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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: Workshop

Rooted in Culture Assignments + Projects

Examine the Topic

Now that you have read the research and viewed the video discussion on integrating culture with foreign language study, you will examine the topic further by exploring the three components of the cultural framework: products, practices, and perspectives.

One of the challenges teachers face when introducing cultural products or practices is that these pieces of information can appear to be disconnected, like bits of trivia, and possibly lead to the stereotypes teachers hope to prevent. By using the cultural framework in their planning, teachers can instead ensure that culture is explored in a systematic and contextual way. The framework helps teachers tie together the disparate knowledge that they have about products and practices, and helps students begin to relate products and practices to perspectives and acquire a deeper understanding of culture overall.

A. Exploring the Cultural Framework

In the following interactive activity, you will use the triangle model of the cultural framework to explore how products, practices, and perspectives are interrelated and begin reflecting on how you might use it to plan lessons.

  1. First, read about a product common to many cultures. Then consider the practices and perspectives that could be associated with this product in your target culture. You will have the opportunity to do this with two different products and be able to see sample answers from two different cultures.
  1. Next, read about a practice that is common across different cultures. Consider the products and perspectives that you might derive from this practice based on your target culture. Again, you will have the opportunity to do this with two different practices, and sample answers will be available from different cultures.
  1. Finally, read about a general cultural perspective. Then think about the products and practices that could be derived from that perspective within your target culture. You will again be able to do this with two different perspectives, and read sample answers based on different cultures.

B. Reflect on the Activity

Now that you have explored the three Ps of the cultural framework, select a target culture for the language that you teach and use the triangle model to think about the interrelationship of products, practices, and perspectives associated with that culture. Also, consider the following:

  1. What are some of the key perspectives of your target culture? For example, what family values do the majority of people support? What beliefs about government, society, and religion predominate? What lifestyle patterns are evident? How is the past viewed? As you hypothesize about these perspectives, what products and practices do you see evolving from them?
  1. Go to a Web site written from within your target culture (e.g., an online newspaper or a city or provincial site) and scan for articles that either explicitly or implicitly address cultural practices. Then use these practices to begin reflecting on the perspectives and any potential products that connect to the target culture. Also, be sure to think about the historical roots of the practices and how the practices may have changed over time.
  1. The products of a culture can be tangible or intangible. Reflect on some of the intangible products of your target culture (e.g., music, the language itself, or literary characters) and consider how they may represent perspectives of the culture in the past and today.

Assignment:

Write a brief summary of what you learned from this activity to submit as an assignment.

Put It Into Practice: Activity A

Assignment:

  1. In this section, you will apply what you have learned to your own teaching. The following activities are designed to assist you in developing resources for integrating culture into thematic lessons and becoming a lifelong learner of culture. Choose one or both of the activities below.
  2. Submit your thematic unit that integrates cultural content with language instruction as an assignment.

Activity A: Integrating Culture Into Themes

In this activity, you will use a thematic approach to organize the cultural content of a unit that you are planning to teach.

  1. Select a theme. Begin by selecting an organizing theme, such as a unit on school life in a target country. If you are using a textbook, you may be able to identify a theme that connects to chapter content. Draw a triangle representing the cultural framework from the National Standards, or use the Integrating Culture Into Themes (PDF, 55 K) form. Write your theme in the center of the triangle.
  2. Identify products and practices. Using your selected theme, generate a list of products and practices that you would like students to explore. For example, products for a unit on school life might include the school curriculum, daily/yearly schedules, exams, dress codes, school facilities, and materials students are expected to provide. Practices might include state and school rules and regulations, classroom behavior, and dining practices. Be sure to include opportunities to show students how the products and practices have changed over time.
  3. Consider the perspectives. Next, consider the perspectives embodied in the products and practices, both past and present, that you would like students to reflect on. For example, products and practices related to school life can address perspectives such as the roles of the state, parents, and professionals in determining the curriculum, orientation of the school (e.g., religious versus secular, open access versus entrance exams), and expectations for students. These perspectives often have a historical basis, but changes do occur over time; contemporary social issues are reflected in today’s schools.
  4. Plan your unit. Once you have listed several possibilities for products, practices, and perspectives, you can begin to integrate some of these areas into your thematic unit. First, review your list and narrow down the areas to the ones that best suit your curricular goals. Then plan how you will integrate them into the unit. Use the following questions to guide you:
    • What authentic materials and sources of information, such as film, videos, texts, and artifacts, will you use? How will you use them?
    • How will you break up topics for group or individual research?
    • What questions will students investigate as cultural observers?
    • Whom might students talk with to learn more about the target culture?
    • How would you assess this unit on culture?

Put It Into Practice: Activity B

Assignment:

  1. In this section, you will apply what you have learned to your own teaching. The following activities are designed to assist you in developing resources for integrating culture into thematic lessons and becoming a lifelong learner of culture. Choose one or both of the activities below.
  2. Submit five entries from your journal as an assignment. For each entry, be sure to include your initial notes about the product, practice, or perspective that you observed or read about, as well as any additional research you did to address the other Ps of the cultural framework.

Activity B: Ongoing Cultural Exploration

Although no one person can become fully versed in all aspects of a culture, you can continue to learn new information and expand upon your current knowledge by engaging in ongoing cultural explorations. When viewing films, reading newspaper articles or Web pages, interacting with native speakers, or otherwise engaging with the target language and culture, you can begin by identifying a new product, practice, or perspective that interests you — one of the three Ps of the cultural framework triangle. Then you can speculate about the other points of the triangle (the other two Ps). Doing this regularly allows you to gradually extend your cultural knowledge, particularly in the complex area of linking contemporary aspects of the culture to their historical roots.

For example, a French newspaper article recently described the new licenses being awarded to musicians who wish to play music in the Paris métro (subway). Previously, players simply picked any spot they wanted to play in. However, complaints about the proliferation of musicians and the quality of their music forced the transportation authority to address the issue. Now there are a limited number of licenses available (they are good for six months), and musicians must audition to receive one. The following table shows how this article could trigger cultural insights within the three-P structure:

Product Practice Perspective
License to play music in the métro

Playing music for donations in the métro stations and on trains

Licensing requirements and how the bureaucracy functions

Value of social consciousness (letting musicians play to earn money); people’s expectations of their government — that it will regulate to accommodate both the commuters and musicians

 

A teacher could then use this article to expand his or her cultural awareness by looking at other ways in which the French government addresses social issues, particularly those affecting the economically disadvantaged, such as the allocation familiale (a subsidy for children), the allocation scolaire (a subsidy for school materials in September), and asile (shelter for the homeless and for immigrants).

You will now start a journal of insights about the culture(s) whose language you teach. You can then use the journal to further analyze both the target language and culture(s).

Begin the process with a weekly scan of Web pages and newspaper or magazine articles from the target culture. Take notes about products, practices, and/or perspectives that are new to you and that interest you. Each week, expand your search to further analyze the products, practices, and/or perspectives that you have already identified, as well as to identify any new cultural aspects that you would like to learn about.

As you record your findings, consider using a graphic organizer that serves as a reminder of the three Ps. For example, you can use a chart like the one above or a drawing of the triangular framework. The key is to develop a format that allows you to begin with any one of the three Ps, regardless of which one is first apparent through your research, and then allows you to address the other two Ps in any order as you continue your exploration.

Action Research Project

The following four-step process will help you plan a small action research project to explore your questions about integrating culture into the study of foreign languages, implement action plans for designing cultural explorations, and collect information to assess your instructional innovations. Before you begin this section, you can go to About Action Research for an introduction to the process of designing and conducting action research projects. If you are taking this workshop for credit, you will need to complete one action research project from any one of the eight workshop sessions as an assignment.

If you would like to focus on teaching culture for your action research project, use the following questions and examples to help frame your thinking and shape your action research project.

I. Thinking

  1. What issue concerning teaching culture do you want to describe, document, and investigate? For example, you could investigate your students’ attitudes about the target language cultures, including any stereotypes they may have; explore how cultural perspectives can be tied to practices and products; or examine how your students’ attitudes toward the target language cultures change over time. This will be the focus of your action research project.
  1. Why is it important to you as a teacher to integrate culture into foreign language instruction? How have you integrated culture into your units and lessons in the past? Do you feel that you have been successful in addressing the Cultures goal area of the standards? If so, why? If not, how and why do you want to change that approach? What has been your experience with designing lessons that lead students beyond cultural products and practices toward an understanding of cultural perspectives? Are you satisfied with your approach to addressing stereotypes that students may have about a target culture? Why or why not?
  1. What is your research question concerning the integration of culture into foreign language teaching? The research question will help you investigate your area of focus and understand it better. For example:
  1. What are my students’ attitudes and understandings about the target language culture?
  1. How can I enable my students to interpret the cultural perspectives that underlie cultural products and practices? How can I conduct a cultural perspectives discussion with my students?
  1. Do my students feel that their cultural knowledge and understanding is enhanced by lessons that are designed with a cultural context?
  1. What are the cultural topics that my students want to investigate, and how can I incorporate their cultural interests into my lessons?

II. Acting

  1. What is the action plan for carrying out your project? Depending on your action research question, the following are some questions you might ask yourself to help you develop an action plan:
  1. How will I identify my students’ attitudes and understandings about the target culture? Will I use a questionnaire, focus groups, or interviews with my students’ families or friends?
  1. How will I assess the cultural perspectives that my students develop from lessons? What types of questionnaires or self-assessment instruments do I need to develop?
  1. How will I lead a cultural perspectives discussion? What discussion strategies will I use? What kinds of questions will I ask? How will I record the discussion for analysis?
  1. How can I find out what cultural topics my students want to learn about? Will I record what they say in a class discussion or ask them to submit topics to me individually?
  1. How will I document my students’ growing cultural competence? Will I videotape them during cultural role plays, use journal entries, or conduct interviews with groups of two or three students?
  1. What information will you need to collect to answer your research question and assess your project? For example, you could take field notes, ask a colleague to observe your class and look for particular aspects relevant to your study, distribute student questionnaires and self-assessments, or record yourself leading a discussion. You should have at least two sources of information.
  1. How much time will you allot for your action research? That is, when and for how long do you plan to collect information before you’re ready to begin analyzing it? Develop a timeline for implementing your action plan.

III. Reflecting

  1. After collecting your information, how will you analyze it? That is, how will you organize and review the information you have collected to understand it better and help you answer your research question? For example, will you use percentages based on responses to a questionnaire? Themes from students’ reflective journals? Summaries of interview data? A flow chart of a class discussion?
  1. How will you display the information so that it can be shared with others? For example, you can use charts, graphs, and/or tables. The goal is to organize your data in a way that presents a clear description of what you investigated.

IV. Rethinking

Note: The final step of the action research project is to reevaluate your teaching practice based on your research data. Because it takes time to complete an action research project, it may not be possible to do this step during the workshop. However, if you are taking this workshop for credit, you will need to complete one action research project during or after the course of the workshop to submit as an assignment.

  1. Based on what you learned through your data analysis, how will you rethink your teaching practice? What changes will you make to your lessons the next time you integrate culture into your foreign language curriculum? If you had to research the cultural component of your teaching again, what changes would you make to your action research plan?

Reflect on Your Learning

In this session, you analyzed the cultural framework associated with the National Standards and looked at ways of integrating culture into the foreign language curriculum. You will now write a one- to two-page summary of what you have learned and how you plan to apply it in your classroom. Review the notes you have taken during this session, as well as your answers to the Reflect on Your Experience questions. Use the questions below to guide your writing. Consider including in your summary a web or image that depicts the role of culture in foreign language instruction. Be sure to label or describe your visual. You may also want to consider a specific unit that you teach and use the questions below to reflect on how you might teach this unit differently.

  1. How do I help my students understand cultural perspectives? How do I move the focus from products and practices to perspectives in a way that is appropriate for their ages and cognitive development level?
  1. What kind of professional and personal development might I want to pursue to increase my knowledge of the target culture(s) and thus increase my comfort level teaching it?
  1. How do I keep cultural topics from becoming a series of unconnected facts? How might I make culture the focal point of a unit or lesson, and how would I integrate this kind of lesson design on an ongoing basis?
  1. How do I encourage students to keep an open mind and see that “all cultures make sense…from their own vantage point” (Galloway, p. 38)?

Assignments:

  1. Submit your summary as an assignment.

Workshops