Teaching Culture

When teaching culture, World Language teachers avoid making generalizations or rules. Instead, we show students examples from the culture by sharing authentic documents in order for students to make their own observations and draw their own conclusions. We do our best work when we share multiple authentic documents in an attempt to avoid representing a single story.

I have been showing my students multiple authentic documents on each theme we study so that the students have many views into the culture. Yet when I look at the culture standards in my state’s framework, I realize that to accomplish the intended level of understanding, I need to do some conceptual work with my students around culture.

Novice High Cultural Standards, from the Massachusetts Framework:
In a variety of settings, using the target language exclusively or almost exclusively, with appropriate linguistic scaffolding, students most often succeed but sometimes need help to:
– Analyze products and practices to help understand perspectives within the diverse cultures of the target-language communities.
– Investigate, explain, and reflect on how culture affects identity.
– Investigate, explain, and reflect on the similarities and differences of cultures over time.

I was having trouble working out how to teach these concepts to students in K-12, but luckily I found high-quality materials for free on the Internet. What I have put together for you are examples of these materials. For the most part, I have taken them as they are and made very few edits. For continuity, I made my presentation of the slides very uniform, but the materials are otherwise as I found them. You will find the URL of the site where the resource was found in the speaker notes at the bottom of the slide.

As I worked I noted the enduring understandings and have listed them here as a way for the teacher to keep track of the concepts that these lessons communicate to students.

Enduring understandings:
– Culture manifests in products, practices and perspectives. All three are connected. And, one can look at products and practices to try to understand perspectives.
– Everyone has a culture and everyone is different. People participate in different groups or cultures, which may be defined according to nationality, ethnicity, language, age, social class, gender, religion, political or sexual orientation.
– When one first enters into another culture, one is usually first interacting only with what you can readily see. Sometimes, people make assumptions or develop ideas about another cultural community without really understanding the internal or deep culture that makes up the majority of that culture’s values and beliefs.
– When meeting somebody for the first time, if prejudices are identified, we can try to go beyond them to establish a relationship that goes beyond the stereotypes conveyed by our society.

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