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Bite Size part two - Using "How are you?" to teach culture! - May 2001
Last month I talked about the relationship between teaching English and International Understanding. I also explained how it is easier to introduce items of culture in "bite size chunks". Using an English topic, for example "modes of transport", "food" or "How are you?", then choosing interesting words to teach can be an effective framework for these bite size chunks!
For example what about teaching "How are you?", and choosing answers to the questions that allow you to introduce some items of culture. I would choose a series of maybe 8 different answers (just right for a 40 minute lesson), for example "I'm OK", "I'm hungry", "I'm tired" etc. each with their own picture card. (Straight away you are teaching a culture point, in the West we tend not to have "set answers" to questions, it is much better to be individual and choose your own favourite answer!)
On the "I'm hungry" card, try featuring some foods from different countries. The kids are bound to ask what they are, and this is a great way to spend a couple of minutes introducing that food. In the past I've introduced English strawberries (Wimbledon and strawberries mark the beginning of summer; I was very surprised to find them on Japanese Christmas cake!), French frogs legs (you can actually buy these in some supermarkets in Japan!), and a Thai shark curry!! If the kids are really interested, you could do the whole of the next lesson talking about foods! For the "I'm tired" picture write a few "zzz zzz zzz" above the character, this is different from the Japanese "guu guu" !!!
This next one is one of my favourites! I suddenly say "Sorry, English class is over, now we are doing maths". Then I draw some maths on the board, for example:
1 + 4 = 7
The kids all shout out "No!". So I pull a sad face and put a big "X" next to the numbers.
I try again with maybe 3 + 8 = 9 . The kids again shout "No!" and I try again. The next time I write 2 + 5 = 7. The kids go "Yes!" and I do what we do in the West, I write this on the board:
2 + 5 = 7
Everybody then says "ehhhhhhhh????". I then explain that in West, means correct or "good" (this is the English I wanted to teach), and ○ means the part of the answer inside the circle is wrong!!! Simple things like this are very useful to know! (In my junior high there was one girl who did an excellent piece of work in her exams. I covered it in red ticks to show all the things she had done well. She took one look at the paper and cried!!!)
When playing games for practising English it's often a good idea to introduce some random element. This is important for motivation as it makes sure that all students have a good chance of winning, regardless of their ability. In Japan I do this by using janken (for example in the Gokiburi Game, or Leapfrog Game). However one problem I find is that teachers in other countries can't use these games as their kids don't know janken!! Yep, in the West some people know it, but it's nowhere near as popular as in Japan! So instead of janken, get the kids to do what we do in the West; toss a coin!! I often carry an English 2 pound coin in my pocket for when the kids try to challenge me to a game of janken!
This is the sort of way in which you can introduce a little bit of culture into a lesson, using the English as a framework. Teaching the English is easy, but it is the kokusairikai and culture that is the most important thing to teach the kids. Keeping things short and fun helps introduce them to all sorts of different ways of thinking and more often than not provides the kids with inspiration for a whole host of questions and motivation for learning more!
Finally, when teaching "Where are you going?", one other card I use is "Shopping Centre". Everyone in my class was stunned to see the pictures I had of an English shopping centre, complete with 20 cinemas, 280 shops and space to park hundreds and hundreds cars!! English people do like to shop!
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