New Teacher Advocate Kappa Delta Pi NTA Fall 14 : Page 3

www.kdp.org TELL ELLs About Culture By Madeline Kovarik STRATEGIES: CULTURE & ELLs An English language learner (ELL) often enters the classroom with not only limited English language skills, but also with little knowledge of the new culture. Culture includes the “attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors shared by a group of people” (Matsumoto, 1996, p. 16). When working with ELLs, it is critical to think about the cultural background of the student and how you need to TELL them about the new culture. TEACH: Culture must be taught; one student cannot understand another student’s culture without knowing about the culture. Educate all students about different cultures to foster acceptance. For example, students who have never seen someone wearing a hijab must be taught what a hijab (head covering) is and why it is worn. Likewise, the student who wears a hijab must be taught why other stu-dents do not wear one. With increased cultural knowledge, students are better able to accept differences. EVENT: Culture relates to events. An ELL has one cultural frame of reference at school, but a different one at home. If you go to a restau-rant with friends and later in the week you go with your significant other’s boss, you act differently because the cultural and social expectations are different for the situations. The same applies to the classroom. ELLs need assistance to identify the cultural expectations of the classroom. Do not expect them to put aside their native culture; simply increase their awareness of the mainstream culture where they currently live. LOCATION: Cultural norms also depend on the geographic location. If you have visited a large city, such as Chicago or San Francisco, you’ve noticed that within the city there are culturally specific areas such as Chinatown or Little Italy with their own food, language, shopping, and sometimes dress. The same goes for countries and language. For example, just because one student speaks Spanish does not mean that she comes from the same cultural background as another student who speaks Spanish. It is important to remember that a student’s cul-ture is relevant to the location. LANGUAGE: Culture reflects language. Students must realize that all people do not share the same cultural norms or language. This is a two-way street: The ELL student must learn the language norms of the classroom while the English-only student must learn cultural language differences of the ELL student. For example, a British friend, when retiring for the evening, told me he would “knock me up” in the morning, which in the United Kingdom is slang for “call you,” but in the United States means quite a different thing! To add to their confusion, ELLs may have to deal with varia-tions throughout the United States. (see bit.ly/ dialectQ). Having an ELL in the classroom requires more than teaching the language. It also requires teaching and modeling cultural norms and expectations. Use TELL to help you be the teacher that teaches to the needs of and reaches all students. Reference Matsumoto, D. (1996). Culture and psychology. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole. Most of the articles in this issue of the New Teacher Advocate and some of the extra articles online at www.kdp.org/publications/ nta were written by Dr. Kovarik’s students, who are from a variety of back-grounds and are prepar-ing to teach or currently teaching English as a New Language (ENL). Dr. Kovarik has experience as an elementary teacher, guidance counselor, primary specialist, and school ad-ministrator. She currently teaches TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) online courses for the University of San Francisco from various loca-tions around the world. KDP New Teacher Advocate • Fall 2014 • 3

TELL About Culture

Madeline Kovarik

STRATEGIES: CULTURE & ELLs

An English language learner (ELL) often enters the classroom with not only limited English language skills, but also with little knowledge of the new culture. Culture includes the “attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors shared by a group of people” (Matsumoto, 1996, p. 16). When working with ELLs, it is critical to think about the cultural background of the student and how you need to TELL them about the new culture.

TEACH: Culture must be taught; one student cannot understand another student’s culture without knowing about the culture. Educate all students about different cultures to foster acceptance. For example, students who have never seen someone wearing a hijab must be taught what a hijab (head covering) is and why it is worn. Likewise, the student who wears a hijab must be taught why other students do not wear one. With increased cultural knowledge, students are better able to accept differences.

EVENT: Culture relates to events. An ELL has one cultural frame of reference at school, but a different one at home. If you go to a restaurant with friends and later in the week you go with your significant other’s boss, you act differently because the cultural and social expectations are different for the situations. The same applies to the classroom. ELLs need assistance to identify the cultural expectations of the classroom. Do not expect them to put aside their native culture; simply increase their awareness of the mainstream culture where they currently live.

LOCATION: Cultural norms also depend on the geographic location. If you have visited a large city, such as Chicago or San Francisco, you’ve noticed that within the city there are culturally specific areas such as Chinatown or Little Italy with their own food, language, shopping, and sometimes dress. The same goes for countries and language. For example, just because one student speaks Spanish does not mean that she comes from the same cultural background as another student who speaks Spanish. It is important to remember that a student’s culture is relevant to the location.

LANGUAGE: Culture reflects language. Students must realize that all people do not share the same cultural norms or language. This is a two-way street: The ELL student must learn the language norms of the classroom while the English-only student must learn cultural language differences of the ELL student. For example, a British friend, when retiring for the evening, told me he would “knock me up” in the morning, which in the United Kingdom is slang for “call you,” but in the United States means quite a different thing! To add to their confusion, ELLs may have to deal with variations throughout the United States. (see bit.ly/dialectQ).

Having an ELL in the classroom requires more than teaching the language. It also requires teaching and modeling cultural norms and expectations. Use TELL to help you be the teacher that teaches to the needs of and reaches all students.

Reference

Matsumoto, D. (1996). Culture and psychology. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Most of the articles in this issue of the New Teacher Advocate and some of the extra articles online at www.kdp.org/publications/nta were written by Dr. Kovarik’s students, who are from a variety of backgrounds and are preparing to teach or currently teaching English as a New Language (ENL).

Dr. Kovarik has experience as an elementary teacher, guidance counselor, primary specialist, and school administrator.She currently teaches TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) online courses for the University of San Francisco from various locations around the world.

Read the full article at http://digital.watkinsprinting.com/article/TELL+About+Culture/1780568/220508/article.html.

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