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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

Luz Santori's picture

Culture is a very important component in the classroom. It may empower the students as well as to create an unconfortable environment in class, depending on the teacher's skills to deal with the subject. Many times we are not prepared to face some missunderstood cultural behavior because our way of seeing things differently. 

I liked the way how the three Central Americaom  students were able to bring their strenghs to abroad other students' perception of their background. Their strenghs were recognized by the teacher and became part of her activities to integrate these students to the new world inte United States. I also was impressed with the dialogue between Anna and Mario. It is amazing to see how a negative strong percepotion can be changed just by DIE. It suggested first to investigating a bit more about a particular issue to then continue with the procedure.  These events show us that is it too innocent to grasp our first impression based on most visible behavior rather than going deeper to find reasons for certain typical behaviors. With respect and tolerance we are able to understand each others because not only new inmigrants assimilate the dominant culturre, but also the mayoritized group adapts new ways to be able to understand new cultures. 

In conclusion, we exhibit practices and routines according to our original place of development, we make assume wrong facts abnout others, but continue improving our founding of knowledge to become more accesible as well to integrate different cultures. 

Arden Czaszewicz's picture

This course has helped me to review many things I knew during my years of teaching in Hungary.  Not only was I a non-native there, but also an ESL teacher.  Thus, I was bringing my culture to their culture while trying to assimilate into their culture.  

I am encouraged and motivated to incorporate more culturally integrating activities into my classroom here in the US with my adult students.  

finnmiller's picture

Hi Arden, It's interesting that this ELLU course reminded you of your days teaching in Hungary and how important aspects of culture were for you at that time. It's good to hear you feel encouraged and motivated to address culture more explicitly in your classroom after taking this online course.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

 

Joanne Mongeon's picture

I found the information about the Moslem practice of celebration at the end of Ramadan interesting. I had not realized the celebration aspect of Ramadan, and was interested in the wearing of new clothes, etc. It reminded me of the Christian practice of celebration of Easter after Lent, and the Obon festival which the Japanese celebrate at the end of the time when they believe the souls of the dead visit, and they send them back. Having celebrated Easter each year since birth, and the Obon festival while teaching in Japan, I was wishing I knew about the festival at the end of Ramadan when I was tutoring a woman from Somalia. I would now ask her if she and her family celebrated the end of Ramadan, and in future teaching ESL, will ask about forms of celebration in the cultures of the people I teach.

 

Miguel Iglesias Nunez's picture

I do really believe that we must include the culture in our classrooms certainly very often. I am an International Teacher who came from Spain and I do really believe that the culture plays a very important role in our daily practice as teachers.

Based on my practice, I realized that we must include culture as an ongoing activity which should be always present in many ways in our classes, students enjoy watching different places, customs, ways of living, people, and they get easily engaged on tasks that show different cultures than their own. You can: reflect on them, compare both, look for differences, talk about what you like and dislike, describe landscapes, people, etc. 

Approaching instruction to different cultures helps students to open their minds, to think critically (think out of the box), to have a better and global image of themselves as a part of the whole world and definitely, help us with the goal, of getting a differentiated and individual instruction. 

When the topic of the instruction is close to their lives, they get focused and engaged because they find themselves as a part of the educational process, and moreover, they assume the contents and procedures because they are real and useful for their own lives.

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Let the child prepare for life by living

Ovide Decroly

Nicole Bowman's picture

I went to the CARECEN website. I saw pictures of Latino people with certificates, possibly their becoming citizens. I wonder why remittances are so important for people in the US based on Central American politics. I saw statistics that this organization helps people legally immigrate to the US. I saw that most of their cases were unique. I wonder why this website isn’t in Spanish?

From my perspective, it looks like this website is for people who have been in the US for a while and want to immigrate legally. This website might possibly be more for people who are lawyers and advocates. They may have more Spanish materials elsewhere in Washington.

At first, I was very confused because I don’t have a lot of background knowledge concerning legality issues for immigrants from Central America. I struggled with accepting stereotypes that I heard from the media that talks about illegal immigrants being horrible people. Part of me wonders why are these people helping them? However, I need to learn more about this organization because this is a very complicated situation.

I discovered my assumption is that these people are helping illegal immigrants, but probably many of these people have different types of work VISAS as well. It helped me because I tried to see the positive instead of instantly seeing the negative. Interpretation is a hard stage because obviously, I don’t have enough information to form a good judgment. It would be better if I spoke with people who have successfully come into the United States.

The DIE model can help create a classroom where people develop good cognitive skills and questioning strategies. It also helps humanize people rather than go with one-dimensional stereotypes. We can use this model to facilitate interconnectedness in my classroom but also understand “majority” American culture better.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Nicole, As you suggest, the DIE process highlighted in the ELLU online course on the role of culture in ESL offers a safe means for people to question their own assumptions, including ourselves. Thanks for sharing your reflection. You are taking away a lot from this online course.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

Esdras De La Torre's picture

I agree with you.

Larid Lopez's picture

I like they way it shows the funds of knowledge that one may overlook. The arts is sometimes overlooked and provide lots of information about students experiences in life.

 

PatiG's picture

The role of culture is an important element to teaching my students. Because of a former school systen that I worked in tried to assimilate students instead of allowing them to be acculturated, I deeloped a while program which was senstive to their needs. I face a lot of opposition, and needless to say I no longer work for this system. 

cherylB's picture

This course gave me a better understanding of how to give my Adult ESL students more opportunities to share their cultures and beliefs with our class. The you-tube videos were helpful especially the one about the young girls who shared how they are "hijabistas." After I watched this video, I asked the Muslim women about their hijabs and where they bought them and discussed the beautiful colors and textures. Some of the other female students who had ignored these students, who were seemingly so different from them in the way they dress, entered into the conversation about fashion. I talked about how the hijab shows the strength of Muslim women and their focus on the inner beauty of women as I had learned from the video. I plan to show the clip to my class so that they can have an opportunity to share their culture with us. I found that the hijab made some students uncomfortable, but after the discussion they saw them as women they could relate to.

cherylB's picture

The Adult Literacy teachers, who are the most culturally competent, are the ones who allow each student to have a voice. The teacher is the facilitator who provides an accepting, non-threatening environment where students feel free to share their unique culture with us. Each student should be encouraged to teach us about their distinct fascinating culture. One way I try to foster discussions about culture is to have students contribute to a board of events where they hang up flyers for festivals and educational events that we can attend. Our Adult ESL students have invited our class to events at the Hindu temple, the Mosque, Festivals, and the Botanical Gardens for cultural events. My students want to share more about themselves, but I find that they are just waiting to be asked.

PatiG's picture

Cultural investment on behalf of the student(s) is very rewarding. However, if you do not have the educational system on board, such as where I live, (a small rural area). This makes for a diffifcultt task to achieve when administrators are extremely narrowed minded. 

JanisHT's picture

I've always found culture to be a fascinating topic.  Most people think of culture in terms of nationality, but culture is so much more.  We can look at cultural differences/similarities based upon nationality, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, and a multitude of other factors.  

Discussions about culture and values can lead to teaching moments.  Whether it is a simple matter of asking students to jot down a few impressions about a culture or involving learners in the exploration of one or more cultures, instructors can use culture as a point of departure for learning.

In my ESL classes, I normally tried to pair students with someone from a different background.  Can you imagine the long-haired, German biker guy paired with a demure Japanese woman?  Apparently it worked!  The two became friends despite her initial fear of the "man with the tattoos".  More importantly, they helped each other improve their listening and speaking skills.

The idea of big C and little c culture is intriguing.  It's pretty easy to figure out that the White House, the Constitution, the Civil War, and other aspects of American life with a history are part of the big C.  (By the way, for some people, the term "Big C" means cancer!)  some of the little c items are clearly things that will go away after time.  The problem of deciding is something modern is Big C or little c lies with its ability to last and influence others.  I would probably consider Elvis to be a Big C.  I'm not sure if Bare Naked Ladies will become Big C.  When we get into a discussion of these areas, we  have to consider whether something will be enduring or whether it will merely fade away.  

 

 

 

 

JanisHT's picture

I can see how the DIE Model would be very useful for any ESL instructor, but especially for new ones.  Many instructors lack experience with cultural diversity aside from one or two dominant cultures in their area.  By employing the DIE Model, instructors can describe, interpret, and evaluate cultural behaviors and then use the knowledge gained from the model to more effectively connect to their students.

I have used the DIE and Funds of Knowledge models most recently in working with members of the Boruca tribe in southern Costa Rica.  My husband, a native of Costa Rica, had never thought about either of these two models.  In our visit to the Boruca, he was more surprised with aspects of the indigenous culture than I was.  Oddly enough, he seemed to see the Boruca as being other than Costa Rican, whereas I saw them as part of the large, diverse peoples who make up that nation.  Since our initial visit, one of the Boruca has taught me to spin cotton, weave, and even carve and paint tribal masks.  In making a connection to the Funds of Knowledge of the Boruca, I see great opportunities to help further their knowledge of English, which is important for tourism.

 

Miriamb3's picture

Hi, all.

I am enjoying this discussion on culture. Could someone explain, however,  what the DIE model is, what it stands for, and so on? Thanks.

Miriam

lea.havas's picture

Funds of Knowledge seems to work well to research children's background and/or small group of students. I am interested to find out how to implement this process within a large group of adult ESL students of different nationalities. Any comment will be welcomed.

 

Browning Rochefort's picture

This was interesting as we have been doing lots with funds of knowledge - just didn't know what it was called. We just knew if we started with things folks already knew it was much easier to move forward and branch learning off of the original knowledge the students had. They were more engaged and offered more of themselves to the whole class.

The DIE model is great for broadening acceptance of other cultures - in an inquiry and thought provoking manner. It is a great conversation to have, to get to know the real feelings, etc. of the individuals in a culture. The contrast among the different indigenous groups In Guatemala.. It is amazing to see the descriptions - how varied rpthey are and to discover how different the individuals feel about certain events and "habits"  of their fellow Guatemalans. This is eye opening to them as feel as the teachers.

 

 

BCarlyle's picture

Living overseas in another culture has helped prepare me and made me a better teacher. I have used the different cultures to bring about teaching moments in my classroom. I have used different aspects of culture to teach my class.

Miriamb3's picture

Hi, Billy and others,

I agree that living overseas (as opposed to just traveling there) can help make someone a better teacher. You say that you have "used different cultures to bring about teaching moments in your classroom." Could you give us an example of one of these teaching moments?

Here’s my example: I remember many years ago when I was teaching international students at the University of Minnesota. I had just returned from two years living and teaching in Barcelona. I was doing a dictation with the students about a package I had just received from Spain. I had sent it to myself 6 months before. It had arrived in tatters – the box that is – but the books inside were fine. I was doing the kind of dictation where you read it first at a natural speed and then you read it again more slowly. Then you read it again at a natural speed. The object is for the students to comprehend and recreate it.

Anyway, I noticed that one young man was sighing as he was doing the task. Another was looking sort of overwhelmed. Maybe it was because the topic of the dictation reminded me of how I had felt at times overseas, but I stopped mid sentence and observed that I thought it was really hard at times to live, study, or work in another culture. The energy returned to the room as if I had  turned on some sort of of electrical device. The students and I had a brief but, I think, important conversation about living overseas; then we returned to the dictation. This time, I didn't notice any sighing and saw a lot more attention and energy going to the task. My just acknowledging the students' situation had made it easier for them to continue to do their classwork.

Anyway, that’s my example. Be great to hear some of yours, fellow community members!

Miriam

Jeannie Huyser's picture

Miriam,

Thank you for your comment. Yes, I agree that it helps to be culturally sensitive if you have lived abroad. My husband and I lived in Nicaragua for twenty years and have traveled throughout Central America. We have also traveled to other parts of the world.

When the students are aware that I have been to their country, the door to teaching them seems to open quicker. I also can talk about their food and clothing when it is appropriate.

I have found that having the experience of being in other countries makes me so much more culturally sensitive in my teaching.

 

mindbodydave's picture

Hi, Miriam,

Great story!  

I think calling on our knowledge of living abroad and/or simply taking time to acknowledge the struggle, work, energy, frustration of the process is really helpful, as you point out.  I know it's true for me when I am learning something new, especially a language, and I have seen it have effects on students as you have described.

Right on for more transparency, human connection, sharing, and encouragement.

Thanks again,

Dave

Robertgd407's picture

During the introduction to the course I ask the students to tell us something about their favorite holiday in their country of origin, their favorite food cooked by their mother, and something abut their home life. I also relate the same information concerning my life. When a pertinent topic arises I segue to relating it to their personal life.

The students are more comfortable when they and their classmates find a commonality and develop an understanding of each other, as well as being given a chance to expound upon something the enjoy and can share with others.

Robertgd407's picture

By developing an understanding of other cultures I can understand my students perspective of of my culture. By having my students relate to the class their favorite foods, describing their family relationships, their interest, the work they performed in their homeland and their work here, how they celebrate their favorite holiday, or a family member's birthday an understanding and hopefully an appreciation for that individual develops between them and their classmates, and the students become comfortable in their classroom community.

The cultural knowledge I acquire during this process helps me create a lesson guide that allows me to create lessons relevant to the class.

The DIE process of Describing what I learn from a culture, Interpreting this information (of a culturally significant activity.) and then Evaluating this new knowledge broadens my perspective on the cultural sifnificants of the activity to the student and makes it more relevant to its incorporation into the lesson plan. It also gives rise to explaining the reason for contra-cultural practices (as viewed by other cultures.) that are part of everyday life in America. to make the students feel more at ease in the classroom and in America. For example, in some Asian countires handing something (possibly a worksheet, or lesson) with one hand is considered disrespectful. using two hands and a hint of a bow is showing respect for the receiver of the item.

Dr. Robin's picture

I was interested in the comment from Robertgd407 about how handing an item to someone with one hand is considered dispresepectful in some Asian cultures. 

The aspect of culture I find tremendously important for teachers in the US to know and think about is the learners' ideas of how education should be conducted.  When learners' ideas about how a "good" classroom should be managed and how a "good" teacher and "good" student behave and interact conflict with or do not coincide with what the teacher him or herself is expecting, things can fall apart.  In my extensive work looking at reasons why adult English language learners fail to thrive or, in some cases, fail period, I learned that culture can often play a huge part in that failure.   Students who come from highly authoritarian educational systems can be unprepared for efforts by their teachers in American classrooms to get them to offer opinions, set learning goals and take responsibility for knowing what to study and how.   These students can feel their teachers do not know what they are doing, and can be very frustrated that the class is not going the way they want it to.  One example of this was related to me by a teacher in a GED program in Texas.  She said a student from Africa had finally "exploded" in frustration one day, railing against her GED teachers because they appeared not to know what they were teaching and what the students should study.  She noted that in her country, the teacher assigned a specific passage to "study" (i.e. memorize) and then the students knew EXACTLY what they would be tested on.  This student was frustrated at not knowing what her teacher meant when she assigned a reading to be "studied" and was unable to adapt to this more unstructured approach.      

Another example comes to mind from a study by Hubenthal, who was looking at, among other things, the barriers to progress in learning English among older Russian immigrants ( Hubenthal, W. (2004).  Older Russian immigrants’ experiences in learning English: motivation, methods and barriers.  Adult Basic Education, 14(2), 104-126.)   The author found that because the immigrants expected that they would be severely scolded and corrected when any mistakes were made, they did not respect their American teacher, who, of course, did not do that.  (When I found this study, I laughed at the idea that any American teacher would chastise an older female student in front of the class for a mispronunciation or small grammar error, so different is our idea of how certain students should be treated!!).

Other times it was cultural/religious differences which impacted the class, as when a married Muslim woman in one of my university ESL classes was hard pressed to find a seat away from unmarried men or the simple greetings routines one teaches in a beginning class had to be modified to assure that this student did not have to interact with the unmarried men.  

 I want to comment on culture and writing, too-- will do so in a separate post.

Robin Lovrien Schwarz  

 

Dr. Robin's picture

 

With the new focus on some states on beginning to incorporate the common core standards into ESL instruction, and/or the focus on the career and readiness standards and incorporating those into adult ESL, ways of incorporating more writing into ESL instruction has been a topic of great interest among teachers, programs and state adult ed. administrators.  Recently I was asked to address this topic at a regional staff development day in NY state.   As I noted in the previous post,  culture plays a huge role in the way many students engage in an ESL classroom, and writing is affected by the student's culture in many ways. 

Just last evening I was visiting with an Ecuadoran man who is studying to be a veterinarian.  He is beginning to think about preparing for the GRE, and noted that he needed to become more familiar with American academic writing since in his country, he said, students do very little writing and he was unfamiliar with the concept of essays and papers.  This aspect of culture and its impact on a student's writing was part of my remarks to the participants at that staff development day.  Adult students we see in ESL who are literate and educated are obviously completely shaped by their culture's ideas of and experience with writing.  The African student I cited in the example about the GED class had never written anything that was not previously memorized.   My extremely bright and educated college students were amused when I asked them how they expressed their ideas in their country.  They said the teacher knew all there was to know on the topic they were studying. Why would they express any ideas?  This explained why their writing teachers in our program (we had separate writing, reading, grammar and listening speaking classes)  kept claiming these students had "no ideas and could not think!!"   Here we see what a deep impact culture and cultural views of how education should happen have on a student's performance in our classrooms.  These examples were part of what moved me to look more closely at what was REALLY going on with students who did not engage in classes or outright failed to make progress. 

Even seemingly simple things like using capitals in writing is different in different cultures and writing systems.  I feel that for them to be effective-and yes, sensitive--, it is tremendously important for teachers to move beyond "the three "Fs"-- food, fashion and fun (music)-- in thinking about culture in the ESL classroom and learn about how students' attitudes and ideas toward learning, interacting, being students and "good" teachers are shaping their receptivity to class lessons and engagement in learning.   

An excellent resource-- and fascinating reading --is Helen Fox's book , Listening to the world: Cultural issues in academic writing. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English ( 1994). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 373 331).  Though this is about higher level non-native speakers of English, I found that much of what Fox addresses can be seen in lower levels of education and ESL as well.

Robin Lovrien Schwarz

 

 

 

 

LatinLanguages25000's picture

I believe that cross-cultural understanding in the ESL classroom (or any other setting) should always be a two way process, therefore, ESL students should share their beautiful culture, but at the same time, (teachers) should emphasize the importance of being sensitive and understanding with the mainstream culture.  In my opinion, respect and understanding (from each side) are essential if we want to create a more bi-cultural sensitive ESL learning environment.

 

Miriamb3's picture

Hi, all. This conversation keeps getting better!

I agree with the need for the students to respect one another's cultures and the mainstream culture. They issue with the mainstream culture, also, of course, is more crucial as in order to be successful here students need to understand the "rules" and so on of the mainstream culture.

What sort of adctivities do you do to build this two (or even multi) way respect?

 

Miriam

 

LatinLanguages25000's picture

Probably “Facebook” could be considered as either small “c” (little culture) or big “C” (big culture) since it was invented in the U.S., but now is a phenomenon used in cyberspace around the world. 

LatinLanguages25000's picture

I am an ESL instructor originally from South America.  Most of my students (%90) are of Mexican origin; obviously, the main thing in common is that we share the same first language, Spanish.   Before working with this population I did not realize that the Spanish language had many differences. For example, in expressions, verb use, lexicon, syntax, and intonation among Latin countries.  After working for several years with this population (Mexican origin students) I became a more culturally competent and sensitive teacher.   In other words, I avoid assuming that just because people speak the same first language (or come from the same country, they many not necessarily speak, think, or behave the same… 

The Times in Plain English's picture

Here at The Times in Plain English we use osmosis. To apply learned material and reading techniques to the reading and parsing of content relevant to the lives of readers, we publish varied stories of interest and accessibility to English Language Learners. (That sentence was not an example.) 

Readers choosing what they want to read leads to readers gaining a broader understanding of the world around them. No big C or little c. Self-selection is one way to gauge the interest of the reader.

Arthur Schiff

LatinLanguages25000's picture

In order to apply the DIE Inquiry Strategy I observed the Cambodia Town website.

Description: The video shows a group of seniors originally from Cambodia working together as a community. They use the gardening skills they brought from their home country to grow vegetables and exotic plants in the USA.

Interpretation: I think most Cambodian immigrants to the U.S. are community and family-oriented people. They come from rural-farming societies. Evaluation:

This observation provided me a good frame of reference about the background knowledge of the Cambodian people (gardening and farming knowledge). Instructors can use this Background knowledge to create of more meaningful ESL learning setting.

I could use the DIE inquire strategy to create a more meaningful and cultural sensitive pedagogy for my adult ESL students.

LatinLanguages25000's picture

                                                        Course Reflection

This course presented interesting points to better understand diversity and avoid stereotyping.  I plan to use the DIE inquire strategy to facilitate a more inclusive learning environment.  A place where students feel secure, appreciate, and their culture is validated in an inclusive cross-cultural learning setting.

lea.havas's picture

My name is Lea. I'm a new member and I'm enrolled in the Role of Culture in the Education of ELL. I am originally from Brazil, but I'm also a British citizen and have lived in the UK for many years. The course is very interesting to me as I also had to learn English as a second language once. I find the role of culture in learning a second language extremelly important. I lived in different countries and speak several languages. It is curious as how different are the nuances of cultures in each langauge I learned.

Culture is a very important part of my teaching. As a non-native speaker, I had to adjust, and still adjusting to the 'little c' culture in the USA, as I had to do in other countries I lived (even in Britain, where they speak English, culturally, another English). I try to make my students understand that and by so doing, I hope they feel included in an environment where they can feel comfortable expressing their own culture and assimilate the native one as well as possible, always keeping their own identity, something I find very important. 

lea.havas's picture

DIE Inquiry Strategy helped me to inform my knowledge about Islam and Muslims.

Description: As I looked at the website of Eid Around the World, I notice that there were very few pictures portraying women, and many portraying men only, praying at mosques. Despite my knowldge of the islamic rules of segregation, I decided to find out more about why women are segregated.

Interpretation: Perhaps, the segregation is due to the complementarianism roles and reponsability specified in the islamic law and practice, which recognizes gender disparity.

Evaluation: I struggle with the segregation of women idea and their assigned role in the community. I learned that there is a differentiation between 'secular islamic' and 'religious islamic' terms. I discovered that I need to learn even more about this topic in order to be a 'culturally competent teacher'.

lea.havas's picture

Culture plays an important role in teaching and learning. At the begining of each term, when there are new students who join the class, I do an introductory session where every one, including myself, will say our names, where we are from and what we do as work. In the classroom, there is a large map of the world and I ask each student, as they introduce themselves, to physicaly pin their country of origin in the map.  As the term develops, I use all these information and subsequent information disclosed during the course, as material to my lessons. I use them as examples, to develop vocabulary and many more strategies. 

Through the course 'The role of Culture in the Education of Adult ELL, I discovered a new tool. DIE Inquiry Strategy, which I intend to use as appropriate during my lessons. Another interesting activity from the course, which I will implement in my lessons is the 'Practices, Perspective, and Product Framework'. 

Kim's picture

As a tutor and case manager for AELL, the most important strategy I have used is to let the student teach me about his/her experiences because I am not the expert about anyone else's culture.  I readily admit that I don't know everything and that I don't want to make assumptions.  I use open-ended questions and listen carefully to answers that hold clues for further dialogue.  I also use supervision to benefit from the mentoring process.

I have observed classroom teachers use partializing skills with students who are flustered.  The teacher breaks down the big problem into small pieces, exploring educational, emotional, and cultural elements that may be the source of frustration.  Sadly, I have observed teachers who make assumptions about cultural knowledge, applying what they learned in the past to the current student without asking if the student's experience was the same or different.

I want to learn how to create better questions so I can explore misunderstandings and feelings of marginalization that may have occurred in the classroom setting.  Also, I want to learn how to communicate with students who are just beginning to learn English.

Dr. Robin's picture

HI Lea,  I am writing in response to your interesting post on your background and your grappling with cultural issues.  I wonder if you would be willing to speak about how your cultural experience of education in Brazil colored or otherwise impacted your experience as a language learner. Did you learn English in Brazil?  Was it with Brazilian teachers, or was it with teachers of other cultures?  When you work with students now, how do your cultural values compare with and intersect with those of your students?  

I know it is very interesting to think about many aspects of a culture and cultural icons or people who seem to play a culturally important role (e.g.Madonna), but for me, it is always how culture impacts the learning and teaching in the ESOL classroom that interests me.   A student can literally live life 24 hours a day for years and not be impacted by Madonna in the least, right?  But if you expect your teacher to be firmly in charge of the classroom and then find yourself being asked to set your own learning goals, THAT could be uncomfortable.  Or worse, if you have some condition that makes learning challenging ( e.g. serious hearing loss), but you come from a culture where persons with disabilities are routinely excluded from education settings or where it is believed that if you make yourself a "problem" for the teacher by needing special accommodations the teacher will find a way to get revenge, then you are unlikely to communicate your situation to your teacher or teachers.   These are the aspects of culture that I feel we really need to be looking at as teachers of persons from other cultures.   How a person dresses or what he or she prefers to eat for breakfast is far less critical to that person's day-to-day functioning in the ESOL classroom, I find. 

These are aspects of the "hidden" or below-the-waterline culture that Phil Anderson was referring to, and that the metaphor about the iceberg of culture gets at--there is so much that governs our thinking and behavior that even we ourselves are not conscious of until we come face to face with a different way of thinking or doing something.   (This always makes me think of a student from the Arabian Gulf who was at the university where I taught for a long time.  He had gotten a letter that allowed him accommodations in the classroom for some issue, but he needed to set up the process at the student services office.  After two visits there, he refused to go back.  When questioned, he said that the person with whom he was supposed to meet never smiled at him.  Since in his culture a warm greeting of a stranger is very important, he assumed she did not like him and did not want him there.   His whole academic future was at stake without the accommodations he needed, but the differences in cultural values he encountered were almost insurmountable.) 

Robin Lovrien (Schwarz)

lea.havas's picture

Dr. Robin,

I will be most than happy to share my experience here. However, I am not a typical Brazilian (if there is such a thing). Brazil, like the USA, is a melting pot of cultures brought by the many different immigrants that populate that country. These cultures had a very important role on the shaping of what we call " Brazilian culture". Brazil had waves of immigrants through times. First the Bravados Portuguese and the Jesuits, who were the first to arrive there and quickly mingled with the natives. Then the African slaves, the Portuguse Royal Court fleeying from Napoleon, Libanese, Italians, Swiss, Japanese, Germans, and I could go on till tomorrow. The social level of these immigrants varied enourmasly depending of each case. Some were political or religious refugees, sometimes with wealth and European culture, highly educated. Others were economic immigrants seeking a better life. The Afro-brazilians were very soon integrated into the Brazilian life, once slavery was abolished. There is a term in Brazil for the immigrants that first went there (1500s), the four hundred year inhabitants. These were (are) considered to be the ones with "Brazilian" culture, due to their early race mix, and therefore culture mix as well.

My family immigrated between the two World Wars from Hungary and I am first generation born in Brazil. Anybody that immigrated at the beginning of the 1900s were considered "different culturally", more Europeans. I grew up bilingual. I learn French at an early age and continue studying it until I left Brazil 35 years ago. I have lived in many countries and speak several languages. I do not rememberer if my English teacher was a native speaker (I use to hate Englisg!). I am not sure I can say I have a typical culture of anywhere. I had to learn how to adjust to different places, people and cultures. I try my best to understand my students and help them to do the same in their new country's culture. 

I hope I answered some of your questions. 

 

Lea.

 

Kim's picture

Star Wars, McDonald's, Madonna, the Betsy Ross flag, The Great Gatsby, iPods, baseball, a Coke can, the White House, and Facebook are all Big C items because their images are recognized and carry meaningful connotation for a wide variety of people of all ages.   

Jeremy Lin was a headline for a while, but other athletes will easily take his place.  The same thing is true about Groupon vouchers.  Perhaps for a short while Lin and Groupon would be Big C items, but they slipped into the little c category over time.

A bus ticket is something used in everyday life and is a generic item in the little c category.  Perhaps a Greyhound bus ticket might move into the Big C category because it is somewhat iconic, but it would be debateable. 

 

 

lea.havas's picture

I found your comments very interesting regarding Big C little c. However, I have to disagree with you on a couple of Big Cs. I am not a Native American and new nothing about Betsy Ross flag. Therefore I would not include it in the Big C list. Baseball is a very American cultural symbol, and again I would not include it in the Big C list. The Great Gatsby could be both, big and little, depending of where the immigrant comes from. In certain countries of the Far East and Africa, not many people heard of the film, let alone the book. Same with the Greyhound bus tickets. Many of the items in the list would only be available through film, TV, media, and radio. Many immigrants come from places where those information medium are not there, or there is very low literacy level and the person is not able to read. I agree with you regarding the White House, the can of Coke, McDonalds, Facebook, and to a certain extent Madonna. On the other hand, I think a bus ticket,although an everyday life object, as you rightly point out, I would include amongst the Big C. In some places a bus is not something taken for granted. Considering that immigrants come from all levels of society, I would think some people would think of certain items as iconic and some others wouldn't.

Lets us find out what are the Big Cs and little Cs of our students' by asking them to make a list of their most relevant icons. I am sure it will be varied and very interesting. I will do this exercise in my classroom. 

 

Leah

 

Jeannie Huyser's picture

McDonalds,Beloved, Star Wars,  Madonna, Betsy Ross, The Great Gatsby,  Coke can, White House, facebook baseball, are all Big  C items. I think these icons will be recognized, and passed on to many generations. Ipods, Jeremy Lin, a groupon voucher,  and bus ticket can be replaced, therefore, I place them in the litttle c category.

Kim's picture

Description

I observed that the Martyr's Day celebration involved men and women carrying flower arrangements.  The men wore red and blue while the women wore mostly white.  Those in the procession kept their eyes downcast.

I observed that they pronunciation of Karen has the emphasis on the second syllable, while I assumed the emphasis was on the first syllable. 

I also observed that there is a large population of Burmese refugees in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. 

Interpretation

Perhaps Martyr's Day is similar to Memorial Day or Veterans Day in the US.

It is possible that Burmese refugees stayed in Minnesota because airline flights from southern Asia often land in Minnesota or Michigan.

Evaluation

When I have the opportunity to talk with a Burmese refugee, I intend to ask about Martyr's Day so I can learn how it is the same or different as our holidays of Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Where are other Burmese refugee populations in the US?  I would like to learn why these people chose to make permanent residence in their cities of choice.

Kim's picture

This course has reminded me that I am not an expert on someone else's culture regardless of how much research I have done.  I need to ask each student about their experiences in their own culture.  I hope to avoid making assumptions or generalizing to the entire population.

When I meet with a student to tutor them, I will ask about their experiences in the classroom and if they experienced anything that felt uncomfortable to them.  I will inquire about whether or not they felt like a part of the class or if they felt left out or stigmatized in any way.

Nicole Bowman's picture

I agree! I love learning about different cultures and peoples, but I too can fall into the pit of overgeneralizing. And I get mad when Americans do that to me!

I really liked your idea to ask about students' experiences in the classroom in order to facilitate good community.

Personally, what I learned in this course is that acculturation happens in differing (and not all positive) ways. This course broadened the way that I look at my students and has encouraged me to continue getting to know my students better and better. I can form a classroom culture that helps students learn to the best of their ability. I know where some of my students work, and it encourages me to go to their places of business in order to know how they will need to use English in their daily lives. Another strategy I would like to use is to continue to respect and encourage differing opinions and "ways of doing life" in my classroom. General American principles of culture and ways of living should be discussed. I have students who have been in the United States for a long time as well as some newcomers. I think classroom discussion will help these students reflect on how they have adjusted which will simultaneously give newer students examples and options for how they can go about acculturating to their new community.

 

Nicole Bowman

Hdao's picture

As an immigrant, I know of not making any assumption about other cultures. I also like to observe the differences between people of many countries from the same continent. I have many encounters with other people’s assumptions. Many Americans do not recognize the differences between people of many Asian countries. They think that everyone come from China. I was annoyed at first, but I figured that if I teach them the differences then they would not make this mistake with others.

 

Now arming with the DIE inquiry strategy, I will be able to guide them to their own discovery of differences between people of different countries of the same continent. I will teach the DIE strategy to my students so their inquiries will not offense their classmates.

lea.havas's picture

Hdao

Being also an immigrant, I agree with your comment about not making any assumptions about the ohters' culture. I encountered the same problem about not differentiating people of the same continent, but with  Latin America, and not only in the USA. I lived in Europe for most of my adult life and came across many people who put Africans, Asians and Latin Americans in the same 'continent' pot. It is people like you and me, that are able to clarify that to them and enlighten them about the differences. The best place to start is in the classroom and amongst our teacher fellows. They will then be able to pass it on to their students and these to other people.

 

Lea.

MargaretG's picture

In light of the TEDtalk in this section as well as the idea of the stereotypes of investigating just the foods, festivals, etc. of cultures, I reflected on the ESL class I visited and then facilitated last week.
We were discussing foods and favorite restaurants of the ESL students, all hailing from Central or South America, because we were headed out to the community garden later in the day to harvest our vegetables. The students kept mentioning how many foreign foods they loved, like Mediterranean, Japanese, sushi, Thai, and so on. Very few of them mentioned their home food, though they mentioned they liked trying foods from other Spanish speaking countries. Italian restaurants were the most popular! They are all first generation immigrants who are seeking citizenship, but it would not be useful to ask about their home food. Though they may have grown up with the tradition, they seem to want to branch out, making them more like Americans than they realize (at least, most people I know seem to have Americanized food from a different culture every day because they can get it in take out). I think the home country food or traditions question could most frustrate an second generation immigrant, who may have been brought here as a baby and grown up completely separated from their home country, because it could feel like I was forcing a culture upon them that they never knew.
This section really made me realize that though I try to avoid cultural bias, it has permeated my thinking anyway and I was a bit disappointed in myself. Admitting it is the first step to getting better though, right?! I can't wait to become a better, more culturally competent citizen and teacher.

Miriamb3's picture

Margaret,

You bring up a very good point about not assuming that the first or second generation immigrants want to only talk about and eat food from their home countries.  You know what they say about assumptions!

I think, though, that some immigrants may want talk about their home country food. For example, when visiting programs in Maine, where many of the refugee/immigrants are from Somalia, or Eritrea, or Ethiopa, often via Kenya, I observed that they do like to talk about eating and cooking the Halal food from their cultures. Traditionally, in classes with beginning-level students, talking about their foods and doing exercises where they practice vocabulary and structures around cooking and eating (Take two cups  of rice and put in three cups of  boiling water for 30 minutes.... etc.) has given the students the language they need and has allowed them to share their culture with other students and with the teacher. This is also a venue to learn about American measurement system, etc. Finally, it often results in wonderful shared meals. I still dream about the spring rolls, noodles, larb, satays, and soups I had when teaching Southeast Asians in the 70s and 80s.

Again, though, Margaret,  your point about not assuming anything is right on target. And your self reflection is advisable for all of us!

Thoughts from others out there? This is a wonderful thread that goes on months (years?) after Dorjan Chaney began it!

Miriam Burt

SME, Adult ELL CoP

 

 

Marie B's picture

I have students from a variety of countries and cultures in my classroom. I continuously strive to not simply teach American culture, but also to have them share their cultural traditions and ways of life. I want them to know that I'm eager to learn from them as well. Fellow classmates are also interested to learn about other cultures, and it's important for students to know that my classroom is welcoming of all cultures and that we can all learn from each other!

Marie B's picture

Star Wars, Jeremy Lin, Madonna, Betsy Ross's flag, The Great Gatsby, and the Great Depression are part of Big C culture. Everyday cultural influences like a McDonald's menu, a Groupon voucher, a Coke can, a bus ticket, and Facebook are part of Little c culture. Some on the list could be either/or since they are part of daily life, yet also have Big C elements involved. It is not always clearly distinguishable. The two forms of culture, Big C and Little c, have an effect on each other, and therefore, on us.

Marie B's picture

The DIE model and Funds of Knowledge are excellent guides for learning from and better appreciating our students, their backgrounds, histories, experiences, and prior knowledge. The DIE stages help me to take a step back to better interpret and evaluate and in turn learn from and apply what I've learned about another culture and their ways of living. I think the Interpretation stage is the most difficult of the three. It seems simple to describe a situation and share feelings about it. However, interpreting the experience can be more complicated.

I think the DIE model is very beneficial to the adult ELL classroom. It can help us to take time to better understand each other and more greatly appreciate different views and cultural practices. It is also important to choose your words wisely, so as not to offend or cause someone else to be on the defensive. Word choice is very important and critical when discussing cultural differences.

Marie B's picture

This course has helped to further encourage me to invest time in getting to know each student personally so I can more deeply know their "Funds of Knowledge" and in turn expand on what they know to help them grow in their English language learning. I want to know their specific reasons for wanting to learn English and how I can help them to succeed and reach their own goals. I want to take time with each individual so I may learn more about their background, experiences, desires, and plans for their future. I'm also glad to now know more about how to handle conversations with others who may not be sensitive to cultural differences, and to better be able to help them come to appreciate all the wonderful rich cultures we are privileged to come into contact with and learn about! I'm eager to help my students grow in not only their knowledge of English, but also a greater knowledge and appreciation for each others' cultures and ways of life!

Pansy Chintha's picture

The topic of culture has always fascinated me.  This course has helped understand how integrating different cultures in the classroom can aid the students in learning the language.  When I was in Mexico, learning about their culture, food and songs helped me to learn the language.  Integrating the threads of different cultures and the threads of learning a language can help us weave a strong fabric of understanding the language.

Carmela Kemp's picture

I believe The popstar "Madonna" or the movie "Star Wars" are good examples of "culture" that could be considered big or little "Cc."  Whereas Toni Morrison novels or historical happenings such as the Great Depression are clearly big"C."

Carmela Kemp's picture

Probably the most useful concept I learned in this course was to refrain from assuming that students from the same culture share similar cultural experiences.  In the past, I may have engaged in discussion assuming similar practices.  Now, I know better to center the discussion more on individual practices and only then discover and note commonality.

Carmela Kemp's picture

Working through the "Eid" powerpoint, I observed (description) the centrality of prayer as part of the celebration as well as celebrating community by visiting with friends and family and sharing food.  I realized (interpretation) that components of the Eid celebration were similar to celebrating Christian holidays.  For example, in the powerpoint, a gentleman visits a grave as part of observing the holiday.  This is a practice I had participated in with my own family as part of the holiday season.  I could then conclude (evaluation) that Moslems and Christians share similar practices as part of celebrating religious holidays.

 

 

Donna G's picture

I think that Betsy Ross’s flag, The Great Gatsby, baseball, the Great Depression and the White House are all Big C .  Star Wars, McDonalds Madonna and Coke are iconic and it could be argued that this could put them into the Big C category.  Beloved, Groupon, Jeremy Lin would fall into little c because they are popular but lack either staying power or recognition across all demographic groups.  iPods, bus tickets and Facebook are not limited to one culture.

Donna G's picture

Having lived in another country, I understand how difficult and exhausting it can be just to get through the day struggling with the language and not quite understanding "how things are done."  I try to use this experience in my classroom and give my students the opportunity to ask questions and make comments on the things they see in their lives.  I encourage them to share with the class how things are different in their countries.  

When I was student teaching, I observed another teacher do a lesson on "culture".  She compared culture to an iceberg - the tip is easy to see and understand, but underneath there is a much bigger part that is much more difficult to learn.  She showed a clip from a movie of a barn-raising in an Amish community - on mute - and just asked the students to observe what was happening and what they thought about it.  For homework, she asked the students to bring in something that represented their country's culture.  She used her key chain as an example of American culture - how important our cars are to us.

Donna G's picture

For this exercise, I looked at Cambodia Town’s website.  I assumed that Cambodia Town was interested in preserving its culture and providing a haven for Cambodians to escape from American culture but going through the DIE process made me see that they while they are interested in preserving their own culture they are also interested in helping their community members integrate into the community at large as well as sharing their culture with others. 

 

The welcoming of the Mark Twain library shows how they are interested in drawing everyone to their community.  I notice the Cambodia Town signs and the ceremony around them.  I learned that this community has recently been officially designated and raised funds for these new signs.  They have great pride in their community and want people to be able to find their “town” and share in their culture.

 

After learning about the DIE strategy, I realize that I often observe, form an opinion and move on.  Going forward personally and in my classroom I will observe more closely and ask myself more questions about the situation and how I feel about it.  The “Evaluate” section is very important – just because something is different then my experience doesn’t mean it’s weird or wrong.  Ask questions – people want to be understood and recognized, not just written-off.

Donna G's picture

Because I have travelled around the world and visited many countries I feel like I have an awareness of being an outsider and the struggles of living in a different world.  But after going through this course, I realize that there are lots of ways I can do thing better.  I really enjoyed the “Single Story” TEDtalk.  Single story is such an easy trap to fall into and being aware of it will help me to ask more questions and seek more information.  Even though I’ve visited a country doesn’t mean I know all about it.

In my future classes, I will utilize my student’s funds of knowledge.  I make an effort to learn about my students, where they are from, their families, their hobbies and past experiences… but now I will dig deeper and use this info in my lessons to help build relevance and comfort.

I have always encouraged acculturation with my students (but I didn’t know what it was called) and will continue to do so.  We all have much to learn from each other and there is no reason why the newcomer has to give up everything.  As I create my next syllabus I am going to give special attention to the cultural aspects of language and situations.

Susan W's picture

I have realized that I actively contemplate culture before I teach any civics lesson to my beginning level ESL adult students. I use things from mainstream American culture and we compare/contrast it to the students' culture, which is predominately Hispanic. I use a Venn diagram, reading passages, real items or a video to teach the concept. Often times it leads to a lively discussion.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Susan, It is good to feel affirmed in our practices. You are supporting learners to consider the differences and similarities between their culture and the culture of their new homeland. In the process, you are learning a great deal about the students' background, too. Perhaps even more important, as stated in the ELLU culture course The Role of Culture, is becoming more aware of aspects of our own culture. There is far more below the surface that we are often unaware of. The immigrants we work with can help us to examine our own culture in greater depth.

Thank you for sharing a bit about your experience with the ELLU Role of Culture online course. I think every ESL teacher could benefit from this course. Even we ESL teachers, who are typically an especially sensitive bunch, sometimes make assumptions about culture that need to be examined.

Since many in our community may not be familiar with this free ELLU course, which is available here https://lincs.ed.gov/courses, we would welcome hearing more from you, Susan, as well as other members who have completed this course. What valuable insights about culture have you taken away? What practices will you (or have you) implement(ed) as a result? What questions, if any, remain for you?

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, AELL
 

Mark's picture

My thoughts on culture(s) in the classroom are varied.  On the one hand, I am genuinely interested in learning about other cultures (likewise for students) but on the other hand, the topic can be fraught with tension and confrontations, especially when religious beliefs enter into the equation.  In general, cultural discussions have centered around food, holidays, cultural events (such as birthdays, weddings, etc.) and a simple thing such as saying "Bless you" or the equivalent thereof.  I am careful to allow every student to participate in the discussions, and I'm also cognizant of attaching a criteria for discussions that include mutual respect, understanding, and tolerance if the discussion heads into potentially confrontational territory.  In general, students really seem to enjoy learning about others in their classroom.  I hope to learn some ways of navigating this incredibly interesting yet potentially divisive topic.

nanfrydland's picture

Here are a couple of ways I've used to share cultures in classrooms focusing on information gathering.

1.  Have students pair up and talk to each other and answer questions about where they're from, what's important to them about their homeland, etc., and then have the students introduce their partner to the class and invite the class to ask questions. You might provide a list of questions and allow students time to write answers. This provides opportunities for oral language transmission, writing, listening and speaking. Students are focused on gathering the information rather than making judgments about it. A chart on a wall can be made for students to write the information and this can form the basis of Find Someone Who games, building  classroom interconnectedness.

2.  Another way to share information is to assign students to research a religion that is not their own and present their findings. I did this even with high beginners, and I provided them with a grid that required very simple information to be filled in. For instance: Name of religion, How many members, How many gods/Names of gods, Symbol, Special Day.  Then students went up to the poster and filled in the information and spoke briefly about the religion they researched. I provided short descriptions of religions I found on the TeachingTolerance.org website. Then they made a pie graph to show the populations of each religion.

3.  Along the lines of the Danger of a Single Story, student may be invited to write a narrative about they came to this country, or an experience they had here that is important to them.  These might be published as a booklet to provide shared experiences, and relevant reading material for other lessons or future classes.

nan

 

Mark's picture

I readily admit I had to Google Jeremy Lin to discover who this person is, but that just shows my ignorance of basketball.  As for the other items on the list, all but the groupon voucher and the bus ticket I categorized as a high C.  Busses are not what I consider to be distinctly American, as they are also associated with most other countries as well; the same goes for Facebook.  I hate to think of a McDonald's menu as being a high C, but it does scream American culture, poor as that example may be. 

Mark's picture

I visited the Karen Organization of Minnesota, which is an organization that strives to assist the Burmese immigrants who have immigrated to a new life in Minnesota.  I also have some Burmese students here in Louisiana, and must admit that I know very little about life in Burma.  The photographs presented on the website show people of varying ages involved in many different activities.  My assumptions about the Burmese were that they are a poor, agricultural community that lives in regions often inundated with monsoons.  The pictures, however, show people playing electric guitars, wearing brightly colored patterns in some cases and formal attire in others, not at all like the stereotyped peasants I expected to see.  As I read about the immigrants, I learned that most of them had lived in remote regions between Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand, and that they suffered persecution from other ethnic groups in the region.  (That was another of my assumptions...because Burma seems so small, I envisioned one culturally homogenous people.)  Obviously, the photographs of these people showed what appeared to be a generation comfortable with technology as juxtaposed by photographs with their elders, who did not seem to embrace technology in the same way.  (Sound familiar?)  There were traditional patterns used in garments (or at least, that is also my assumption) and others who bore no resemblance to traditional manners of dressing. 

Perhaps when the fall semester begins, I will have some learning to do when my Burmese students return.

Mark's picture

This course has helped me better understand my own cultural investments and perspectives.  I truly enjoyed the video, "The Danger of the Single Story."  It is astounding to me  that all of us are guilty of forming stereotypes that limit the capability of others to be recognized as equal human beings.  I do not believe, however, we are truly bound by those stereotypes, but they are impossible to escape.  The danger is not only in the "single story," but in the refusal to expand that story.  I will explore the "Foundations of Knowledge" to elicit information about students backgrounds, interests, etc. and encourage them to share/interview/question their classmates to foster a learning environment that is inclusive for all.  The exploration of the big and little Cs should be fun, but I don't think it important that students be able to identify one c from the other, only to engage in a cultural dialogue should suffice.  I like the example of the disposable coffee cup given in the lesson.  That is an easily accessible and relevant starting point for a cultural discussion.   

finnmiller's picture

Mark, Thank you for your comments and thoughtful reflections here in response to the LINCS ELLU online course on the Role of Culture (available through LINCS Learning Portal). I agree with you that while we all carry assumptions about others, we do not have to be bound by stereotypes as long as we are careful to continually examine our assumptions. "The Danger of a Single Story" (a TED talk by Chimamanda Nigozi Adichie which is featured in the online course) reminds us in a powerful way of the need to reserve judgment about others and not make assumptions about where people come from and who they are. We definitely need to, as you suggest, continually expand the story by remaining respectfully curious and open-minded.

It would be wonderful if you would continue to share with us how you are applying what you have learned in this course in your classroom. For instance, what might you learn from the adults who come to your class -- not only about them and their culture but also about our culture? I've always thought we have the best job in the world since we have the wonderful opportunity to interact with amazing people from all around the world. 

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, AELL CoP

Elizabeth Sanders's picture
  1. What strategies, activities, or methods have you used as a culturally competent teacher? What have you observed in other teachers?
  2. I try to tap into the funds of knowledge as a teacher.  I believe that this is one of the most important aspects of being a culturally competent teacher because you know your students, you show them that you care about them as people, and you have a baseline for what and where to scaffold. 
  3. 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?  I think that the DIE method is beneficial if the teacher is directing in, but it a difficult method to adapt to outside of a guided practice because of our own biases and prejudices.  If practiced enough, though, I think it would help me as a teacher and my students to be able to think rightly about cultural differences. 
  4. 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? I think that the White House, The Great Depression, and a Coke can are "big C", but the rest are negotiable as "little C.".  
  • 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?  In my classroom, I will have more cultural lesson times where students are able to discuss and share about who they are.  Creating an environment where they feel safe to do so is of utmost importance.  I will also use funds of knowledge to become a better teacher, person, and friend for my students in order to understand who they are as best as I can. 
 
finnmiller's picture

Hi Elizabeth, Thank you for posting your reflection on the ELLU Role of Culture online course. The concept of "funds of knowledge" is particularly valuable for our work with adult English learners. As you note, it is important to recognize that adults bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences into our classrooms, and we need to work on ways to build English skills by drawing upon those strengths.

The Big C, little c exercise is an interesting one. Seems to me, many things on the list could be debated as one or the other. I'm curious why you decided that a Coke® can fits the Big C label.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Adult English Language Learners CoP

Jane McBee's picture

The course exercise in DIE inquiry strategy brought up a relevant example of my personal cultural assumptions.

My impression of the US Cambodian community was shaped by one lovely, heartwarming night in San Francisco in 1982.

My cousin Jana, while working in a Cambodian refugee camp, became friends with a teenager who had been rescued from a crowded rickety boat in the ocean. Along with thousands of other refugees, she had fled ongoing violence and political instability in their country. Without the benefit of parents to guide her, she made that dangerous journey alone, but was eventually reunited with relatives in San Francisco.

A few months later, Jana and I were invited to spend an evening with that teenager and her extended family. There were many people living in the small apartment, all gainfully employed in a variety of jobs. Their clothes were old but neat and clean.  The furnishings were sparse. Our hosts made an amazing dinner of traditional Cambodian food and welcomed us with warmth and gracious hospitality.

Humbled by their generosity, I thought a great deal about what it cost them to put on that delicious and plentiful dinner for us. I was embarrassed by my own relative wealth and have thought of that family often over the years.

So, for this exercise, I chose the Cambodia Town website to explore. The site talks about the official highway sign installation for Cambodia Town district in Long Beach, CA; the Cambodian Film Festival; The Cambodian Arts and Cultural Exhibition; the diplomatic trips back to Cambodia; and much more.

This level of community well-being, art, culture, and political adeptness presented an extreme opposite impression to my first contact with the vulnerable refugee family 33 years prior. My sense then of a tenacious and hard-working community seems to be borne out in these examples of Cambodia Town’s success. However, it exploded and expanded that one distinct memory of disenfranchised refugees that was frozen in my head.

I am reminded of the “funds of knowledge” section we studied, and how it’s important to realize that our students had (and still have in spite of the language barrier) rich lives, experiences, intelligence, abilities, and personal qualities to enrich and share with the rest of us.

Learning about the different cultures represented in my classroom and using the DIE Inquiry Strategy will help me recognize and deal with cultural misunderstandings in class.

finnmiller's picture

Jane, Thank you for this anecdote and your thoughtful reflection. As you've illustrated here, even those of us who work with immigrants and refugees on a regular basis and are generally culturally sensitive can have some of our assumptions challenged. It's important to recognize that and to continually examine our assumptions.

I had the good fortune to visit Cambodia a few years ago, and I can tell you I was astounded by my experience in so many ways. The people are kind and generous for sure. Plus, getting to visit Angkor Wat was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. Any encounter I have with Cambodians who have immigrated to the US always conjures images from my visit to their former home.

We certainly look forward to hearing your voice in our AELL community on the topic of culture and more!

Warmly, Susan

Moderator, Adult English Language Learners CoP

nanfrydland's picture

Hello Everyone,

I recently took The Role of Culture online class as my first experience with the Learning Portal and overall I thought the course was well-designed and informative. As a MALP practitioner, I especially appreciated seeing that model incorporated in the class. However, after some reflection, I decided to share my concerns about a video segment that I found questionable, if not at odds with, culturally responsive teaching. I tried to go back into the course to identify the speaker, but was unable to. However, the video was divided into five segments and featured a social worker's view of attachment theory as being one framework for viewing ELLs.

The speaker described what he called a Culture of Poverty, with "dependency" being one of the characteristics that was detrimental. He described working in an environment where immigrants were invited to obtain backpacks filled with school supplies at the beginning of the school year. When one woman approached him, he asked her why she hadn't put away a little money so that she could purchase the items herself.  "After all, señora," he said, smiling, "You knew that September was coming, didn't you?" And then he told her he'd give her the backpack but she would have to buy the supplies herself. He later went on to say that because he was Mexican, as were most of the people he dealt with, he "could talk to them straight, and they appreciate that."

In my view, this does not fit within the framework of Culturally Relevant Teaching, to put it mildly. Judging "dependency" in a negative way fails to take into account that many cultures in the world thrive on interdependency. It seems to me that the social worker failed to take into account the bias of the dominant white American culture he represented, and that he was applying to a person who had their own cultural values, their own funds of knowledge, and the right to receive a free bag of school supplies, without criticism or judgment.

In contrast to this video, I just finished reading "Fire in the Ashes," by Jonathan Kozol, who reported the successes and failures of second-generation immigrants, many of whom have succeed because of their interconnectedness and interdependency. For instance, one family member took a year off from college to parent a sibling and save money, while their sister moved from her dorm to an apartment with them for more savings. In this way, three siblings ultimately graduated from college.

Culturally Responsive Teaching  (and the MALP model) trains us to identify characteristics of other cultures and to respect values, beliefs and ways of being that are different from our own. In order for ELLs to thrive in a new culture, we learn to facilitate their transition to different ways of thinking and being, without criticism or the kind of ridicule I saw in this video segment.

I wonder if anyone else has comments about this segment?

Again, I'd like to reiterate that this was just a small part of the overall course, which I found valuable.

 

nan frydland

 

MarthaBigelow's picture

Hi all,

Nan and I discovered that these videos weren't part of the culture course after all.  As the developer of this course, it was a relief because I couldn't recall anything about the culture of poverty in the course.

I second Nan's recommendations to read about the Mutually Adaptive Learning Paradigm as well as Kozol's book.

Best,

Martha

Jane McBee's picture

Some activities I plan to incorporate to encourage cultural understanding:

1)Class discussions that allow the students to compare more general topics, such as national holidays, transportation, etc.

2)Written stories about more personal cultural likes and dislikes that the students want to share.

3)Show-and-tells using pictures or items that will encourage dialogue.

 

Kathy G.'s picture

I never knew these terms existed and it seems as if what I think is a BIG C is someone's little c.  For me, the BIG Cs would be:  Betsy Ross' flag, The Great Gatsby, the Great Depression and the White House.  The remainders would be little c's...for me.   In a few years, some of my little c's ( like baseball and Madonna) maybe someone's BIG Cs.

Kathy G.'s picture

I chose the Karen Organization of Minnesota website.

 

DESCRIPTION: This website if VERY informative.  It has many menu options covering many different aspects of the organization.

INTERPRETATION:  What I interpreted is that this organization is very professional and above the bar, meaning, they have done their work and there is so much information on this website.  I did not realize, and not so sure I would not living in Minnesota, how many Burmese refugees there are in Minnesota and what this organization has to offer them.

EVALUATION:  I am completely clueless about this culture and how popular of a population there must be of Burmese refugees for them to have this huge, informative, website.  I feel horrible for not even thinking that this exists and how important the Burmese culture must be in the Minnesota.  Ugh!!!  My world is a lot smaller than I thought!!

Kathy G.'s picture

Yes, I am completing this course today!  3 posts in a few hours!!!  I enjoyed this course. Even though as I was going through it, I kept thinking about a lot of this is common sense.  Yet, when I reflect on my ESL classroom, I realize I have some work to do.  I only have a short period of time with my students each day but I need to start incorporating more culture into the classroom since there are more than 2 or 3 cultures in the room at once.  I need to try to find time to incorporate the suggestions from this course so my students are more knowledgeable of not only themselves, but of others. 

finnmiller's picture

Hello Kathy, Thank you for your thoughtful posts related to your learning in the ELLU online course on the Role of Culture in Teaching Adult ESL. There is always a lot more to learn about the role of culture in our work, isn't there?! I personally consider this course to be essential for all adult ESL teachers. Even experienced adult ESL teachers are offered much to consider in this course.

For those who may not be aware, the self-paced ELLU online courses are free and available through the LINCS online portal.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Jennifer Lanterman's picture

I do enjoy bringing together each of my students backgrounds and current lives.  I try to incorporate our local culture as well and how to use the English we learning our everyday lives.  One way I address little "c" culture in the classroom is by using idioms of the English language.  We practice our writing using the idioms and it gives me and the entire class a way to get to learn about the everyday lives we lead and each persons culture they have created for them and their families here in the U.S.  I do have to frequently remind myself to not fall into the mind set of stereotypes of certain cultures.  I do spend a good bit of time at the beginning of each class getting to know all of my students and what each one "brings to the table."
 

Jennifer Lanterman's picture

In our classroom I try to make it like our own community and we do a lot of bonding and get to know you activities to learn about each persons beliefs, goals, and life styles.  I also do a lot of sharing about my own experiences being a transplant to the area, in order to encourage students to discuss how there cultures have changed throughout their lives and they have created new cultures for their families.

Jennifer Lanterman's picture

after studying this training module, I was able to see that I am off to a good start by getting to know my students and there everyday lives and make connections with them and between their fellow students.  I try to bring in their daily cultures into as many lessons as I can to make the lessons applicable.  These lessons have also given me direction to help my students understand other cultures through the steps of DIE.  I was also reminded to not jump to conclusions and follow stereotypes of cultures.
 

finnmiller's picture

Hi Jennifer, It's clear you are taking away a lot from the ELLU online course on the role of culture. Getting to know the learners in our class and creating activities so they can get acquainted with one another is essential to creating a supportive learning environment. Drawing upon adult learners backgrounds in a variety of ways, as you point out, enriches our own learning, too.

I've often said that all adult ESL teachers can benefit from the Role of Culture ELLU online course since culture is so central to the work we do each day. The course deals with the issue of culture in fresh and thought-provoking ways. Anyone who has not yet taken this ELLU course ought to check it out.  In fact, all the ELLU online courses are worthwhile. Since the courses are self-paced, they are quite flexible. I think it would be beneficial to take the course with a group and plan to meet with others for either a face-to-face or online discussion to talk about the content of the course and how to apply what was learned in practice.

Some groups have used the ELLU courses in this way, and I know the teachers found the professional development experience to be valuable.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Reine Babin's picture

I am new to ESL.  I have been teaching for only a couple of months.  However, these have been the best months of my teaching career.  I love what I do and I love my students.  Most of my students are from Latin America.  I have students from over 10 different countries.  What I have learned is that just because a student speaks Spanish doesn't mean that they all share the same culture.  Cultures vary from country to country.  My students are teaching me so much about teaching ESL.   Each class, I ask them what they need and spend a lot of time listening to their answers.  I spend hours preparing and researching how I can best meet their needs.  I let their needs determine what I teach.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Reine, I'm glad you found the ELLU course on the Role of Culture to be helpful. It seems that by teaching adult ESL you have found your niche. The rewards of working with adult immigrants and refugees are indeed priceless, and we learn as much or more than the adults we serve.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Reine Babin's picture

I learn from my students everyday because I listen a lot.  I ask a probing question and then let them talk.  When one student is having difficulty expressing a thought, another student will jump in and help by speaking to them in Spanish and then the student is able to rephrase what they were trying to say.  My students learn best through interaction and discussion with one another.  I have watched them grow in their knowledge of the "English Culture."   All of what I have learned so far from this course makes so much sense to me.  I see it played out in my classroom every day.  During our conversations, it is not unusual for tears to be shed.  Most of them are tears of relief and joy by both my students and I.   I go beyond just teaching language, I always look for ways to help my students in any way I can.  They come to my house for dinner and activities.  They know that they are part of my family.   Many have told me that I am more than just a teacher and friend to them.  I belong to their family.   When I reached this stage in my teaching, I saw how brave my students became in trying new things and reading aloud.  It was ok to make mistakes because when you are family, mistakes don't matter, only love and acceptance.  How blessed I am!

Reine Babin's picture

In my last post, I included a lot of refection about what I learned from the course.  I can truly say that this has been one of the best online courses I have ever taken.  It has inspired me to continue my work as an ESL teacher.  I guess I stumbled into the realm of culture due to my lack of knowledge of what an ESL teacher does.  Since I had no preconceived notions, I entered with an open mind and one goal, helping my students be successful in the American culture.

shelleyhlee's picture

I would see Coke, Beloved, Ross' flag, baseball, and the White House as big C because they are withstanding the test of time and are easily recognizable to people across the world. In the case of Coke and baseball, those have spread across the world and are now part of other cultures. Groupon and Jeremy Lin would be small c because we don't know yet if they will have lasting influence. I'm not sure about these: Star Wars, Madonna, Great Gatsby, ipods, and Facebook. Will they be remembered or identified with American culture 50-100 years from now?

Charlyndria Horton's picture

This course was very interesting and helpful to me because I enjoy learning about different cultures and I want all of my students to feel accepted and appreciated no matter their background. In this past semester, a large chunk of my class has been dedicated to integrating many of my ESL students into American culture. We did several activities and lessons centered around pop culture, US history and also U.S. government. Whenever I do this I always like to compare the similarities and differences between everyone's cultures. We always have discussions and I always have them do different ice breakers and skits. 

finnmiller's picture

Hello Charlyndria, It's good to hear that you are taking away a lot from the ELLU course on culture. Engaging students in conversations and other language activities around cultural similarities and differences is always a great learning experience for everyone, including the teacher.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Adult English Language Learners CoP

Tara Kelly's picture

I learned that Eid is a Muslim celebration that honestly has a lot of parallels to Easter, the conclusive festival to Lent (the act of giving something away, or even fasting, for 40 days).

I heard that the act of cleanliness is a more involved/respected practice than usual (bathing, wearing clean white clothes, perfume).

I think the fact that I immediately compare to my own religion, Catholicism, suggests that Eid is a religious holiday that may be more celebrated than Easter (which has transformed into a commercial celebration with bunnies and chocolate and eggs).

Reading about what kind of food people prepare and eat was an enjoyable experience. This may have helped me break the "observation " part with my cultural differences.

Tara Kelly's picture

I think what I will do in my class to be culturally inclusive would be to have individual discussions on holidays. For example, in the U.S., most commercial holidays have deeply religious meanings. St. Patrick's day and St. Valentine's day are Catholic holidays for saints, but they have become so commercialized. Having students talk about their own native holidays, then discussing how contemporary traditions differ from the original practices, would be a very interesting idea.

finnmiller's picture

Hello Tara, Drawing upon students' background and experiences is always important in teaching ESL. Going deeper into celebrations and how they have evolved over time to expand our own understanding of similarities and differences would be a positive approach.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Kelly Kim's picture

I strongly agree with the idea that culture is the fifth skill followed by reading, listening, speaking and writing for SLA. There are many ESL students who stop coming to class or lose interests learning unfamiliar language. However, once they feel connected with the teacher or the leader mostly they continue to come. Knowing the culture not only enhances learning the language but also encourage to use the target language out of the classroom.  Building relationship between teacher-student, student-student is the key to encourage them to communicate more with other people in a heterogeneous group. "Fund of knowledge" concept refreshed my mind as a teacher. I think I have been already using the strategy but I was not really aware of the power. DIE is a great strategy that could save learners from being isolated or misunderstood. This course gave me many insights that I could apply for my students. In addition to it, all the appropriate languages for each DIE stage are really helpful to understand the concept. 

finnmiller's picture

Hi Kelly, It's good to hear the ELLU culture course was so meaningful to you. It's good to feel affirmed in our practices, too. I agree that the Funds of Knowledge idea is central to our work as adult educators. It's clear that every adult learner brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our classrooms. It is our job as teachers to find ways to draw upon those funds of knowledge in relevant ways.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Laura Bowen's picture

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.

 

Laura Bowen's picture

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.

finnmiller's picture

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

Donna Gregory's picture

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.

Browning Rochefort's picture

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 ...

jomalis lizardo-case's picture

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.

jomalis lizardo-case's picture

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.

 

joanwoytowitz's picture

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.

Jeannie Huyser's picture

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.

Jeannie Huyser's picture

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.

finnmiller's picture

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

Heatherb's picture

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.

finnmiller's picture

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

Stephen Lux's picture

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.  

Stephen Lux's picture

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.  

finnmiller's picture

Hello Stephen, Exploring the arts with English learners can be a wonderful way to deepen our shared understanding of the similarities and differences among various cultures. Best of luck with your class!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

mdarling's picture

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.

finnmiller's picture

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

Karen Salina's picture

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.

finnmiller's picture

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

Marti A's picture

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.

Marti A's picture

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.

Marti A's picture

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

Delta Donohue's picture

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

Dsaburro's picture

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."

Dsaburro's picture

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.   

Dsaburro's picture

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!

Dr. Robin's picture

 

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  

finnmiller's picture

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

frances harvey's picture

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.

finnmiller's picture

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

frances harvey's picture

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, 

finnmiller's picture

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

Kathryn Portanova's picture
  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.

Kathryn Portanova's picture
  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.  

Kathryn Portanova's picture

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.  

Kathryn Portanova's picture

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.  

finnmiller's picture

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

John Storm's picture

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.

John Storm's picture

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.

Luis Feliz-Vasquez's picture

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.

Tbtb's picture

 

 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.

 

 

Miguel Iglesias Nunez's picture

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.

Anne Bolster's picture

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!

Erika Rivera's picture

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.

Rick Aceves's picture

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.

Erika Rivera's picture

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.

Liane Okamitsu's picture

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

 

Dr. Robin's picture

Hi-- In light of this thread/conversation, I am once again going to suggest that folks download Helen Fox's amazing book,  " Listening to the World: Cultural Issues in Academic Writing"-- it has been enormously enlightening to me even after 50 years of teaching..... it was published in 1994 and is available to download by googling it on google scholar.

 

Judy Hawkley's picture

I was impressed with the way the DIE method helped put assumptions into perspective and gave concrete dialog and processes to rise above the first appearance assumptions which are made on a daily basis. My students have been very accepting of others, but this year I had an incident between a Chinese student and a Spanish speaking student. We were discussing the daily food pyramid and I asked it they would change any of the percentages of intakes. The Spanish speaking student said she would change the protein and put more beans and meat. The Chinese student told her she didn't need more because she was fat. This caused quite the chatter in Spanish! I didn't realize what had been said until after class when Bricia told me she didn't know whether to laugh or cry. We discussed it was a culture clash and decided to laugh. Throughout the year the good rapport increased between the two cultures as baby showers were given and culture differences were displayed as fun events. I can see how the DIE method would have worked with this problem if we were to openly describe what had happened, interpret why the Chinese student thought she could say this, and then evaluate the outcome and how this could be accepted as a learning experience.

The Funds of Knowledge was a new concept to me. I always try to use the background experiences of each student to build on, but this put this concept into words which will help me be more effective.

My husband and I had an experience with first impression assumptions when we walked into an indoor swap meet and discovered it was a Mexican shop. I was surprised how uncomfortable I felt when my everyday work  is with multi-cultural people. We wandered through and the Mexican people looked just as surprised to see us (my perspective of course). After learning the DIE method, I would like go back and have something to eat and tryout my Spanish I am learning.

Nona Jean Arai's picture

Judy, I appreciated your response. I haven't had any culture clashes with my students mainly because most are Asian, and have similar cultures. More recently, we have been geting students from other parts of the world, such as Europe and Micronesia, Vietnam, etc. I would like to study this DIE method. It would encourage cultural acceptance as well as enrich everyone's general life experience. Thank you for sharing.

kathy krug's picture

This addresses the very important principles of Unity in Diversity and The Oneness of Humanity...we must recognize that we are all members of one human family and that we come to understand this principle more deeply as we explore our diversity!! This exploration helps us to have compassion and respect for our human family.

 

JanetIsserlis's picture

The comment that the server at McDonald's would likely rather be dead than serving is a horrible example of tone-deafness on the part of the presenter.  Class and labor are surely part of both big C and little C culture; assuming that the server would rather be dead disappears the person's agency, intentions and any particular truth that he or she might hold.  I was struck and horrified by the comment.  In its own way it perfectly illustrates how not to be aware of others' lived realities.  Culture is, as we see, more than language, food, fairs, beads or bannock..  Making a living is a huge part of the whole machine.

Susan Boldrey's picture

Every person has his/her own native culture which, as we live and grow, changes, develops and continues to do so.  Depending upon our experiences, our challenges and our contacts, we change.  As a teacher, I encourage my students to share their native cultures and to be sensitive to what others share.  ELL learners are vulnerable, and trust must be created within each group.  

Amy Garcia's picture

I have students share their backgrounds, where they are from, primary language spoken, foods, holidays, etc.  In learning about others and their history, it teaches others how we are alike and at the same time different.  They find some commonalities and respect each other's differences.  

Dr. Robin's picture

Amy-- in addition to asking about the three F's (food, fashion, fun), why don't you ask your students how the education system they come from works-- what is valued in the way students demonstrate learning? What is the grading system?   What things are graded/evaluated and how?    How do teachers keep order in the classroom? How do students interact--if at all-- with the teacher? Do students rise and greet the teacher when he/she comes in?   Are students allowed to ask questions?  Are students ever asked to think about what they read or write in the classroom or is it only memorized?   Can/do students help each other? In what ways?  What happens if a student does not do work or is late?  What happens when  student doesn't understand something the teacher has presented?   What happens to students who perpetually do not understand or lag behind??  

All these factors hugely influence how our students experience and function in our culturally different classrooms-- to the point where some cannot function or choose to leave.   

It can be one of the most fascinating conversations of all if you have students of several cultures answering these questions.....and you may realize that you have many worlds going on in the heads of students sitting in your one classroom....

Robin Lovrien  

 

Amy Garcia's picture

Learning about other cultures has always been fascinating.  I wouldn’t necessarily say I had assumptions but have learned about different cultures with an open-mind as each culture has their own way of doing things.

The DIE stages give me more structure in the way I go about learning about other cultures. 

Perhaps my interpretation of what I see is maybe most challenging as when you first look at pictures you don’t want to assume.  So it is also important to read not just look at a picture and automatically make an assumption so as not to offend anyone with an inaccurate statement. 

This perspective will be a framework to use in an Adult Education class as it will help provide structure when being introduced to a new culture. 

Amy Garcia's picture

In having students share about their culture at the beginning of classes, having them follow a more prescribed model such as DIE will help them in using a more structured format to share their information.  What I like about a particular activity in the Funds of Knowledge area was actually going out making home visits.  As a previous teacher for early childhood Head Start students, we always made two home visits which helped build a stronger rapport and firsthand, was able to see or get an idea of children's home life of which I would benefit from of the Adult Education students.

Barbara Balogh's picture

For me, culture has always been the most fascinating topic in working with people from other countries as an ESL teacher. I, too, have associated the word with food, festivals, and beyond that too, with native dress, religion, dance and music. These are only a small part of culture, however. To be culturally competent teachers, we need to stretch our minds beyond the traditional picture we have of the word "culture." 

I found the section in Cultural Hybridity most intriguing. I enjoyed reading about fusion, such as that of the hijab and the fashionista. Something that hit me is Harmful Practices. As teachers we tend to want to have our students share their culture with other class members. I know that I have done it, particularly as an icebreaker during a first class activity. However, now, in going through this course, it has made me think that we should not go into using activities about their countries/cultures too deeply. 

I enjoyed the dialogue demonstration of the DIE Model. It is human nature to not be comfortable with something that is strange to us, but if we look at it differently and open our minds to the unknown, we will move away from rash judgments of something and learn to be more broad-minded about it. We don't have to embrace it but at least learn to understand it better. My favorite part of this course was Funds of Knowledge. I loved the "Hobbit" video and how the teacher visited the three different houses and environments to better understand where the student came from. By looking at the whole picture and identifying the strengths of these communities and families, we as teachers can formulate lessons and activities that are meaningful to our students.

Now, if only the technical glitches here on LINCS could be worked out, taking these courses would be far more enjoyable! I want to finish this course but cannot due to the error on Page 12 of the DIE Model. There is supposed to be a graphic there but since it isn't there, the site will not let me click "next" and this is very frustrating. I have sent two messages through the "Contact Us" page. This is what's holding me up from finishing, but it isn't the first time! I have had issues in past courses here too.

Brenda Davis's picture

I agree with you about page 12.  There are no graphics and I, too have finished the course and don't know how to finish when it's not offered. 

Ero Gray's picture

Hi Barbara and Brenda.

This course (and especially that page) uses the Flash Player plugin, and it sounds like you may have that plugin turned off in your web browser.

If you follow the instructions at https://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/enabling-flash-player-chrome.html (if you use Chrome) or https://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/enabling-flash-player-safari.html#safari (for Safari) to turn Flash on, and then visit the course again, you should be able to jump right back to the page where you left off, and you should see the missing graphic from page 12 of the DIE Model.

If you have any other questions at all, please feel free to reach out to our tech support team (that's me, most of the time, but sometimes one of my coworkers will answer) at any time — the best way is via the Contact Form, but you can also always send an email to support@lincs.ed.gov. Either way, we'll get back to you right away and be happy to help. 

Brenda Davis's picture

Going thru the DIE has helped me gain a new understanding of culture in the ELL classroom.  We are to suspend judgement about experiences that we don't fully understand.  We try to use our own cultural background to understand the culture of students and sometimes we don't understand.

Mary Viehweg's picture

I found this session so informative. I also found that I am on the right path to becoming a good ESL teacher, because I have always taken the time to get to know my students and have shown them I care. The strategies in this session will assist me in learning more, interpreting, and evaluating my students' stories in a non-judgmental way. I am very excited to bring these new strategies into my classroom :)

 

Kelly Smith's picture

I went to the Eid Around the World website and applied the DIE Inquiry Strategy to my assumptions about Eid and about Muslims around the world. I was surprised to find that Eid is celebrated all over the world. Of course, there are Muslims everywhere, but I was still surprised to see some of the photos of Eid being celebrated in countries where the Muslim population is not as large as in others. I noticed my own culturally-biased assumptions that Muslims come from a certain part of the world and look and dress a certain way. My interpretation of my assumption could be that in the US, Muslims are usually portrayed in a narrow way. As an ESL instructor, I teach students from all over the world, and yet I still can make the false assumption that a person is or isn't Muslim by the way they are dressed or their country of origin. I'm interested in how I might challenge myself going forward to question these assumptions. And once I can notice the assumptions I'm making about culture or religion, what other assumptions am I making? What else can I learn from a new perspective?

 

Kelly Smith's picture

I learned many new things in this course, and I'm wondering how I could use the Funds of Knowlege inquiry in my classroom. I have a diverse population of emergent readers. I would love to visit each of their homes and get to know where they live, who they live with, what life in their home countries was like, how they get to school, what they eat, who is still in their native country or who is in the US, what it took to get here (many are refugees), what their biggest challenges are now...so many questions! So I'm wondering how teachers do this with their students. It would take a lot of time and planning to make that many home visits. Also, how would the student and family feel about having the teacher in their home? Would the student feel obligated to cook? For refugee families living in very sparse communities, would they feel embarrassed or ashamed of their living situation? I don't know. If the home visits wouldn't be feasible, students could take photos of things and people at home which are important to them, and share in the classroom. The teacher could use this for a community-building activity as well as lots of rich language learning. 

finnmiller's picture

Hi Kelly, Thanks for sharing your reflections on the LINCS ELLU culture course. You note that you appreciated the DIE (Description, Interpretation, Evaluation) model for the way it supports one to examine hidden assumptions. I agree that unearthing and thinking about our personal assumptions is something we teachers can engage in regularly to deepen our own understanding.

You are embracing the concept of "funds of knowledge," which emphasizes that every learner comes to us with a life time of experience and skills. Planning ways to discover learners' abilities and interests is a worthwhile goal. There are learners in our classroom with many talents, e.g., people who make things from wood, people who are expert cooks, people who can fix almost anything, people who sew or knit, people who can sing and play music, storytellers and poets, people who grow flowers and vegetables, etc 

I've used a "Find Someone" activity to uncover people's abilities. After teaching the vocabulary for various skills and talents, learners ask their classmates questions about their skills and talents. When they find people who say "yes, I can," that person writes his/her name on the handout.

For example: Can you cook? Can you sew? Can you fix a motorcycle? Can you make things from wood? Can you sing? Can you fish?, Can you grow vegetables?, etc.

If the students are not yet writing, you can use photos for the various skills, so a student with a photo of someone cooking would ask individual classmates, "Can you cook?" After asking several classmates their question, students can then trade their photos with one another and practice asking about different skills. The trading of photos can be done several times.

It's valuable to debrief the "Find Someone" activity as a whole class by asking questions about the skills: Who can sew? Rima can sew. Who can make things from wood? Ernesto and Roberto can make things from wood. Who can sing? Thuy can sing., etc. Through this activity, students are not only practicing English, they (and their teacher!) are getting to know one another. Expanding our understanding of learners' talents, skills, and interests as a class helps to create a meaningful learning community.

There are many ways to build on the knowledge gained from this activity. The teacher can invite students to bring in things they have sewn or things they have made from wood. Students can sing or play music for the class. They can share favorite recipes. What are some ways you can imagine building on this knowledge for additional language lessons?

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts about this ELLU course, Kelly.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

 

Melanie Velcko's picture

I think the DIE stages help you stop to realize characteristics about other cultures. The stages walk you through a process to find new information about cultures you are not familiar with. This process can be taught too students in class so they can better understand each other and their opinions about things. 

finnmiller's picture

Hi Melanie, It's good to hear that you value the DIE (Description, Interpretation, Evaluation) model, an element in the LINCS ELLU culture course. This process can help us teachers to uncover our hidden assumptions. I agree that this is a process could also be taught to learners in the right context. Let us know if you create a lesson to do so.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

Donacine Vandelli's picture
  1. What strategies, activities, or methods have you used as a culturally competent teacher? What have you observed in other teachers? I have brought in readings about the history and culture of home countries for students in my classroom. We have had paired discussion so that students of different cultures can share their experiences as children and encouraged them to find similarities in culture as well as differences. My students have shared recipes as paired reading and sharing. I've observed teachers encouraging their students to to have paired conversation about family traditions.
  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? I discovered that I had absorbed some very simplistic myths about cultures. The DIE inquiry strategy has made me question my assumptions and search for resources that are appropriate to use for activities, reading and discussion about cultures in class. I think I can use the DIE strategies to moderate assumptions and cultural dilemmas that arise in class.
  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  C
    • Star Wars by George Lucas  C
    • a McDonald’s® menu     c
    • Jeremy Lin     C
    • a Groupon voucher   c
    • Madonna    Cc    Debtable because she is an icon in Pop music but not just in America.
    • Betsy Ross’ flag  CCC
    • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald  C
    • iPods®  c
    • baseball   C
    • The Great Depression    C
    • a bus ticket    c
    • a Coke® can    Cc  Debatable because Coke is an American brand but the cans and tastes keep changing.
    • The White House   C
    • Facebook   c
  4. 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?I l love culture. This course had given me strategies and helped me to question my assumptions. I think I would like to have my students make a list of things about their cultures that they would like to present and discuss. I think I would like them to be able to do verbal/visual presentations about elements of culture they view as important.
Julia Meyers's picture

I found the information here very valuable as a classroom teacher that has a mixed population of students. There were good ideas and gave me plenty to think about as far as the way student behavior may be driven by the culture they come from. I have tried to use my knowledge of cultural diversity to make my lessons relevant to all the learners in my class. I will use what I have learned here to further that.

Julia Meyers's picture

Big C

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Star Wars by George Lucas
  • Jeremy Lin

 

  • Betsy Ross' flag
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • baseball
  • The Great Depression
  • The White House

 

Little c

 

  • a McDonald's® menu
  • a Groupon voucher
  • Madonna
  • iPods®
  • baseball

 

  • a bus ticket
  • a Coke® can
  • Facebook

 

Tracie Espinoza's picture
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison C
  • Star Wars by George Lucas c
  • a McDonald's® menu c
  • Jeremy Lin C
  • a Groupon voucher c
  • Madonna c
  • Betsy Ross' flag C
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald C
  • iPods® c
  • baseball c
  • The Great Depression C
  • a bus ticket c
  • a Coke® can c
  • The White House C
  • Facebook c
Wanda Viera's picture

Big C= Beloved by Toni Morrison, Star Wars By George Lucas, Madonna, Betsy Ross' flag, Baseball,  The Great Gatsby y F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Depression, The White House, 

Little C= A McDonalds's menu, Jeremy Lin, Groupon Voucher, IPods, bus ticket, Coke, Facebook

Could be both IPods, Facebook, since these are integrated in our daily lives. 

Mary Plenzler's picture

Big C Culture: Beloved by Toni Morrison, Madonna, Betsy Ross' flag, The Great Gatsby, ​Ipods, baseball, The Great Depression, a Coke can. Little C: Star Wars, McDonald's menu, Jeremy Lin, Groupon voucher, a bus ticket, The White House, Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Plenzler's picture

I read the website about EID because I have a lot of Muslim students. I was not aware that during Eid, Muslims wear new clothes and give each other gifts. I thought it was a period of time when they fast during the day and eat a large meal at sundown. Now I feel a bit more confident having an in-depth discussion with Muslim students about this holiday.

Mary Plenzler's picture

I enjoyed reading about the DIE strategy and how one can use questions to get people thinking about things that are unfamiliar and possibly scary to them about others' cultures. I also like the TED Talk about a Single Story and how important it is not to make blanket statements about people from certain countries or areas of the world.

Rebecca Flack's picture

Culturally competent teachers must constantly remind themselves of the cultures that are present within the classroom.  The teacher must have a desire to seek information to learn as much as possible about cultures represented in the ELL classroom, a willingness to create an environment that is warm, inviting and allows students to take risks and share their cultural identities and build a community rapport and respect for all members in the class.  I strive to do this every semester that I teach. 

DIE stages allow teachers/students to follow steps that help create an understanding and respect for all cultures.  I have jumped to certain conclusions or thought that I was being culturally sensitive, when in fact, I was not.  However, the stages are a built-in way of assisting with this.  They essentially slow a person down and cause reflection before judgement.

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison - Little c but could arguably fall into a big C category depending on how long the book circulates and remains a topic of reading/discussion.
  • Star Wars by George Lucas- Big C
  • a McDonald’s® menu  Big C
  • Jeremy Lin Little c
  • a Groupon voucher  Little c- I believe that Groupon vouchers will cease to exist at some point 
  • Madonna  This could be both- this superstar changed music and sold so many albums, she may continue to be relevant in the far future
  • Betsy Ross’ flag- Big c- she created the United States flag
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- Big C- topic/book remain a classic
  • iPods®- Little c- these are already outdated
  • baseball-  Big C- most popular American sport
  • The Great Depression- Big C- a historical time
  • a bus ticket- Little c- buses are not used by the majority of people
  • a Coke® can- Big C- this beverage has withstood the test of time
  • The White House- Big C- this houses the U.S. president and is well-known around the world
  • Facebook- Little c- will be phased out when another social media site takes over

I will definitely consider the DIE stages to help guide my lesson plans and the way that I run my class.  I felt that I was culturally sensitive and very aware but this class opened my eyes up to viewing cultural awareness and how to create it.  I will make the DIE stages easier for my lower level English speakers and encourage them to use the stages as well.  

 

 

Shiwana Powell's picture

I learned so very valuable strategies to implement in the classroom. First and foremost, I was a little worried and scared about how to implement cultural diversity in my classroom. However, after taking this course, I feel more comfortable. I will make sure that I educate myself about the culture and research activities to incorporate in the classroom. I look forward to using these strategies in my classroom with a ELL.

Barbara Ritter's picture

Big C culture -comprised of "great writers, philosophers, artists, historical works of art, monumental achievements"

Beloved - Toni Morrison

Star Wars - George Lucas

Betsy Ross's flag

The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald

The Great Depression 

Madonna

The White House

baseball

Little c "pop culture, social customs, etiquette" 

a McDonald's menu

a Groupon voucher

a bus ticket

Facebook

iPod

Jeremy Lin

Coke can

Even after using the criteria given to distinguish between big Culture and little culture, I still find myself debating over some of these items, which seem to fit both categories. For example, Coke is an American icon, and I have heard some people use it as a general reference to any soft drink. Baseball is another activity that is deeply embedded in American culture.  I think being aware of the impact of all cultural aspects, whether enduring or fad is important in becoming a culturally competent teacher. 

 

Barbara Ritter's picture

This class has been extremely helpful in my efforts to become a culturally competent teacher.   I now have a better understanding of how and why culture is so integral to the process of teaching and learning another language.   In future ESL classes that I teach, I will spend much more time at the beginning of the class getting to know the students and actively inquiring about their experiences in their country of origin. 

 

In my classes, we read short stories about immigrants who have made the United States home and their experiences with assimilation.  Students are encouraged to compare their personal experiences with the main character, and these discussions have been a great way to learn about the values and cultural expectations students bring with them to this country. 

 

I think the DIE model is a valuable approach to understanding another culture and models a culturally-sensitive approach.  This is a technique I would like to share with students as a way to allow them to investigate unfamiliar cultural practices and make connections to their own lives.

 

finnmiller's picture

Thanks for posting your thoughts here, Barbara. Culture is clearly at the heart of our work, so it's great to see how meaningful the ELLU course on the role of culture was to you.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Walter Moore's picture

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

  • Use students’ native language (Spanish) only when appropriate – usually to explain a cultural concept in English, or when learning particularly difficult, new vocabulary that will be revisited frequently (I never do this if I have other language-speakers in the classroom, such as Amaharic, French, or Mandarin)
  • Ask about students’ own cultural practices, in English, that are pertinent to the current theme of the class, such as the foods they eat to celebrate certain holidays, how crimes are reported in their home countries, what may be considered polite/impolite, important historical events and figures
  • Understanding that they may not have been exposed to certain cultural practices (something as simple as using the turn signal while driving), I go at lengths to explain these when they pop up in class, always ready to provide an image to accompany the practice and the reasoning behind it
  • Likewise, having students reflect on their own cultural practices and traditions, and explaining them to class (when appropriate) can help bridge language and culture
finnmiller's picture

Thanks for sharing these practices, Walter. As you note, drawing upon the first language as support is helpful. One way I do this in a multilingual class is to ask students how they say a word in their language. This both honors the languages learners bring to the classroom and serves as a quick assessment to ensure everyone understands the new word. Of course, bilingual dictionaries as well as pictures are also helpful.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

Marie Hannon's picture

I really enjoyed this course because it brought to the forefront the importance of understanding the cultural background of everyone in the classroom.  By understanding the culture of our students, we are then better able to tap into their learning abilities. 

I am from Ireland and have been a student in the classroom.  I understand how difficult it can be to understand what the presenter may be talking about.  An example of this is, prior to learning the game of baseball through my children, I had no idea what the baseball reference were when they were brought up in the classroom. I have to continue to make a conscious effort to be sure that the students know and understand the terminology used during instruction.

Also, taking this class and watching the videos reiterated the importance of not making assumptions about one's cultural habits.  Because I'm from Ireland, many people believe that one of our staple foods is corned beef and cabbage-I had never tasted coned beef until my first St. Patrick's Day in America!

At the beginning and during my teaching, I try to assimilate my culture with the culture of the students in my classroom...and find that we have more similarities than differences.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Marie, You stated that we and the students we serve "have more similarities than differences." Regardless of background and experiences, I have found this to be true. I'm glad to hear the ELLU online course on The Role of Culture was valuable to you.

I come from Irish heritage myself. While I have never lived in Ireland, I have dual citizenship in the US and Ireland. Interestingly, when growing up here in the US, corned beef and cabbage was regularly served in our household. Funny!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

David J. Rosen's picture

Susan and others,

In a list of myths about St. Patrick's day that someone sent me recently I learned that St. Patrick didn't chase the snakes out of Ireland because there never were snakes there, and that even the interpretation that the snakes were a reference to pagans was unlikely. In that list of myths was one about corned beef and cabbage being from Ireland. Apparently Irish immigrants in New York City met Eastern European immigrants there who introduced them to corned beef that they then substituted for the bacon in the traditional Irish bacon and cabbage meal. I haven't thoroughly fact-checked this yet,  although the Wikipedia "Bacon and Cabbage" article's account was similar. 

In any case, corned beef and cabbage is certainly the meal of choice to celebrate St. Patrick's Day! This year, one of my band members cooked up some great colcannon to go with the corned beef and cabbage. I'm in a folk band that plays traditional Irish music, and one of our lead singers, Diane Taraz,  sings a "love song to the the potato."  You can hear it on her YouTube channel here: colcannon

David J. Rosen

finnmiller's picture

Thank you for posting this message, David! I love Irish music as much as I LOVE potatoes!

Donna Brumbaugh's picture

I try to assimilate culture into my Adult ESL classrooms each day by having students, if they want, to share about their foods, holidays, languages, dress, etc. as it pertains to the day's lesson.  We do partner activities sharing answers to writing exercises asking each other questions.

finnmiller's picture

Hi Donna, The ELLU course on the Role of Culture in teaching English shows us how the things we can readily observe are only one aspect of culture. I think the course does a brilliant job of helping all of us teachers dig deeply into the ways culture influences our own thinking as well as the learning of those we serve. I highly recommend this course to all ESL teachers.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

 

Donna Brumbaugh's picture

In describing the three stages of DIE, my description observations of the refugees of Burma include oppression, hope, intriguing ways of life and the will to survive in the U.S.  My interpretation of the Karen Organization of MN is to enhance the quality of life for the Karen and other refugees from Burma in MN.  My emotions include relief, perseverance and the determination to continue with the survival of life in the best way possible.

Without the additional information offered on this website about the Karen organization including history and culture, education, arts and culture perspective, I would have formulated narrow perspectives about this population, if I should encounter someone in MN.  Going through the DIE stages has helped me to broaden my perspectives, to not make judgments so quickly and to learn as much about different populations and why they have come to the U.S.  The challenges I experiences going through the DIE process included opening my mind to experience and see second hand about the traumas and hardships certain populations have overcome.  I was never aware that so many refugees from Burma come to MN for good jobs, access high-quality education unlike their own, and to strive to connect with a strong community.  They have achieved this with the Karen Organization.  The interpretation phase of DIE is the hardest for myself, in coming to terms with what I have learned and what to make of it.  I can use the DIE inquiry strategy to take the time, especially in the first two class meetings with my students, to learn as much as I can about their backgrounds.  I can use surveys, questioning techniques and collaboration amongst students using different and engaging communication activities.  

  

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