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Techniques for Teaching Culture in the Classroom


... the word 'pants' is short for 'panties' or 'underpants. ... There is no intrinsically 'right' or 'wrong' culture. More generalizations about culture ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Techniques for Teaching Culture in the Classroom

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

  • Culture
  • a question of perspective

The Blind Men and the Elephant
  • A Hindoo Fable
  • by John Godfrey Saxe
  • (1816-1887)

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.

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 ______!

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 _______!

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 ________

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 __________

The Blind Men and the Elephant
  • The fifth who chanced to touch the ear,
  • Said Een the blindest man
  • Can tell what this resembles most
  • Deny the fact who can,
  • This marvel of an Elephant
  • Is very like a __________

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 __________

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 _______ !

  • Culture
  • a question of perspective

(No Transcript)
Teaching Culture in the Classroom
  • What do you think about when you think about
    culture and the teaching of culture?

  • What do you mean by culture ?

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.

Elements of a particular culture
Exploring Values
  • What are some key values of the target culture
    that you teach to?

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)

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?

Exploring Proverbs
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  • Youve made your bed now lie in it.

Exploring Proverbs
  • Theres 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

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

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?

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

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

Register and Politeness
  • How are you?
  • Shut the damn door
  • Its getting very late
  • We really should have lunch some time

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

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.

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?

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

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.

Exploring Idioms and Expressions

Exploring Idioms and Expressions
  • Sports
  • Monday morning quarterback
  • Thats not cricket
  • A grand slam
  • Hit for six

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

The Cycle of Culture Shock
Symptoms of Culture Shock
Causes of Culture Shock
  • being cut off from the cultural cues and known
    patterns which are familiar to you -- especially
  • 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

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 dont make sense to you at the time)
  • Dont 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

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,

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

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

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

  • Althen American Ways (Intercultural Press)
  • Clark ESL Miscellany
  • Datesman, Crandall Kearny American Ways
  • Kohls Survival Kit for Overseas Living

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

Non-verbal communication
  • Gestures
  • Fit for a dog
  • Come here -- Its me
  • Facial expressions
  • Eye contact
  • Space
  • Intonation
  • The angry lunch ladies

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
  • Handout
  • Email

Valuable skills for dealing with another culture
(No Transcript)
More Tools for teaching culture
  • Film, Video and TV
  • Songs
  • 100pm Language Center Lounge

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

More generalizations about culture
  • All cultures are ethnocentric
  • Every group enculturates its young.
  • If you stay within your own culture you dont
    need to confront your own ethnocentrism.
  • There are problems when people from one culture
    enter another, very different culture.

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

Language and cross-cultural thought patterns
  • Language is a guide to social reality. (Boaz,
  • Language is what defines experience (Sapir-Whorf)
  • You cant think what you cant name
  • You write the way you think (Kaplan, 1966) (USC)
  • Contrastive Rhetoric

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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