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by Erica Fischer on Mar 24, 2017

Interculturality in the World Language Classroom

Last week, #langchat participants dove into the complexity of interculturality in the world language classroom. The discussion covered everything from the definition of the term to how to allow students to discover new cultures, and how to assess intercultural competence.

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What is Interculturality?

According to #langchat teachers, interculturality involves gaining new cultural perspectives. Incorporating this concept into the classroom can be beneficial to language learners as they engage in new and unique cultures. “Interculturality [is] knowing that there are differences between cultures, and accepting and growing in those differences” (@welangley). According to @SraStilson, interculturality is “knowing, accepting, and understanding differences between my culture and [the target language] culture.”  Interculturality includes “understanding ourselves in order to understand others” (@MimiStapleton). It “is more than a ‘fun fact’ at the end of a unit – it’s deeply understanding others’ ways of life” (@srtamartino).

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Remaining in Target Language while Learning about New Cultures

It can be challenging for students to remain in the target language while discovering and learning about new cultures. @eagan_heather suggests “showing [students] cultural videos and having them describe what they are seeing and [then] compare and contrast.”

it’s the little things; more authentic resources, more level appropriate questions, and more observance, that can help students remain in the target language while learning about new cultures. As with anything, pictures and videos are helpful. @SraWilliams3

“Give sentence starters and useful phrases. Scaffolding is key here” (@srtamartino). @senora_broyles teaches “through ‘realia’. Take [students] abroad. Show them the world!”

Designing Lessons that let Students Discover Cultural Differences

#Langchat participants agreed that it is important for students to discover cultural differences without being explicitly told by the teacher. In order to provide opportunities for discovery, @SraWilliams3 suggests “letting [students] observe, ask questions, and answer thoughtful questions. Let [students] question things and consider possibilities.” Inquiry based lessons can be beneficial. “We give [students] a goal to find [within] a culture and [authentic resources], then they think, pair, research, and share” (@angardner06). @SraRoblesHHS shared, “I first ask my students questions about their own culture to pique their interest. Then they search for info on the target culture.” Finally, @MlleSulewski said, “Give them an experience! My favorite lesson this year was a chocolate tasting in French 2.”

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Assessing Intercultural Competency

#Langchat teachers gave tips for formal and informal assessment of intercultural competency among students.

  • @SECottrell said, “have a good sit-down with the new @actfl ICC standards and then put them in the rubric. All the rubrics.”
  • @SraRoblesHHS shared, “if [students] have been working with authentic resources, they can be formally assessed with an AP-style cultural comparison speaking prompt.”
  • According to @eeg_il, “the best prompts would require [students] to produce for a target language audience, even if sometimes that audience is simulated by the [teacher].
  • @MlleSulewski said, “I think the easiest way is to ask ‘why do you think it’s this way?’ no pressure for the right or wrong answer.”
  • @jfh1790  shared, “Because it’s such an open-ended topic, an open-ended presentation assignment would be ideal. [Students] are free to express what they know.

How Can We Get Students to Reflect on Their Personal Reactions to Another Culture in Order to Better Understand It?

To begin, @SraWilliams3 encouraged #langchat teachers to not “be afraid of teaching culture. It’s little things, one step at a time that build our teaching practice.” Students can better reflect on their reactions to another culture when #langchat teachers “frame it for them. Explain. Make it seem like their own realization” said @textivate. @MlleSulewski suggests that #langchat teachers “flip the tables; what about our culture might someone else have an adverse reaction to? Why?” A couple other questions one might consider in the classroom are, “how can cultural competence help me be smarter, kinder? What is the deeper purpose of reflecting about it?” It is also helpful to look at and discuss similarities and differences between cultures. @ACWLteach said, “get them to make comparisons between target culture and [their] own culture. Allow student to discuss and react to differences.”

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Thank You

Thank you to all who participated in the discussion last week on Interculturality in the World Language classroom. Thank you to our lead moderator, Megan (@MlleSulewski) for her guidance on the topic.Thank you to all #Langchat participants. Would you like to suggest a topic? Check out the #langchat wiki and suggest a topic!
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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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