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Techniques for Teaching Culture in the Classroom

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Presentation on theme: "Techniques for Teaching Culture in the Classroom"— Presentation transcript:

1 Techniques for Teaching Culture in the Classroom
Joe McVeigh Middlebury, Vermont, USA

2 a question of perspective
Culture a question of perspective

3 The Blind Men and the Elephant
A Hindoo Fable by John Godfrey Saxe ( )

4 The Blind Men and the Elephant
It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind), That each by observation Might satisfy his mind.

5 The Blind Men and the Elephant
The first approached the Elephant, And happening to fall Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl: “God bless me! But the Elephant Is very like a ______!”

6 The Blind Men and the Elephant
The second feeling of the tusk, Cried, “Ho! What have we here So very round and smooth and sharp? To me ‘tis mighty clear The wonder of an Elephant Is very like a _______!”

7 The Blind Men and the Elephant
The third approached the animal, And happening to take The squirming trunk within his hands, Thus boldly up and spake: “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant Is very like a ________”

8 The Blind Men and the Elephant
The fourth reached out an eager hand, And felt about the knee, “What most this wondrous beast is like Is mighty plain,” quoth he; “ ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant Is very like a __________”

9 The Blind Men and the Elephant
The fifth who chanced to touch the ear, Said: “E’en the blindest man Can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can, This marvel of an Elephant Is very like a __________”

10 The Blind Men and the Elephant
The sixth no sooner had begun About the beast to grope, Than, seizing on the swinging tail That fell within his scope, “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant Is very like a __________”

11 The Blind Men and the Elephant
And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long, Each in his own opinion Exceeding stiff and strong, Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the _______ !

12 a question of perspective
Culture a question of perspective


14 Teaching Culture in the Classroom
What do you think about when you think about culture and the teaching of culture?

15 What do you mean by culture ?

16 A Definition of Culture (Kohls 1996)
Culture is an integrated system of learned behavior patterns that are characteristic of the total way of life of a given society. It includes everything that a group of people thinks, says, does, and makes — its customs, language, material artifacts and shared systems of attitudes and feelings. Culture is learned and transmitted.

17 Elements of a particular culture

18 Exploring Values What are some key values of the target culture that you teach to?

19 Exploring Values Traditional American values and beliefs
Individual freedom and self-reliance Equality of opportunity and competition Material wealth and hard work (Datesman, Crandall, & Kearny, 2005)

20 Exploring Values: Cleanliness
Bathing: do you use the same water? Eating: silverware vs. hands Blowing your nose: take it with you? Where do you keep your toilet?

21 Exploring Proverbs The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
You’ve made your bed now lie in it.

22 Exploring Proverbs There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
God helps those who help themselves A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush Cleanliness is next to Godliness

23 Survival Basics What are some elementary cultural norms that will help people adapt to the target culture that you teach to?

24 Survival Basics You and a friend have gone to a restaurant in the United States. How do you pay for your meal? A) Pay the person who takes your order before your food comes. B) Pay the person who brings your food after your meal. Wait for them to bring change. C) Get up from your table and pay someone near the door before you leave. How do you know?

25 Classroom Culture What types of cultural norms do ESL students need to learn in order to thrive in the academic world?

26 Classroom Culture Plagiarism – proper source citation
Participation – grades for “class participation” not too much or too little Moving beyond repetition to critical thinking

27 Register and Politeness
How are you? Shut the damn door It’s getting very late We really should have lunch some time

28 What does red mean? She turned red. He felt blue. He seems a bit green

29 Culture Assimilators Describe an incident in which an international visitor is faced with a dilemma, problem, or situation that has a cultural basis. Suggest four multiple choice explanations for why things happened the way they did. Prepare answers to explain.

30 Culture Assimilator A male American exchange student in Britain is in conversation with an English girl during a break between classes. The conversation is friendly enough until the boy compliments the girl on her pants. After this exchange, the tone of the conversation becomes decidedly frosty and the girl leaves abruptly. What, the American wonders, did he do wrong?

31 Culture Assimilator In English culture, compliments between boys and girls imply a closer relationship than the two had. The girl viewed the compliment as an effort to persuade her to go out with him. The girl viewed the remark as inappropriate. The English regard Americans as overly aggressive and the boy proved their point.

32 Culture Assimilator C. The girl viewed the remark as inappropriate.
The American was unaware that in British English, the word “pants” is short for “panties” or “underpants.”

33 Exploring Idioms and Expressions

34 Exploring Idioms and Expressions
Sports Monday morning quarterback That’s not cricket A grand slam Hit for six

35 Stages of Culture Shock
Initial Euphoria Irritability and hostility Gradual Adjustment -- Re-evaluation Adaptation or departure Reverse culture shock

36 The Cycle of Culture Shock

37 Symptoms of Culture Shock

38 Causes of Culture Shock
being cut off from the cultural cues and known patterns which are familiar to you -- especially subtleties having your own values called into question living for an extended time in a situation that is ambiguous living in a situation where you are expected to function normally but where the rules have not been explained

39 Actions to take against Culture Shock
Learn about the host country and actively pursue more information about it Look for logical reasons for everything (even if things don’t make sense to you at the time) Don’t succumb to the temptation to disparage the host culture. Identify a sympathetic host national and talk with them Have faith in yourself and know that the situation will improve with time

40 Students as Experts Students research a particular area of the target culture, then present their findings in written, oral, or poster form. Possible topics: food, work, holidays, attitudes towards money, family structure and life, education.

41 What should we teach? What topics or content should we include when teaching students about culture?

42 How should we teach culture?
What are some techniques or ideas that you have for teaching culture as part of your class?

43 Using Realia (Debbie Gill, 1997)
Food Traditions/Customs Sports Literature Music Politics Art/Museums Magazines Social Issues Newspapers

44 Resources Althen American Ways (Intercultural Press)
Clark ESL Miscellany Datesman, Crandall & Kearny: American Ways (Pearson) Kohls Survival Kit for Overseas Living

45 Additional Techniques
Experiential learning (contact assignments) Intercultural lunches Observation vs. interpretation Texts (Datesman, Gardner) Films and TV shows Non-verbal communication

46 Non-verbal communication
Gestures Fit for a dog Come here -- It’s me Facial expressions Eye contact Space Intonation The angry lunch ladies

47 Cultural Awareness I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. —— Mahatma Gandhi

48 Handout

49 Valuable skills for dealing with another culture


51 More Tools for teaching culture
Film, Video and TV Songs 1:00pm Language Center Lounge

52 Generalizations about culture
To be human means to be part of a culture Cultures are complex and interrelated. There is no intrinsically “right” or “wrong” culture.

53 More generalizations about culture
All cultures are ethnocentric Every group “enculturates” its young. If you stay within your own culture you don’t need to confront your own ethnocentrism. There are problems when people from one culture enter another, very different culture.

54 What do colors mean in the language you are teaching?
Red Blue Green Yellow Other?

55 Language and cross-cultural thought patterns
Language is a guide to social reality. (Boaz, 1911) Language is what defines experience (Sapir-Whorf) You can’t think what you can’t name You write the way you think (Kaplan, 1966) (USC) Contrastive Rhetoric

56 Why language is not enough
“Whopper” is not in the dictionary. Have you eaten yet? Would you like something to drink?

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