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Community, Identity, Culture: Creating a Cohesive Classroom

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In the growing global marketplace, classrooms are great places to start looking at the diversities of multicultural business. When critically examining the classroom community, identity, and culture of an English Language Learner (ELL), it is necessary to explore cross-cultural issues. This teaching tip provides several ideas that might help teachers discuss these challenges. Students will be asked to think critically about themselves, their classmates, and their heritage.

To create the best classroom environment, teachers should explore all perspectives (community, identity, and culture) more than once.  Relationship building is the most important part of creating a comfortable classroom environment. The more the class works on creating this environment, the quicker a cohesive classroom will emerge. 

Contents



Content Objectives

  • To create a classroom community where students feel comfortable, welcomed, and appreciated
  • To detect cohesion in the classroom environment


Language Objectives

  • To explore personal expression through speaking, listening, reading, and writing activities
  • To widen personal vocabularies with words dealing with community, identify and culture


Tips

  • Community Ideas:  Creating a safe community in a language classroom is crucial to student progress. When these classrooms have students with multiple levels of English proficiency, addressing community first is even more vital. The following ideas will help students address the issue of community:
    • Have students list ways they can contribute to the class.
    • Create classroom definitions of cooperative, autonomous, community, etc.
    • Conduct team building exercises, as suggested at Wilderdom: Initiative Games.
    • Identify a “classroom English.” Students are well aware of the different world Englishes out there. Will slang be allowed? What about collocations? Idioms?


  • Identity Ideas:  It is common for people in Western cultures to talk about personal identity. However, several APEC economies are stereotyped as being “uncomfortable” talking about self.  The community building activities just listed create classroom comfort. If students find the classroom comfortable, they are able to open up more. “It is uncommon for Japanese people to openly talk about themselves before others. . . . Comfort is key when encouraging Japanese learners to begin to look at their own identity,” (Olivia Lumbu & Waller, 2010).
    • Reflective Journal: focus on writing.  Let students write freely about anything they want or have a task orientated writing.  Let students know that this is a "free" write.  They will not be graded on form, only on understandable content.
    • Have students create a personal logo (a graphic representation of themselves) without words.
    • Have students make a list of three items they cannot live without. Explain why for each.


  • Culture Ideas:  In a multicultural classroom, all cultures have to be recognized and appreciated. Find ways to represent each student’s heritage on the walls of your classroom. What better way to create a community than by representing each student’s culture in a positive way?
    • Have students find famous works of art that represent their cultures.
    • Invite students to give brief presentations on an important historical event from their cultures.
    • Ask students to create collages that represent their cultures. For example, a collage representing the United States might include hamburgers, baseball, Google, NYC, Hollywood, an eagle, etc.
    • Partner students from similar cultures and have them create a Power Point presentation to share with the class on the similarities of their respective cultures.


Materials

Will vary, based on the "tips" chosen


Category

Cross-Cultural Communication Skills: developing community, critical thinking, personal investigation


Learning Theme

Learning to live together; learning to work together


Resource

Olivia Lumbu, R.T. & Waller, T. A., (2010). Cooperation, communication, and critical thinking through content-based investigative tasks. In A. Shehadeh & C. Coombe (Eds.), Applications of Task-Based Learning in TESOL (pp. 35-47). Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL).


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 Also see Cross-Cultural Competencies

 
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)