From UBC Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search


Teaching Suggestions Based on Readings

Week 1

Atkinson, D. (1999). TESOL and culture. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 625-654.

SUMMARY: Dwight Atkinson, in a dense article packed with differing theoretical perspectives on the concept of culture from cultural anthropology, cultural studies, postmodern theory, and TESOL, attempts to describe how culture has been understood in the field of ESL teaching/research, and suggests a "middle ground" between the "received view" in which culture is monolithic, unchanging "things" which people posses and which regulate behavior, and postmodern understandings of culture and individuality which view people as members of multiple social groups, whose identities and allegiances are always shifting and changing.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Cultural Twister: Designate circles or places that represent various cultures students are likely to be members of, such as Canadian, Islamic, female, gay, etc. and have them try to physically connect themselves to each area.
  • Students from different backgrounds work in groups to create posters representing what characterizes them as individuals, rather than what their culture is.
  • A simple activity that can be done at the beginning of the school year is ID bags. The teacher and students take turns bringing in their individual ID bags with 3 items that hold personal relevance to their lives to share with the class. This not only allows the teacher to get to know the student better but also for the students to learn about each other. This activity can really help build a positive classroom environment.
  • Mapping the school environment: students could create illustrated maps of their school’s layout. On the map students would label where the different social groups such as “jocks” hangout. The map could also be labeled with different adjectives to describe how the students feel about a particular section of the school. Students could then work in groups to re-create their map on a poster to represent their ideal school environment. Another example would be to have students work in groups to create a video that described daily life in their school or community. This could also take the form of a documentary where people from the community are interviewed, or might be a video diary of “a day in the life of a Vancouver resident.”
  • Open-ended “I am” statements: Students could finish 10-20 “I am” statements and then rate them as more socially or individually oriented (collectivistic or individualistic). Teacher could survey the class for number of each type of responses and inquire about amount of contact with each type of society. This could lead in to a discussion about how ELLs may mediate between different cultures, why and how socialization occurs, and why knowledge of one’s own culture and of others’ are all integral to intercultural competence.

Leshem, S. & Trafford, V. (2006). Unravelling cultural dynamics in TEFL: culture tapestries in three Israeli schools. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 12(6), 639-656.

SUMMARY (from abstract): This article addresses the issue of the hidden cultural dynamics prevailing in teaching and learning English as a foreign language. The study examined the extent to which teachers’ oral feedback and the resulting classroom interaction were affected by aspects of the cultural backgrounds of the teacher and the learners. Evidence is based on an ethnographic study in three discretely different cultural settings of Israeli junior high school EFL classrooms: Jewish secular, Jewish ultra-orthodox, and Arab. Extended observation of the classes was undertaken to identify the specificity of patterns in teacher–learner relationships, and this was supported by interviews with the three teachers and their respective principals. Analysis revealed three distinctive micro-cultures that were found to reflect elements of each specific macro-culture. Conclusions are drawn as to the effect of these elements on the language teaching and learning process, and also on the distance between the cultural backgrounds of the teacher and students and the culture of the target language.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • I HIGHLY recommend reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's biography about growing up in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya before moving to Holland as a refugee. It is a powerful perspective to consider in light of 'culture' 'religion' 'freedom' and 'human rights'. The book is called Infidel [1]. -Ella
  • This activity works in both EFL and ESL settings: Students who share different backgrounds get into groups and design their own schools, explaining their rationale and choices with regards to power relations to their peers in a class presentation.
  • Related to the activity above, the following idea probably works best in ESL settings: immigrant students who have attended school in their home country draw a sketch of their former school setting, showing and explaining it to the class. Moderated by the teacher, the class then discusses the pros and cons of the foreign set-up and the current set-up, respectfully comparing the two.
  • U-shaped discussion: the teacher poses a position-based question to the class and the students move along the shape of a “U” based on their answer. One tip of the “U” represents “strongly agree”, while the other tip represents “strongly disagree”, and the centre of the “U” represents a neutral position. Students are then asked to explain their stance on the “U” and have the opportunity to change their position after listening to the responses of their peers.
  • Choral reading: Teacher will model a song/rhyme/chant relevant to the current issue at hand and guide students in practice by repetition. For example, a chant could focus on expressing likes/dislikes, sports, or body parts. The words should be posted up or given to the students on a handout. In this way, the input would appeal to the visual, auditory, and perhaps even kinesthetic senses of the learners, thus maximizing effectiveness of the repetition.

Corbett, J. (2003). "Implementing an intercultural approach." from An intercultural approach to English language teaching. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

(From Chapter beginning) This chapter focuses more directly on intercultural communicative competence by addressing the following issues: • Defining intercultural communicative competence (the ‘savoirs’). • The desirability of intercultural learning. • Learners as ethnographers. • The needs of different learners. • Replacing ‘native speaker competence’ with ‘intercultural communicative competence’. • Task design in the intercultural classroom.

Teaching Ideas:

  • Contents in your bag
  • Flower Petal
  • What does “___” mean (the colour white)
  • I like to eat….(foods using your initials)
  • Barnga
  • My Land:

Activity Time

   * Each person  will be from one of 3 lands
   * You will read about your culture and only act the way described when talking to people from other lands
   * Do not reveal the cultural traditions of your land but try to figure out others
   * Now for your culture…


   * You come  from PurpleLand.  
   * You like to meet foreigners, but you really dislike being touched by strangers.
   * In your country, you tend to avoid direct eye contact when you first meet people
   * You consider it improper to ask where someone comes from.


   * You come  from Blueland
   * In your country, people gently, but consistently touch others arms when they are talking.
   * You look directly in other’s eyes
   * You like to meet foreigners, but you avoid people from RedLand so you like to be clear about where people come from


   * You come  from RedLand
   * You love to meet people and express enthusiasm with a lot of gestures. When you meet someone, you touch your earlobes and bow a little to say hello politely
   * You would like to spend the summer in BlueLand
  • Newspaper Reporter. Students could be asked to complete a news style report on an aspect of popular culture. They could research using media, materials provided by the teacher, observations and possibly interviews with other students. This assignment encourages critical thinking skills and would be particularly useful for higher proficiency students in developing their oral and written language skills.
  • Watching a stereotypical video: In an ESL setting in which immigrants are immersed in the target language and culture, students could watch a video depicting stereotypical behaviour of the dominant members of their society. Afterwards, students could be led to discuss how much and why they themselves conform to these cultural norms. To conclude, the instructor could ask the students to consider how much the majority members of their society conform to the stereotypes. The goals of this activity are twofold: to develop critical self-awareness and to caution against views of (sub)cultural homogeneity.

Baker, W. (2003). Should culture be an overt component of EFL instruction outside of English speaking countries? The Thai context. Asian EFL Journal, 5(4).

Each student in the EFL classroom finds a pen pal from an English-speaking culture and gets to know them by sending emails back and forth. Each student creates a poster/ portfolio profiling their pen pal by describing his/her daily activities, family habits, education, etc. The profiles are assembled and will highlight individual differences, avoiding cultural stereotypes. (Note: this idea also works between two non-English speaking EFL countries.)

  • “Avoid stereotypes when teaching culture”
  • Non-verbal communication can carry more meaning than verbal communication. In a diverse classroom, students could explore what body language and gestures they use in communication and compare that with other students in the class. This could be done through a role play type activity where all students are given the same skit but the class could watch to see how it is performed differently between students. This could lead to a conversation about what was similar and different and why those may occur.
  • Communication roleplay: In groups with others who speak a similar native language, students could act out scenes from recent plays written in English and then repeat the same scenes in their native languages. They could then brainstorm together about how the communicative patterns and nonverbal gestures are unique in each culture.

Week 2

Corbett, J. (2003). "Ethnographic Activities in the Intercultural Classroom" from An intercultural approach to English language teaching. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

This article summarizes the benefits and difficulties encountered in EFL contexts in language training in the workplace, ILT programs for teachers and cultural learning by immigrants. Damen (1987) recommends 5 ethnographic activities aimed to systematize observations and understanding that will lead to intercultural mediation and/or imitation. By training learners to pay attention to different ways that people in different cultures communicate, we will equip them to develop an ethnographic turn of mind, reflect on assumptions at the root of ordinary behaviors and concepts, manage tricky intercultural encounters, and aid with managing unfamiliar cultures first-hand.

Teaching Ideas:

  • Choose-your-own-ending books: Derived from Corbett’s suggestion of critical incident discussions (p. 111), this activity entails students depicting a cultural conflict they have experienced or heard about in picture book format. These books could be written from different perspectives, not necessarily the first person point of view. Teachers could encourage collaboration with family members at home to devise alternate solutions and then assist students with drafts in class.

Moran, P. (2001). "Culture Learning Outcomes." From Teaching Culture: Perspectives in Practice. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

This article gives a good overview of the different cultural learning outcomes that an ESL/EFL teacher could use to structure their course. Moran argues that the six cultural outcomes of "cultural-specific understanding, cultural-general understanding, competence, adaptation, social change, and identity" are connected through the larger organizing outcome of "personal competence." Personal competence represents the capacities and abilities of the learner, and ultimately the idea of knowing oneself. When a learner has self-awareness they are able to use their linguistic and cultural skills to access all other learning outcomes.

Teaching ideas:

Norton, B. (2001). Non-participation, imagined communities, and the language classroom. In M. Breen (Ed.), Learner contributions to language learning: New directions in research (pp. 159-171). Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Teaching ideas:

  • For primary children in EFL contexts, students’ imagined communities could be expressed with a picture drawn in class. Teacher could provide vocabulary words for learning.

Matsuda, A. (2002). "International understanding" through teaching world Englishes. World Englishes 21 (3), 436-440.

Teaching ideas:

  • World Englishes Map: Students could work in groups to create a poster-map of world Englishes. First students would sketch the outline of the world (or this could be provided to them) and would then choose to investigate five locations around the world where an alternate English variety exists. These would be labeled on their map and be accompanied by a paragraph description of how English is used and its history in that location. This could also be done in digital form.
  • Code-switching – a secret language?: Naturally, different linguistic substrates should lead to differences in phonology, morphology, and syntax in the different types of Englishes. All of these differences could be represented as a secret language that only a speaker of your variety of English could understand! As English spelling has been fossilized since the 15th century, this activity provides students with an opportunity to write English the way they pronounce it (practice “sounding words out”) and include code-switching found in everyday life. This would also affirm the often stigmatized practice of code-switching and perhaps bridge the perceived generation gap between teacher and students.

Medgyes, P. (2001). When the teacher is a non-native speaker. In M. Celce-Murcia (Ed.), Teaching English as a second or foreign language. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

  • To hire a native or non-native speaker: Under the suggested activities, students are asked to discuss whether they would “prefer to employ” a native or non-native teacher (p.442). Students could answer this question using a graphic organizer such as “seeing both sides”, in which they are to provide support for both sides of an argument. Students could then choose one side of the argument to write a persuasive essay. Stronger students could include evidence from the opposing viewpoint to strengthen their argument.

Week 3

Brown, H.D. (2007). Language Assessment. From Teaching By Princples, 3rd Edition. Boston: Pearson.

  • Brown mentions Cloze tests; the teacher could use favourite or popular texts (Spongebob, Diary of a Wimpy Kid) to conduct the cloze tests in both informal and formal assessment. Many teacher use a brain starter type activity in the morning so a cloze test could be used there and then if it is used as formal assessment the students would already be used to the task. (Simmi)

He, L., & Shi, L. (2008). ESL students’ perceptions and experiences of standardized English writing tests. Assessing writing, 13, 130-149.

  • Page 143 mentions essay prompts; instead of only focusing on writing, students could verbally respond to essay prompts to explore their ideas instead of first worrying about the writing. They could first talk with a partner and if the teacher thinks it is appropriate they could ‘talk’ an essay in front of the class.(Simmi)

Mueller, J. Authenic Assessment Toolbox.

Tomlinson, B. (2003) Developing Materials to Develop Yourself.

  • From Aaron H: "I found on Pearson Longman website that they have an online teacher development interactive program offering internationally recognized TESL/TEFL certification from English Language Teaching Institute at Hunter College, City University of New York. ... This course is separated into 6 different modules: fundamentals of teaching young learners, speaking, listening, reading, fundamentals of ELT, and preparing for the teacher knowledge test."

Crandall, J. A. (2001). Keeping up to date as an ESL or EFL professional. In M. Celce-Murcia (ed.) Teaching English as a second or foreign language, 3rd ed. (pp.535-552).Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

ESL Professional & Volunteer Resources

While nobody can make any promises about the quality of jobs you may actually get by applying through these different channels, the stuff you post here should be something we're at least somewhat familiar with and feel you can trust. A short description would help. Thanks! Add stuff! -- Joel

Consider becoming a member of BC Teachers of English as An Additional Language! You'll get many benefits from joining -- for example, they will email you ads for new jobs.

A BC volunteering website which includes many volunteer ESL tutor positions with organizations like ELSA, Immigrant Services Society, YMCA, and others.

This is where I found my first college-level EFL teaching job in China. The schools pay to advertise and they do not tend to be the "top" schools, but I think this site is fairly reliable. - Joel

Homefront is a non-profit volunteer program operated by the VCC (Vancouver Community College). They train volunteers to tutor in the homes of adult students who cannot attend ESL classes due to family commitments or health. From my experience, most students are stay-at-home moms with young children. At the VCC's Broadway campus, volunteers receive 12 hours of (basic) training. The VCC also has an ESL resource room where tutors can go to borrow books and get ideas for lesson plans. Tutors are asked to commit a minimum of 50 hours to the program during a six or 12 month period. If you are interested in volunteering, the next information session is on October 06th from 10 a.m. - 11 a.m at the VCC (Broadway campus).

English Language Services For Adults is a government-funded English education provider for adult newcomers to Canada. The link provided here is to their jobs site.

TESOL, Inc. is the largest professional association of English language teachers in the world. I highly recommend becoming a member while you are a student to take advantage of the discount. Membership gets you access to a lot of resources, free web seminars, email lists about jobs, books, and conferences, etc. The site linked here is their worldwide jobs site. (Tends to be US-centric, but a lot of int'l jobs too)

Frontier College is a non-profit national literacy organization that runs literacy programs and supports other community-based organizations. There are many different volunteer options in the Lower Mainland working with children, teenagers and adults. I volunteered in the 'African Homework Club' for students aged 6-12 to provide support with homework, reading, writing and other skills. Frontier College also runs training/orientation classes for all volunteers and you are expected to make a 6-month commitment. - Kiran

Writing Assessment & Testing Resources

TOEFL iBT Writing -

IELTS Writing -

LPI Writing -

How to get Published in TESOL! -

MORE TO COME! August 9