Online Course: The Role of Culture in the Education of Adult English Language Learners

Use this discussion thread to post your response to the question below from the ELL-U online course, The Role of Culture in the Education of Adult English Language Learners. Please share your comments to any of the questions below, or post general comments or your feedback on the course.

  1. What strategies, activities, or methods have you used as a culturally competent teacher? What have you observed in other teachers?
  2. What did you discover about your own assumptions? How has going through the DIE stages helped you see new perspectives? What challenges did you experience and how did you overcome them? Were any of the stages more difficult than others? How can you use the DIE inquiry strategy to address cultural assumptions and cultural dilemmas that arise in classrooms with adult ELLs?
  3. Share your thoughts around which items shown below would be designated “big C” and “little c”. Which items might be debatable as to their designation? Why?
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Star Wars by George Lucas
  • a McDonald’s® menu
  • Jeremy Lin
  • a Groupon voucher
  • Madonna
  • Betsy Ross’ flag
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • iPods®
  • baseball
  • The Great Depression
  • a bus ticket
  • a Coke® can
  • The White House
  • Facebook
  1. Culture plays a critical role in teaching and learning. How has the content in this course helped you better understand your own cultural investments, perspectives, and values? What are some strategies you will use to facilitate a culturally inclusive learning environment and facilitating (cross) cultural understanding among all members of the class?

Comments

Those items in this list that have endured the test of time are obviously big C but there are others, such as iPods, that have changed the way many of us live.  The little c's may be big C's in one generation but return to little c's in the next.  iPods are already being replaced by iPhones which have more capacity for music now.

 

I love the practice of getting to know the students and their skills, interests, hobbies and using the information in lessons.  The students will feel valued in the classroom when they may not feel so valued in the American marketplace.

Hi Laura, I agree that getting to know the adults in our classrooms and learning about their culture is a huge benefit to teaching adult English learners. The ELLU culture course lays out some of the most essential information that all adult ESL teachers need. I'm glad you found it useful.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

I think there might be overarching social engineering goals present in the communicative methods of ESL instruction. Remember, there is a socio-political management group in the world of education.  Education is a mega-industry, and it is a club.  Like any club, it operates in group-think and labors to create a blanket of accepted ideologies under which it can comfortably continue to survive.  In the adult ESL classroom we are bringing together in groups, people from all over the world, joining them in discussion in one central place, and encouraging them to tear down their individual resistances and bear their souls to people who are only temporary friends, if you can even call classmates friends since you know them for such a short time.  These group discussions are going to challenge the lens through which they view life, which, no doubt is already being challenged just by living in the dominant culture to which they have migrated.  Having the premises upon which you live your daily life shaken by diverse points of view from all points of the globe, could have worrisome consequences.  Sensitive students might experience trauma when they are asked to change cherished ideas on which they always relied.  Students want to learn English, but what may really draw them to the language classroom is the human quest for companionship, that is, love.  Another beacon is also the pursuit of happiness which can be sought with a job, money and the comforts of life.  This is the perfect laboratory for people with socio-political motives (vote like I do, for example) to try to break down old beliefs and introduce the new "right" ones with which the Club is concerned.

It becomes apparent as you look at a list of names, etc. (as shown above) that it all depends on your own knowledge of "famous" events or people and your age. Even in America we all know baseball and that it is an all-American sport but, ask me about some "famous" player and it is so little c, but to another it is Big C. You can not imagine that I did not know that "famous" person.  Another thought - the students we have that have come from small villages in third world countries and are not literate in their own language ...

In teaching adult ESL, it is a basic step at the beginning of a course to highlight the students' cultural background.  I first introduce myself and share my cultural background, (Dominican), the foods I like to eat, my mother tongue, festivities, etc. Then I invite each student to do the same.  I use this strategy primarily to help all of us to be open with each other, and to help demonstrate how even though we come from different cultural backgrounds we have a lot in common.

Later in the course, when it comes to writing, I always have a session in which students relate more of their culture. I demonstrate on the board how to write a paragraph about what I miss the most about my country. Then I ask the students to write a paragraph in their notebooks about what they miss about their own culture. The activity is cathartic and instructional at the same time. The most important element is to emphasize real, and relevant human experience as a vehicle to learning a second language.

In viewing the photographs of the Eid celebration around the world, I was able to observe many details that I was unaware of. Yes, because they were photos, all observations would be limited to sight, but through the use of the imagination, I can also "hear" the people in the photographs, the commotion in a celebration, or the silence in prayer, or the giggling of the little girls with the sunglasses.  I can also "smell" the sweets that the vendor in Pakistan was displaying. These details begin to describe my new perspectives on the celebration of Eid around the world.

Interpreting the images helped me digest what was happening in the pictures, and evaluating emotions brings me to realize how humans are so similar despite their diversity of religion or ethnicity.  It seems like we all need a time to celebrate.

Using Description, Interpreting, and Evaluation, (DIE) of a cultural scene would be a great way to incite in my students an interest in language and in others' culture.  Also DIE would help students feel valued in the classroom, which would promote learning. I would create a short PowerPoint presentation  about the countries of my students.   For a few class sessions, I would show and explain cultural aspects from such countries.  In my reading and writing class, I would ask students to write a paragraph about a country not of their own, (to promote curiosity and acculturation) in which they can describe, interpret, and evaluate reactions to the slide presentation.

 

An example of past experience: I've had students wear clothing from their native countries and discuss the clothing, what it means to them, how it's typically worn in their native country, and whether or not they feel comfortable wearing the clothing here. I also have students discuss festivals and other celebrations in their native countries.  We compare/contrast celebrations among the students' native cultures and also c/c their native celebrations with US celebrations.

A learning goal: I've never felt comfortable asking students to share their prejudices concerning other cultures and would like to find a way to open this conversation.

As far as "Big C" and "Little C" go, I'd consider 'baseball' a big C because many students are interested in sports from their own countries and are curious about sports in the US. By the same token, they are often baffled by the use of sports metaphors in the workplace and in other ways in American life.

Description: I saw how the Haitian community loved to celebrate. I also saw the pride that was demonstrated when celebrating their culture. I observed their love for art, music, and food. They are people who stand close to each other and like community. Inerpretation: The Haitian community is extremely expresive and inclusive of other cultures; i.e. The Argentinian Restaurant and are very relational. Evaluation: I enjoyed watching the video about Haiti. Living in Nicaragua for 19 years, I saw many similarities between thre two places. I loved seeing how they loved to celebrate life and their love for vibrnt colrs. I also like the way they greeted each other with a kiss on each cheek.

This course has helped me to see how imprtant it is to really know your student. 

I will be more aware of the questions I need to ask in order to help my students learn English more efficiently.  

I have learned the importance of really knowing each student's culture and experience.

I will be more intentional in integrating their culture and experiences into my lesson plans.

Hi Jeannie, Your experience living in Nicaragua has prepared you well for understanding the importance of culture in one's learning. Making a commitment to deepen your understanding of each student's experiences and cultural background and finding ways to more intentionally integrate these important aspects into your teaching is surely a worthwhile goal.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

I think the "big C" categories and "little c" categories are debatable in a lot of ways, but I think they exist. A lot of people don't realize how much "big C" culture affects them. They might not be interested in The Great Gatsby or other great works of literature. They may only be interested in "little c" pop culture, but "big C" culture has a profound effect on the way people view life in a culture. For example, Freud's philosophies profoundly affected Dr. Spock, who wrote a book about parenting that changed the way many people interacted with their kids, which created an entire generation who acted a different way. Big ideas/philosophies can change a culture, whether most of the populace realizes it or not.

Hello Heather, The ELLU online course on The Role of Culture in Adult ESL does an excellent job of illustrating how everyone has hidden biases and blind spots. As ESOL professionals, it's important to find ways to honestly explore our cultural assumptions routinely.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

I believe that the website was very user friendly, since it was in English.  It is a Haitian South Florida website.  I could see many sites and hear many sounds I've seen and heard before.  I have many students from many backgrounds.  I observed many links to the community.  The music is not what I listen to, but on occasions I have heard it.  I inferred why it was in English.  I can evaluate that it is so they can reach a greater audience.  This is my evaluation.  I like the process.  Anything that gives  purpose for reading and writing.  No stage was more difficult than the other.  

I will continue to assess my own cultural beliefs to see how I can share the similarities and differences with my students.  Our perspectives don't always tell the whole picture.  We must dig deeper to see all aspects. I will help my students explore English through video , music, and dialogue.  This way we can analyze all aspects of art and literature from many perspectives  I really enjoyed the course. Following the DIE and Funds of Knowledge process helps with interviewing to find student interests.  

I think the placement of items in big C or little c can be debated and sometimes can depend on one's perspective.

In using the DIE model, I discovered that even just in looking at pictures or reading an article about a celebration, I could "smell" the food, "hear" the music, and "see" the lights and other displays.  Using this model, I am able to see things in a new way.  Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to think about previous assumptions and how those assumptions change over time as a person grows and learns more.  I think this model will be helpful to use in class.

I learned a lot from this course.  One important thing I learned is not to shy away from topics, but rather to address them in appropriate ways.  I enjoyed the "Single Story" video and plan to use it in an upcoming class with my students.

Hi Melissa, Thanks for these comments in response to the ELLU culture course. It's good to hear the online course was a positive learning experience for you.

I, too, love the Single Story video. I am certain it will make for a rich discussion in class. What you say about not shying away from topics seems very important. As you suggest, I believe we can find ways to broach topics in appropriate and respectful ways.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

I visited the "Karen of Minnesota" website because I worked with a Karen family with ESL. The website didn't discuss how the Karen people were involved in a civil war and ended up on the losing side, so have been treated badly by the conquering political group. Many had to move often, and many ended up in a Thailand refugee camp with an interruption of the children's education.  Addiction to chewing betel juice common, even available in US Asian markets.

(Description) The KOM, Karen Organization of Minnesota was organized and founded by Karen immigrants who saw a need for this marginalized people group to have a social outlet to help with integration into the American way of life.  There are social programs and ESL classes and other helpful programs, like learning how to read a bus schedule.

(Interpretation) Karen immigrants saw a need for their people and set about developing this organization and obtaining funding for the programs and for the website and to disseminate information about their program.

(Eval) I was impressed by the professional looking website and the video they produced to explain how their organization came about. It showed critical thinking and problem solving, and then they also had to work with the American community to find the resources to make it a reality.

My assumption when working with the Karen family was that the children would have basic education, but after learning they spent many months in a Thai refugee camp, and how hostile the Thais were about not allowing the Karens to leave the camp to work, to be educated or assimilated.  So they just had to wait for the UNHCR to get them placement.

My challenges were motivating them to learn English so they could function outside their little community

My difficulties were accepting the betel juice chewing and many men coming in and out of the apartment where there were teenage girls.

Using DIE helped me to put down my thoughts in an organized fashion and research the cultural background

Classroom activities would be to use the LEA method to get the students to share their background: what their parents did as an occupation which would tell me what my students had been exposed to and what their educational background was so that a relevant lesson plan could be developed using their schema.

Thank you, Karen, for your informative post in response to the ELLU Culture Course. It is invaluable to learn as much as we can about the learners we are working with. At times, our cultural assumptions are challenged, which usually leads to deepening our own understanding.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

We easily become self-centered around our own culture.  The first time I did a lesson using vacation theme, I was startled to realize most of my students wanted to return to their native countries.  Yes, they were glad to be here but their origin was equally important.  I now try to ask many questions so I can learn along with my students.

Our designation of Big C or Little c within our culture is often dependent on our personal culture within our larger culture.  Lack of familiarity or interest may place certain affectations of culture under one heading or the other.

Without the DIE model it would be easy to take a first impression and transform into truth, leaving the complete picture undone.

Culture is extremely signfiicant in any classroom but I think doubly so for ELL students. I am just starting the course and so will post more comments as I go through and after I compelte

Prior to beginning this course, I have encountered only one ELL student during my teaching career, thus far.   Due to the student's hunger for learning and our relationship within the classroom, as well as, a sense of community through supportive classmates and cooperating teachers; the student passed the EOG in math.  Since that time, the student has returned to visit me at school and informed me that she is now in the AIG program.  I am very proud of her.  However, I have always thought I could have done a better job.

At the present time, I have one ELL student, I want this year to be different.  I hope that through this course I am able to gain a deeper understanding of ELL students and how they learn best.  Utilizing his “Fund of Knowledge” and will develop instruction to start with what he is familiar with and move to the unfamiliar.  I have downloaded a variety of books read in both English and Arabic for the student to read.  A foldable contains basic spelling/vocabulary words with definitions, illustrations and a simple sentence.  This foldable is created by the ELL student.  I use the translator feature on the laptop to communicate with the student.  He has his own Ipad with 6-8 learning apps for multiplication, letter writing, shapes, colors, and numbers. He has a cousin in the second grade.  Therefore, I allow him visiting time to create a comfort zone while at school.  I would like to develop a stronger understanding of multiculturalism and incorporate cultural diversity into learning for all students in my classroom. I also hope to better communicate with the family members of my ELL student and involve them in the learning process. I would like my students to become excited and interested in the diversity of cultures at home and abroad and recognize its value and contribution to the community and the world. I am still very much a "work in progress."

I visited the Karen Organization of Minnesota website:

Description: the Karen Organization of Minnesota is an organization to provide a social outlet to help Burmese refugees integrate into the American culture.  They connect the Burmese people with social programs and ESL classes and other programs..

Interpretation:  I interpreted that there is such a large number of Burmese refugees living in Minnesota. This organization provides a multitude of information and support for the Burmese people.  This organization identified the cultural needs of the Burmese and developed a method to provide available resources to help them navigate through social situations.

Evaluation: I was impressed with the information and various drop down menu options to provide the navigator easy access to specific facets of the organization. The video was very helpful in explaining how the organization worked with the community.   

Challenges: The challenges when implementing the DIE method would be identifying individual biases and prejudices.  This is difficult to initiate without assistance from our peers.  We observe a situation and conclude our opinion to include biases and prejudices without observing closely or asking ourselves more in-depth questions.  Such as what did I observe?  How do I feel about what I observed? The DIE method is an effective and constructive strategy that will help students feel understood and valued if practiced by students and teachers alike.   

Fund of Knowledge

The “Fund of knowledge” is closely related to really “knowing” your students.  I administer a Multiple Intelligence survey to my students every year.  The data collected provides information on student interests and preferred style of learning.  With this information I design my lesson plans for interest levels and preferred learning styles of my students. Of course this is surface data which is still significant information to be considered during my planning time.  However, in an attempt to dig deeper under the surface, I choose a different student to each lunch with for the purpose of having a casual conversation, which consists of mostly listening to the student share his/her thoughts or experiences. This conversation provides all types of information that can be used to build a relationship with the student.  It gives me insight into family life, interests and sometimes more than I bargained for.  This conversation also gives the students a sense of value and individuality.

We also have morning meetings.  These meetings include a simple but fun greeting exchange to include all students.  This is followed by a short activity for review or frontloading a lesson. It is a relationship builder between student to student and student to teacher.  After a week of attending school in our class, my student from Yemen said “Good Morning” when it was his turn.  For a week the students have been assisting him.  We all cheered and applauded!  A huge smile burst across his face. It was a small-huge step toward building a relationship for all of us.  Knowing my students gives me the bigger picture of the baggage they bring along with them every day.  Many students live with grandparents or a single parent.  Most students live in low-wealth housing and receive free lunch.  One student arrives on a daily basis crying because she does not want to go home to her mother, she is happier with her grandmother.  Every student has a story to share.  However, understanding each child’s living situations, their interests, goals, hopes, dreams, and the baggage they bring with them begins to unravel the underlying culture that makes each student unique, valued and respected.  I am working with my student from Yemen, I do know he lives with his uncle, loves the computer, enjoys pizza and cannot eat pork. Obviously, I have a lot of work to do!

 

Hello-- I was interested to see that Dsaburro is surveying his/her students about multiple intelligences.  It sounds as if these students are in elementary school perhaps-- not adult learners.  In any case, I wanted to remind comment that since this response seems to be given in the context of the ELLU Culture class, it is important to remember that the very concept of multiple intelligences is a highly western/American one and that the questions on a survey attempting to elicit information about student's preferences and strengths are also necessarily culturally loaded.   Thus the validity of the information is likely quite skewed, though perhaps still useful in some respects.   Just a few years ago there was a very interesting large study done about the usefulness of teaching adult students about the idea of multiple intelligences and then structuring class instruction around the concept.   Among the classes being studied were a couple of adult ESOL groups.   As I was then working on my own dissertation about a concept of teaching that in effect encompasses all -- or many of-- the "intelligences" now identified,  I found the comments of the teachers about how resistant their students were to the abstract notion of multiple intelligences quite interesting.  What the teachers learned in the process of trying to carry out the study was that the students did not want to hear about or discuss the concepts--which were difficult for many to translate into their first languages; instead, the students were very happy to have opportunities to have choices in learning something that afforded experiences in different modalities. Since many of the students in our classes come from education systems where they have little or no input or choice in learning and where often memorization is the primary mode of demonstrating learning, adult students in those study classes may be eager-- as were the students in that study-- to try different ways of learning that were offered when the teachers realized they needed to change the approach to the topic of MI.  All of this is to remind those who want to take that approach that very often the culture of the students has dictated which type of learner they have to be and that asking them about this in the abstract can be meaningless.  If they have had some experience with multiple ways of learning BEFORE surveying them, their preferences and strengths might be somewhat different and the questions more meaningful to them.   

Robin Lovrien  

Hi Robin and all, Thanks, Robin, for drawing our attention to the cultural implications of multiple intelligences. Clearly culture is imbued in absolutely everything we do when working with immigrants and refugees. Growing in our understanding of our own cultural assumptions is so very important for those of us in adult ESL. This is why I strongly recommend the ELLU Culture course for every adult ESL teacher. The course does a beautiful job of highlighting the important issues we all need to consider each and every day in their work.

To access the ELLU Culture course, login to the LINCS Learning Portal at lincs.ed.gov.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

It is the smallest things that  most times pose serious problems for  language learners  words can be so frustrating based on the context in which it is being used; terms that have never  seemed to be misleading can in a second be misleading.

Hi Deborah, As you note, the ELLU Culture course emphasizes tapping into the "funds of knowledge," i.e., the talents, experiences, and strengths, learners bring into our classroom and building upon them in our teaching. It's clear that you devote a great deal of effort to getting well acquainted with the immigrant and refugee children in your classroom. Spending time to understand the uniqueness as well as the needs and goals of the learners we work with is always time well spent-- regardless of age.

I'm curious. Do you also work with adult English learners?

Thanks for your contribution here.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

With students, in class, I associate with assimilation, where w both learn from each others culture and try to see how best it fits at  any given time. The D.I.E  is really helpful, it allows for me not to make assumptions about  a students or adult based on  what I may have  heard or may have seen  at any given time with information or behavior that may be associated  about any group of people.

 

The evaluation stage i believe seems to be the most hardest, because it then means you have to find answers now to best strengthen your knowledge on or to correct the wrong knowledge that you had before, 

Hello Frances, Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the ELLU online course on the Role of Culture in Teaching Adult ESL. The course engages participants in thinking about the D.I.E. model for exploring cultural assumptions, i.e., Description, Interpretation, and Evaluation, which you indicated was most helpful to you. The D.I.E. model attempts to assist all of us to develop skills that support being curious about differences, reflecting on differences, and accepting of differences. I'm glad you found the course to be helpful to you.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

  1. What strategies, activities, or methods have you used as a culturally competent teacher? What have you observed in other teachers?

I have found if you ask questions and start to become interested in their culture it helps them open up.  I like to ask my students what made them move to the US, what was it like in their home country, what do you like and dislike about being in a different country.  I think getting to know them really helps you understand where they have come from.  I ask a lot of questions and enjoy hearing about their experiences as well.  I think it's important to put yourself in their shoes so to understand where they have been.

  1. Share your thoughts around which items shown below would be designated “big C” and “little c”. Which items might be debatable as to their designation? Why?
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison - big c
  • Star Wars by George Lucas- Big C or little C
  • a McDonald’s® menu-little c
  • Jeremy Lin-little c
  • a Groupon voucher- little c
  • Madonna- Big C or little
  • Betsy Ross’ flag- Big C
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- Big C
  • iPods®- Big C or Little C
  • baseball- Big C
  • The Great Depression - Big C
  • a bus ticket- little c
  • a Coke® can- Big or Little
  • The White House- Big C
  • Facebook-Big or Little

I think it is obvious the ones that are Big C like The White House, Betsy Ross' Flag, baseball. These things define the US. But there are others that can be debabable and are known all over the world not just in the states.  I think Facebook, iPods, Madonna, are examples that could described as both big and little c.  Yes we know that they are all from the US but they are defined in different cultures as well.  Everyone uses Facebook now, iPods are known and used and Madonna is quite well-known all over as well.  She is from the states but has been living in England for many years as well.  It's hard to distinguish these things though.  So much is depended on social media, pop culture, society nowadays.  

I chose to read about the Little Haiti Cultural Center.  I assumed that it was a center for people from Haiti and not a place where people can learn and enjoy cultural traditions with Haitians. I learned by using the DIE stages that I need to always read fully and understand the main goal each place has.  Instead of assuming it is only for the natives from that country.  I didn't have any difficulty with any of the stages, I just needed to take my time and read better about the subject at hand.  I can totally utilize the DIE strategy in my classroom when stereotypes of countries or people come up.  I can help the students understand the purpose why that is how one culture celebrates as opposed to another.  I will be using this strategy for sure, any chance I get.  

How has the content in this course helped you better understand your own cultural investments, perspectives, and values? What are some strategies you will use to facilitate a culturally inclusive learning environment and facilitating (cross) cultural understanding among all members of the class?

This course has opened my eyes on how to facilitate cultural inquiries in class.  I know now not to use stereotypes even in a joking manner.  I really understand how a lot of the assumptions we have on different cultures can negatively effect a student in my class. I will for use the DIE strategy in my class, it was by far the most helpful for me.  I truly recommend this course to anyone teaching a classroom with all different nationalities.  It has helped me a lot.  

Hi Kathryn, Thank you for sharing how much the ELLU course on the Role of Culture has enhanced and deepened your understanding of the importance and value of cultural differences -- starting with our own often hidden assumptions. I agree with you that this course would be helpful to all adult ESL teachers.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator,  AELL CoP

Culture is a set of practiced beliefs and customs which may or may not be tangible and observable.  I find that the Language Experience Approach is a great means for students to share and learn more about aspects each others culture that may not be visible on the surface.  Prompting students with questions is a great way to elicit a response, which then may be written down in front of the class or individually.  Language -and- content (culture) can be discussed using this method.  It is a great means of discussing culture beyond simply dress, cuisine, dance, etc.

The DIE (Description, Interpretation, Evaluation) method seems like a great means of implementing an assessment of production skills in the classroom.  Through prompting students, you can judge whether the richer language needed in Interpretation and Evaluation is able to be generated through seeing the level of accuracy in what was produced for the Description step.  For example, if students struggle answering the Who, What, Where, When, How questions for Description, then it may be safe to say that more work will be needed there before heading on to Interpretation and Evaluation.

I have never heard of the DIE method or technique, but seems like I might have utilized it before in my curriculum unknowingly. Now, as I am faced with the challenge to teach ELL students senior English and the NC English Final Exam, I will use this technique to connect my curriculum and my families as we build and strengthen families.  This is my response to the 4 questions. I always require my students to write lengthy descriptive papers and share how they feel without being unkind. I really liked the dialogue samples that were provided between the couple as they discussed the restaurant's floor seating. Great questions and investigating techniques without being offensive. 

It's very important that you have basic knowledge in culture in the classroom, with this you have a better understanding of your students their way of learning and it will help you better to prepare your classes.

 

 I am very fortunate because my classroom has generally been very diverse, culturally. I have found that students that speak English as their first language are very interested in learning from students that are learning English and may be new to living in the U.S. I will include many topics covered in this course in my classroom. The Big C, Little c idea is very interesting. I think it is a great conversation starter and gives students a chance to express their own opinions while also learning about the opinions of other students. It is a lesson they can use in their own homes, too. The Description phase of the DIE model was the most challenging for me because I had never really considered involving all 5 of my senses in describing my reactions, thought, and feelings. I really had to stop and think about how Ito include as many of those senses in my description.

 

 

Albeit I always thought that we must establish significant relationships with students to have a better and more comfortable environment in our classes, the bottom line is that I realize now, that we must vanish each and every assumption in the pursuit of getting to know our students better: their perspectives, culture, thoughts, experiences, skills, knowledge, goals, concerns, etc. This will give us a chance to tailor the educational process to their own lives, making it relevant and useful for them.   
I found out strategies and methodologies that definitely, will become a part of my teaching practice, as DIE (Description, Interpretation, Evaluation) which although is an inquiry strategy, it can also be used to develop our daily lesson plan to include topics about culture, perspectives, concerns... that are a part of our students reality. The enrichment of the educational process with experiences, skills, abilities, that they bring to our classes can be a great resource to succeed our goals teaching using the Founds of Knowledge either as an inquiry process or cultural asset. Making sure that our teaching will be a differentiated instructional process, and we'll become cultural competent teachers, as well.

 

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Let the child prepare for life by living.

Ovide Decroly.

What an interesting course!  It was a nice combination of some review and some great new video clips and interesting perspectives and reminders to take into account as a teacher.  I loved the TED talk "The Danger of a Single Story" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I'm planning on sharing it with several colleagues and perhaps showing a portion of it to my students.  The DIE strategy is an interesting one to work on incorporating mindfully into both my own thought process as well as during class discussions and possibly when using visual thinking strategies with my students.  Thanks!

Through the years I have observed and implemented several activities to provide a cultural safe learning environment. I have observed in different educational settings teachers/instructor who unconsciously treat students with disrespect. In other words, teaching, speaking and referring to items that could be insulting or culturally sensitive to some students. I have personally implemented in my class a personal practice to get to know all my students background as much as possible. This practice has helped me make crucial decision into how, what, when to teach certain things, decorate my room ( avoiding item that may be offensive) and uphold myself in front of a multicultural class. Therefore making and providing a whole multicultural setting that is safe will develop into a successful learning environment.

As an instructor it is important that we begin by recognizing an appreciation and respect of our own culture. We also need to be aware of our own racial beliefs,and biases.  I have worked in education for over twenty years as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and director in both in poor and affluent districts in California and Illinois. One of the biggest challenges I have found our student population faces,  are teachers who are not aware of their own racial/cultural beliefs. Teachers who are not aware of their subconscious biases  and the impact on their teaching. The American educational system teaches middle class norms and mores.  Many times students from different cultural backgrounds are the square shaped peg who get forced through the round peg hole. As educators we need to modify our teaching practices to fit the needs of our students.  

In my current district we do a lot of work with Beyond Diversity and SEED training.  Many of our teaching and administrative staff are leaders in the area of equity training.  It is an area that our district values and supports. Our high school in Illinois is the most diverse in the state.  We have over 102 countries with over seventy languages represented.  We also have many refugee students who come to us as older learners.  In my experience students are most successful when their teachers have honestly reflected on their "whiteness" and white privilege, or students have a teachers who represent them culturally or understands the cultural and racial struggle. 

Recently, I was able to teach a class composed of students from four different Asian cultures. We had a lot of fun sharing information such as shapes of kites, how to mark points on the board when playing a game, how to count to ten our our fingers as well as other cultural information. This made for discoveries about other cultures and a chance to share their own culture with others. Of course we had to speak English as no one spoke all four languages. The class seemed to grow closer during the two weeks I was there.

As an ESL teacher I have encountered a variety of students from many countries around the world. Currently, I have the honors of working with the Somali community. I discovered that most of my assumptions were wrong. When I first met this community I believed that a majority of Somali women were submissive, uneducated and with no desire to learn. All of these assumptions were based on several interactions I've had in the past within social events. A very good friend of mine and professional helped me interpret my assumptions and presented several resources that helped understand and evaluate my assumptions. As my connection with the Somali population grows I am happy to say that I was able to face the many challenges I had when I would witness low writing skills, covered bodies in 100 degree weather, kids hungry and fasting because of religion. I overcame them when I started to visualized that for them it was important and they were willing to share with me their experiences. After being expose to this new community I have incorporated the DIE approach into my everyday life experiences and into my classroom. In my classroom if their is a situation that arise, I stop and have the students reflect using this approach. It makes wonders when kids figure why they were thinking that way.

As a new ESL teacher, I have been amazed at how much culture affects student learning and thinking processes and not just outwardly visible differences such as dress, diet, art, social interaction, and that many cultures use circular or indirect methods of thinking and writing as opposed to American direct thinking. Reading everyone's posts has been informative. Thank you for sharing!

The ELLU course on the Role of Culture and the D.I.E. model is one that I am interested in taking. Does anyone know how I could do this?

Liane