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4.2 Discussing Culture in the classroom

durenmgmail-com November 9, 2021

Should I speak about different cultures in my classroom?

Many newer teachers may be hesitant to present certain subjects, worrying that they may get in trouble for it. It usually is not an issue discussing different cultures in the classroom. However, understanding a few best exercises and examples can help you present these topics without problems with administration, parents, or possibly if it is illegal.

Should I talk about different cultures in my classroom?

There are numerous reasons you would want to discuss different cultures related to English speaking with your students. One of the primary purposes is to benefit your students who will be relocating to learn in English-speaking countries. Acquiring this knowledge of these English-speaking country’s cultures and history can, in turn, equip them with a better understanding of the language and possibly develop their speaking skills.

Another reason that it can be beneficial to introduce lessons about other cultures is that this can equip your students with unique vocabulary that they would presumably not learn any other way. This can be a vocabulary connected to the holiday, such as decorations, food, etc. You can include this vocabulary within music, games, videos, and other means to make the lesson fun and produce some diversity, unlike the regular lessons.

Another purpose of teaching lessons about other cultures is that it can be worthwhile and a great way to open students to new cultures to enable them to compare the differences and the similarities to their cultures. By recognising the similarities with their customs, students may find it simpler to learn English. They will not be looking at it as being different and can instead focus on the similarities instead of the differences.

What is the best way to present these lessons?

The first thing to remember, as stated above, is that as English teachers, we are not in the classroom to question a student’s cultural views or tell them what is right or wrong about it. We are there to teach English. With that being the case, the critical thing to remember is that you do not want to centre on controversial features when teaching about other cultures. Instead, you want to concentrate on how you can use that lesson to improve your students’ understanding of English.

There are many sensitive aspects to Christmas in the English-speaking world and the countries you may be teaching in. For example, it is a violation of government regulation in some countries for a teacher to speak about their religion in class. If you are planning a lesson about Christmas, you would not want to address it as a Christian celebration and focus on its religious features if you are teaching learners in China


Instead, a better approach would be to direct the lesson to celebrate with family and have dinner together. Depending on the development of your students, you could then move on from that to them comparing Christmas to holidays they honour and talking about how they are related or not.

By presenting Christmas in this manner, you avoid anything that could get you in trouble and interest your students in a way that they can compare to the culture. This will also give them more opportunities to relate to the lesson.

What should be avoided in lessons about different cultures?

Remember, as an English teacher, it is not your job to challenge students’ ideas or local cultural ideas. As stated above, it is crucial to avoid topics or lessons that might go against social norms or beliefs.

In some countries, it is possible that if you are found talking about the wrong things to students, you could be arrested. It is best to avoid controversy; instead, focus on things your students can relate to creating lessons around this. These can be songs that they can learn specific to the celebration or books they can read. Lessons about food or drinks that students can discuss are unique to the holiday, and you can bring in those foods and beverages for students to try and talk about in English.

You also want to avoid talking about holidays, which students may not have any reference for understanding. Not every holiday or aspect of a culture translates over to other cultures. If you know ahead of time, creating a lesson about a specific holiday or aspect of culture will confuse students and cause more issues that the lesson is worth than just avoiding it. There are plenty of ways to teach about other cultures and holidays without confusing students.