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Turkey Day Lessons

from eyehook.comJust a subtle reminder that I have the greatest Thanksgiving Day lesson plans on earth!

At least, I like them. The most popular one is a guide to showing A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, including comprehension questions students fill out as they watch, post-video summary activities, discussion questions and ideas for extensions.

My Food and Holidays lesson plan introduces American foods, teaches key words and phrases for describing foods, then gets students talking about their traditional foods and holidays that are strongly linked to food. It’s a great way to introduce the concept of Thanksgiving to international students.

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Holiday Field Trip

I love taking students on field trips. Even as the world turns to virtual field trips for their ease, I still feel getting students to leave the classroom and talk to people or explore real texts is worth the extra hassle of the logistics.

This is a nice activity I came across when I was working at an Intensive English language program that works well getting students to talk to native speakers in authentic conversations and also helps them to understand a little bit of American culture. I’m posting it here with Christmas in mind, but it can work with any holiday or cultural event. To simplify planing on your part, students could do this as homework. I’ve had students interview butchers at the grocery store, old men playing chess in the park, people waiting for the bus…It’s amazing who will speak to an ESL student wanting to practice English.

And as with any activity that has a productive component, it’s easy to throw in a vocabulary or grammar focus as well by asking students to use particular words or a specific grammar form.

What follows are the instructions I usually give students:

Holiday Interviews

 

Your mission is to interview two Americans about Christmas. You will need to prepare questions in advance. To do so, think of something that you want to know about Christmas. It might be about how or why we celebrate. Maybe you have seen something you don’t understand and want to know more about it and its connection to Christmas. Or perhaps you have a question about the history of the holiday.

Once you have decided on your topic, write 4-7 questions that will help you find out what you want to know. For example, if you want to know how people celebrate Christmas, you could ask, “What kind of food do you eat on Christmas?”

Now that you have written your questions, find two Americans to interview. Be sure to introduce yourself and explain why you are doing this interview first. Ask if they have time for a short interview. Then ask your questions. Take notes on their answers.

Write a short (one-page double-sided) summary of what you learned about Christmas.

 

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Letting Them Talk About Culture

This is the result when you let students talk about culture. A fellow teacher and I are presenting at ConnTESOL on activities to use culture in the classroom and the other day I got huge verification that it works to get students talking!

This all started with an icebreaker on the first day of class where I asked a mix of old and new students to talk about everything they knew about me. One of them mentioned that my wife would give birth first which led to them asking what we would name our son. Apparently in Arabian culture, sometimes you call “Abu Mohammed” (for example), which means “Father of Mohammed”. So then remembering an activity Thatcher has mentioned, we started discussing how people are named in different cultures. Did I mention that one of the objectives of this class is to write a compare and contrast essay?

So the discussion of names led to them writing writing down a few sentences
about their families and then discussing what they had in common. There was so much English that I had to film it briefly:

You can’t pick much out but one Chinese student was asking about Arabian names and what they mean. Another Asian student was asking if it was true that all Arabs are rich. Stereotypes being debunked and students learning about each other. What more could you ask for?

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Culture Shock

This is a discussion lesson that focuses on cultural differences in terms of polite and impolite actions. While the materials were designed with Kazakhstan in mind, they are easily adapted to any nation or culture. This is far and away the most popular lesson plan on this site and I am proud of that fact. I love to get feedback positive or negative in the comments!

Objectives:

  • To develop fluency
  • To discuss culture and cultural differences. To encourage students to deconstruct their culture and learn about other cultures.

This discussion lesson on culture has been moved to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. You can purchase it there and download it. Thanks!

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Body Language

This is an activity I came up with to teach American body language to students. It has a cross-cultural aspect to it as students talk about body language in their own cultures.

This is an activity I came up with to teach American body language to students. It has a cross-cultural aspect to it as students talk about body language in their own cultures. I originally came up with this lesson as part of a slang course for Afghan students who were going to study in the US under the YES scholarship and they loved it.

Objectives

  • To teach students body language and how it is used in America.
  • To compare American body language with the students’ own cultures’ body language.

Materials

Warm Up

Ask students what body language is. If they are having trouble, this is a great chance to give a demonstration. For example, nod your head and ask students what it means. Probably they will say it means, “Yes”. Tell them that this is body language, gestures we use that have meanings.

This is a good time to establish that body language is different from culture to culture. If you are familiar with your students’ host culture (or students’ host cultures) you can give them an example. For instance, in America, if you make a fist and hold your pinky and thumb out it usually means a phone. In Russian-speaking cultures, it means a bottle of vodka. You can demonstrate this by making the gesture and ask them what it means. When they say, “vodka”, put it up to your head and say, “Hello, who is it?”

Now ask them why it might be important to know body language in America. This helps to establish the reason for the lesson but it also motivates students to pay attention more. Asking students why it is important to learn something can also be a good way to figure out what they already know and what they may not understand.

Gestures

  • High Five
  • Thumbs Up
  • OK
  • Cross my heart
  • You’re Out
  • Cross your fingers
  • Wink
  • Thumbs Down
  • Shrug Shoulders
  • Nod
  • Shake Hands
  • Shake Head

First, you have to establish that students know what these gestures are. It is useful for them to know what these gestures are called as well, because we do sometimes talk about them instead of doing them.

One by one call on students and ask them to demonstrate a gesture. This way, they are teaching each other. If there are any left that none of the students know, demonstrate them yourself.

Now you can move on to what they mean. Draw a line down the board to make two columns next to the list of body gestures. Write “Your culture” at the top of one and “In the US” on the other. Now go over the list and ask students what they mean in their own culture and what they mean in the US. Correct any mistakes and be sure to give a lot of demonstrations.

Practice

Now you can hand out the body language dialogues. Students read the dialogues over and try to think of what body language they might insert into them. Make sure they understand that they shouldn’t over do it. Usually we don’t use these gestures every time we speak. Once students have thought about the dialogues, you can call on them to perform them with gestures.

Extension

For homework or review, students can write dialogues of their own that incorporate 3 different pieces of body language.

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Culture Shock

This is a discussion lesson that focuses on cultural differences in terms of polite and impolite actions. While the materials were designed with Kazakhstan in mind, they are easily adapted to any nation or culture. Objectives:

To develop fluency
To discuss culture and cultural differences. To encourage students to deconstruct their culture and learn about other cultures.
This lesson is part of premium content on English Advantage.

You can go to the Membership Options Page to learn how to access the rest of the lesson.

This is a discussion lesson that focuses on cultural differences in terms of polite and impolite actions. While the materials were designed with Kazakhstan in mind, they are easily adapted to any nation or culture. This is far and away the most popular lesson plan on this site and I am proud of that fact. I love to get feedback positive or negative in the comments!

Objectives:

  • To develop fluency
  • To discuss culture and cultural differences. To encourage students to deconstruct their culture and learn about other cultures.

This discussion lesson on culture has been moved to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. You can purchase it there and download it. Thanks!

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Plagiarism

Photo taken by Mylene Bressan and found on Openphoto.netThis is an article that’s being posted around the Interwebs from the New York Times: Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age.

Interesting points in it for teachers and students to keep in mind. Like Wikipedia (besides not being a serious academic source) is not common knowledge. You do have to cite it.

While reading this article I was thinking of how we teach students not to plagiarize. Usually we focus on rules and citing styles and the penalties for plagiarizing. Maybe we should focus more on why plagiarizing is wrong and reasons why it benefits the student not to plagiarize. As an ESL teacher, I always tell my students, if you don’t write, you don’t learn. Learning to write only comes from actually writing. And I can’t give you feedback to improve your English if I don’t see your actual work.

I also had a student who wrote in an essay on cultural manners that saying, “Sorry” when you want to get someone’s attention or ask a question is wrong because sorry means, “I apologize.” I told the student this wasn’t correct; “excuse me” and “sorry” in these cases are interchangeable. He told me he had copied this rule from a website. If he had cited the website, I wouldn’t have marked him wrong and taken points off, because I would have known he was quoting someone else. But I thought it was his own idea so he lost points. So citing sources is important because, especially in the digital age, not everything you read is 100% correct. Don’t take credit for bad ideas.

Finally, I was thinking about telling my next plagiarist that I really liked some of his essays and things he had said in class and was planning to present it to the director of the school as my own. The director often gives bonuses for good essays, so hopefully I’ll get some money out of it. See how he reacts. Then explain that when you plagiarize, you are stealing someone else’s ideas and getting benefit for work you didn’t do. It’s simply unfair.

Any other ideas on how to get students to really understand and internalize why plagiarism is wrong?

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Your Lesson Plan on Culture Shock is Strange to Me

Yet another post just to promote a lesson plan on this site and to reward myself for converting it from html to WordPress post (not as grueling as I pretend it is).

Culture Shock is another topic that all students have something to say about. This lesson plan is accessible to students who have never left their own country because it focuses on different behaviors and asks if they are normal or rude in the students’ cultures. Gets students talking about whether they shake hands or bow to greet someone, and if it changes depending on situation, age or gender. For more advanced students you can get into why we do the things we do, and even if there is any difference between traditional customs and modern customs.

My favorite moment in this lesson is when students say that some behavior is very rude, but normal. Like spitting on the street or swearing in public!

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How to Communicate Without Language

As I go through stuff I would have posted on if this blog had been active, I remembered this interview I did for my alumni magazine on How to Find Your Voice. My piece is called “How to Communicate Without Language” and I hope it gives some tips for communicating in a different culture. Stuff like body language and cultural communication really should be part of any ESL class, as well as intonation and emphasis.

By the way, I love the last interview on how to speak with an accent too. And using accents can be a fun thing to do when you learn English. As I said recently, I don’t believe in emphasizing learning an accent because it really isn’t that important in English and because there are more important things to learn. But as a way to make speaking fun and to get yourself (or your students over a stumbling block) using accents, especially exaggerated accents, can be a lot of fun. I once had my students perform the “In Hampshire, Hereford and Hartford hurricanes hardly ever happen” scene from My Fair Lady and they loved it, as well as picking up an understanding of the “h” sound in English. We went back and forth between Cockney and “proper” British and they absolutely ate it up.

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Role Plays

Ever since ESL Flow, I’ve been getting a lot of traffic to my lesson plans. One of the most popular lesson plans is called culture shock and gets students talking about different habits and manners in different cultures.

Since it’s getting so many hits, I’ve typed up a related lesson: Cultural Role Play, which is basically adapted for ESL lessons from a Peace Corps exercise.

It’s a fun exercise where you give students one of two different cultural roles to play with very different standards of behavior and ideas of what is normal. If you don’t like my variation, you can make up your own. The fun part, and where students will be forced to use their language, is when you make the student’s cultural rules conflict.

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