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Culture and ESL

Happy Saturday, Everyone!  I found the funniest bicultural comedian clip the other day and it got me thinking about the importance of addressing culture in ESL classes (or in counseling ESL students).   Here is the clip below from Youtube...Andrew Kennedy's Bilingual Clean Comedy-Hilarious!!!


So, now that we've all had a good laugh, I want to write about the weekly Culture Explorers group that I run with the same students to whom  I teach ESL.  Since my current students are all "Newcomers" to the US from other countries, they really look forward to and benefit from this culture instruction on the values, holidays, and traditions of America.  I also used to facilitate a slight variation of my US Culture Explorers curriculum when I taught Mozambican students about the English-speaking culture since many of them were learning English to move to sub-Saharan English-speaking countries in Africa such as Tanzania or South Africa.  What exactly is English-speaking culture, you ask?  Well, most English-speaking countries today have roots in former Latin and Germanic cultures since the English language is a Latin-influenced Germanic language.  This history leads to many present day similarities in each English-speaking culture around the world.  So, through the group experience, I was able to expose the students to the commonalities that exist in English-speaking cultures, thus making the transition to or understanding of the English-speaking culture smoother. 



Some of the activities I use in my Culture Explorers groups can be downloaded for free off my website the home page (just scroll down until you see the one you want) or the resources page (ditto).  For example, I use various read alouds with comprehension questions and activities about transitioning to different cultures.   In October, I also use a fun Halloween passage to teach about this popular American holiday.  With my US Culture Explorer groups, I sing songs and play games with my ESL students to give them some exposure to the pop culture trends that Americans grow up with such as CandyLand, Operation, Monopoly, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Mary Had a Little Lamb, to name a few.  Songs and games take up small amounts of time and serve as great 5-10 minute relaxation activities while exposing students to the American culture or to the English-Speaking culture in general.  I also like to teach my students about popular American or English-speaking cultural ideas such as the Four Steps of Conflict Resolution that many public schools use.   We also do lots of comparison activities where they can compare their home country with the US or another English-speaking country. Here I am presenting to educators in my district about various activities to do in Culture Explorer sessions- such as reading aloud from Amada Irma Perez' wonderful bilingual picture books!



I hope this post encourages you to address culture in your ESL lessons, or if you are already doing so, please comment below and share your ideas!  




Go Back

Yes, Kim, I totally agree! When I came back from living in Mozambique (where I could speak English pretty freely without most people on a bus understanding me), I had to re-learn to censor my convos and comments in public:)

Love the clip! And I always tell my students--especially Spanish speakers--to NOT assume the people around them don't understand them.

Yes, we love Andrew Kennedy's take on being raised biculturally- it makes us laugh every time we watch it! We just sent you the culture read alouds doc you requested...check out some of our other blog posts and let us know if you'd like us to send you any of the other red-linked ones. Happy Sunday!

I teach ESL to adult immigrants. I enjoyed the Andrew Kennedy clip, need to think about how to scaffold it so my intermediates could understand & enjoy. I'd like to peruse more of your culture lessons.

Thx for commenting and I would love to share a post/interview on your website- I'll get in touch through your email. It's so great to hear from professionals who share our passion for working culture into education/counseling...

I LOVE incorporating culture in my classes! Whether I'm teaching them about English-speaking culture, or learning about their cultures- I am a huge global education advocate and I think culture and language are intertwined.

If you are ever interested in sharing a post about your Culture Explorers on my site, I would love to do a short interview. How cool!