come closer to one another—in theory, at least. As aresult, people from different cultures weave their lives into an internationalfabric that is beginning to fray at the edges by virtue of miscommunicationand propaganda. In order to avoid this ignominious cultural and politicaldisintegration, and foster empathy and understanding, teachers should‘present students with a true picture or representation of another cultureand language’ (Singhal, 1998). And this will be achieved only if culturalawareness is viewed as something more than merely a compartmentalizedsubject within the foreign language curriculum; that is, when culture“inhabits” the classroom and under girds every language activity.According to Singhal (1998), language teachers ought to receive bothexperiential and academic training, with the aim of becoming ‘mediators inculture teaching’ (ibid.). At any rate, culture teaching should aim to fosterCulture Teaching in Foreign Language Classroom by Tienny Makrus 7
  • 10. ‘empathy with the cultural norms of the target language community’ and‘an increased awareness of one’s own ‘cultural logic’ in relation to others’(Willems, 1992, cited in Byram, Morgan et al., 1994: 67). This culturallogic, though, is achieved through ‘a recognition of ‘otherness’, and of thelimitations of one’s own cultural identity’ (Killick & Poveda, 1997). While "culture" as a word and concept might be hard to definesuccinctly, there is little argument that it is the linchpin of much of whatwe do in our language classes. Ask your students why theyre studying alanguage. Odds are that the reason they give will be culturally based:travel, food, music, literature, relationships—all require a particularknowledge not just of the language, but of the cultural particulars of apeople and place. That said, how we teach culture remains a thorny issuefor all of us.Culture Teaching in Foreign Language Classroom by Tienny Makrus 8
  • 11. REFERENCESDamen, L. (1987). Culture Learning: The Fifth Dimension on the Language Classroom. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Banks, J.A., Banks, & McGee, C. A. (1989). Multicultural education. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Peck, D. 1998. Teaching Culture: Beyond Language. Yale: New Haven Teachers Institute.Singhal, M. 1998. Teaching Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom. Thai TESOL Bulletin, Vol. 11 No. 1, February 1998.Byram, M., Morgan, C. and Colleagues. 1994. Teaching and Learning Language and Culture. Great Britain: WBC.Killick, D. & Poveda, J. 1997. Perceptions of Cross-Cultural Capability: is EFL Another Language? Proceedings of the conference at Leeds Metropolitan University, 15-16 December 1997.Teacher’s Guide to Folklife Resources for K-12 Classrooms. Retrieved October 26, 2010, from Library of Congress American Memory Collection. Retrieved October 26, 2010, from Teaching in Foreign Language Classroom by Tienny Makrus 9