Anyone teaching about another culture has to be very careful in how the person presents the culture. The person may create negative feelings toward the culture instead of the positive ones he/she had hoped for. In addition, students enter our classroom with stereotypes about other cultures. We tend to teach culture as a series of facts or as a feeling about a country. Research shows that initially students become positive toward another culture by seeing similarities, not be seeing differences.
Salychivin analyzed that students respond to culture in a grid of similar/different and positive/negative . If they view the cultural item as similar and positive such as baseball, they feel positive about it. If they view the cultural item as similar and negative such as pollution in Mexico City, they see are If they see a difference and that difference is positive such as all the parties during the Posadas in Puerto Rico from Dec 16 through Jan. 6, they feel positive. However, when they see a cultural item as different and negative such as the Mexican Day of the Dead, then they feel negative. How we word information about the other culture can determine students’ reaction to the other culture
We can show our students culture in a positive way by
1) Showing how it is logically within the culture. If people work 8 hours a day and work from 9-12, take a two hour break, and start work again at two, they will work until seven. By the time they get home, they probably will eat at eight (in Spain).
2) Showing how the same thing (a positive) happens in US culture. Hispanic men tend to embrace frequently which may be seen as a negative. However, if a teacher shows USA football players embracing as a positive and then shows hispanic men embracing, the embracing becomes a positive.
3) Using images and questions to present the culture. As the teacher shows a picture of a heavy rainstorm in June in San Jose, Costa Rica, the teacher asks about the rain and the month and then explains that Costa Rica like many South American countries has two seasons, the rainy and the dry season. Flickr provides a great source of fairly current images
4) Showing the variety in the other culture. Do not only show Lima (Peru) as the only part of Peru, show the cost, the mountains, etc. If you show Machu Picchu, also show a modern city. Show how things change within the country such as in Spain paella changing from a seafood paella near the coast to a chicken paella inland.
5) Avoiding negative statements about the other culture: “These poor people”; “This war-driven country”; “They only…”; or “They are the opposite of /backward from us.”
How do you teach culture of another country to help your students feel positive about that culture?
Here are a few links to some Spanish images based on topics:
(Type Spanish in the search engine for this site to find more).
My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.
Also, my book, Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.