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by Erica Fischer on Apr 14, 2014

Incorporating Culture in Language Instruction

Welcome back to #langchat!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for a lively discussion on Thursday, April 10! The conversation focused on how thematic units and action-oriented tasks can best incorporate culture. There was a large turnout, and participants shared a wealth of useful suggestions! A special thanks to our moderators: @msfrenchteach and @CoLeeSensei.

In case you missed the discussion, have a look at the summary below. We invite you to continue the conversation at the bottom of this post in the comments section!

 
Participants agreed that culture should be integrated into language instruction. @msfrenchteach wrote that: “Culture should be seamlessly woven in to the fabric of our units,” and @senoraCMT placed views culture as the ‘main dish’ of her instruction: “I like to incorporate the culture before I plan the unit. Culture=main dish, other stuff=sides!” Participants reflected on ways to help students experience culture both in and out of the classroom, suggested useful resources, and touched upon certain difficulties faced when attempting to integrate culture.

Bringing Culture into the Classroom

Instructors emphasized the importance of exposing students to ‘authentic’ cultural resources. Film was presented as an ideal resource due to its incorporation of history, language, and visuals from the target culture (@senoraCMT). Many instructors commented that they also integrate music into their daily classroom routine (e.g. starting each class with a song). Participants highlighted the importance of bringing authentic products from the target culture into the classroom, and they sometimes invite students to taste the culture. For example, @sgojsic mentioned plans for a French cheese sampling party in class. Authentic texts were also presented as a window into both language and culture, and the value of personal narratives (shared by either students or instructors) of study abroad experiences were also encouraged. Finally, @profesorM shared an authentic image bank with participants: http://t.co/So5sD86bm7.

Culture Through Contact

Participants discussed the importance of getting students out of the classroom to experience culture in an authentic setting. @ksmcfet wrote: “Get them to get out and experience it on their own. I require it for a small part of grade. They have learned so much.” @sgojsic has students volunteer at a cultural event, and @SraSpanglish takes her students on a field trip to a local mercado where they can purchase ingredients together and interact with merchants in Spanish. Instructors encourage students to experience the target culture both at home and through study abroad. Pen pals were also suggested as a way of experiencing another culture through written exchanges with speakers living in the target culture, and class Skype sessions with students in the target culture were also mentioned.

Accessing and Storing Cultural Resources Online

Participants repeatedly stressed that the Internet is an essential tool for accessing culture. Commercials (on YouTube or Pinterest) were mentioned multiple times, and participants seemed to find the site particularly valuable due to its large collection of short, digestible texts (@SraSpanglish) and the possibility to thematically organize resources. Diigo was also recommended as a useful site for collecting, tagging, and storing resources that are relevant for particular thematic units. A number of instructors also advocated for the incorporation of social media in the classroom. Twitter was suggested, as it allows the class to follow and engage with current events in the target culture, and @senorita_jess like the idea of a class social media account.

Difficulties

Participants touched upon a few difficulties that instructors must face when trying to incorporate culture into lessons. @BeckyTetzner described the frustration of not having much freedom to create thematic units: “I LOVE the idea of creating more of my own thematic units, but I’m in a dept. w/out-of-book [teachers] &; it’s a struggle.” @ksmcfet asked how to get students to value personal anecdotes: “how do you get kids to appreciate culture? I have life experiences I love to share but they don’t care!” Additionally, @sgojsic commented on the amount of time required to find appropriate resources: “the struggle with culture is finding the resources-often takes time to search appropriate websites, articles etc.” In light of @sgojsic’s comment, we have included a list of some of the many resources shared by participants.

Resources

  • @cocamanar: ispot.tv is a great resource for Spanish commercials. Searchable.
  • @dacosta_sra: The Mexican Movie Canela. We used minute 31:41 for interpretive task as Main Character invited neighbors to dinner.
  • @Marishawkins: I love having a webquest with an authentic task like buy a train ticket from the RENFE site
  • @madamebaker: Check this site out for authentic images: http://t.co/NmkwLsLJMQ
  • @profesorM: Online shopping http://t.co/1jd7Baz3ib (food), elcorteingles.es ropa + furn
  • @mmebrady: my students LOVE the oasis commercials!!
  • @CristinaZimmer4: Easiest 2create units by teaching cultural content, then gram, 2support communication relating to it: https://t.co/AFDXZRrCL
  • @Senor_Pete: YouTube is a hotspot for authentic materials. Commercials, news stories, video blogs, etc
  • @muchachitaMJ: just search “anuncio + company name” – Coca cola has the best commercials in Spanish
  • @SenoritaWirries: Link to culture point activities I do with my kids. http://t.co/gTgugm4rO5
  • @lovemysummer: Nat Geo had awesome cross-cult. reality series several yrs ago. Search for episodes of Worlds Apart. Detroit & Peru is a fave 4 sp
  • @profesorM: Movie: La Misma Luna (inmigación)
  • @karacjacobs: Lots of commercials in Spanish here too http://t.co/jzlZJ9y7rV
  • @SenoritaWirries: Good movie to compare and discuss culture The perfect game! My fav. Baseball (my 2nd love)
  • @BeckyTetzner: NPR has had a “borderlands” series recently-useful culture for Span tchrs?! http://t.co/vzkZ8b8sp3

Summary

There are many ways to incorporate culture into language learning, both in and out of the classroom. The Internet contains a vast and growing array of resources that allow instructors to access images, texts, and videos for thematic units. Social media represents an emerging cultural resource, and instructors appear eager to integrate new media into instruction. Finding authentic materials online can be time-consuming, but the #langchat community is a good place to start.

Thank You

Thank you so much to @msfrenchteach and @CoLeeSensei for moderating a lively discussion about how to incorporate culture into language learning. Due to space limitations, many great comments had to be omitted from this summary. To view a complete transcript of the conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

If you have any comments or questions that you would like to share with the #langchat community, do not hesitate to do so. Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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