Thursday, October 14, 2021
Learning English gives our students the opportunity to communicate with people from all over the world. But what do they know about the cultures and social norms in these parts of the world? The coursebooks that we use in our English classes tend to be quite Anglo-centric with the majority of reading and listening texts being about English-speaking countries. Things are slowly improving on this front, however it still often ends up with the English teacher having to come up with ways of informing their students about the wider world.
Because we live in an increasingly globalised world, students who learn English today will not only be communicating with native English speakers. In fact, the majority of people with whom they communicate will more than likely be other non-native speakers. Therefore, it is not only important for students to learn about the native English-speaking world, but also about people of other nationalities with whom they will be speaking and their cultures. This also includes becoming familiar with the way other non-native users of English speak as this can come as a shock to students who have only ever listened to native speakers.
So how can we teach global citizenship in the English classroom? Below you will find five simple ideas that you can use in your lessons to help your students become better global citizens.
A great way to get your students learning about other parts of the world is to give them research projects about other countries and cultures. which can be done in a number of ways. If you are lucky enough to have computers and internet access in your classroom, your students can do their research under your supervision. Alternatively, most students these days bring smartphones to class, and they could use these to search for information. Another approach could be for you to provide your students with 2 or 3 pages of information about the topic you want them to research. The other option is to ask your students to do their research at home, but this does sometimes run the risk of some students “forgetting” to do their homework.
When setting research projects, it is important to set out a framework for the research you want your students to do. This means giving them clear questions that you want them to answer. If, for example, you want your students to research a country, it is important to specify the information you want them to find such as the population, size, currency, climate, etc. By giving your students questions to answer you give them a clear focus and you also have the opportunity to practise grammatical structures such as question forms, which students find tricky at the best of times.
Depending on the age and level of your students and the skill you want them to practice, you could get your students to present their findings in different ways. If you want your students to develop their speaking skills, you could ask them to give a presentation on their findings. An advantage of students giving presentations is that the other members of the class learn about the countries and cultures that the other groups have researched. Alternatively, if you want your students to practise their writing, you could ask them to produce a poster based on their research. In order for students to learn from each other, once the posters have been completed, they can be put up around the room for everyone to read. Then, you can ask the class what they have learnt about the different countries/cultures presented in the posters. Both of these approaches are great ways to get students learning about other cultures not only from their own research but also from each other.
Videos are another great way of engaging your students and getting them interested in other parts of the world. Not only do video lessons capture the interest of our students, but they are also a great way to help them develop their listening skills. While it can sometimes be tricky to find videos there are some great resources out there - some of which even come with ready-made lesson plans. One of these is TEDEd (ed.ted.com) which has a huge bank of video lessons on a wide range of topics. If you want to turn a video you have found into a lesson, islcollective.com and eslvideo.com are great sites for making quizzes and interactive activities. However, be careful when you choose the video to use with your class. It’s important to make sure that the level and content are appropriate for your students.
Reading is perhaps the more traditional classroom approach to learning about something new. That is not to say that it is not effective. By reading texts about other countries, cultures and traditions students can become more globally aware and at the same time develop their reading comprehension skills. As we previously mentioned, texts in coursebooks tend to be quite Anglo-centric. So why not occasionally swap them out for a text about the Chinese New Year, Ramadan or the Brazilian Carnival. Just as with the videos, it is important to make sure the level of the text is appropriate for your class. It may mean a bit more work for you as the teacher as you have to come up with your own comprehension questions, but it will certainly lead to an interesting lesson with more debate and discussion.
A final important skill for any global citizen is being able to understand other non-native speakers. It is important that in our classrooms we allow our students to listen to other non-native speakers of English and avoid any shocks when they meet people from around the world. To help prepare our students we can use authentic recordings of non-native English speakers in our lessons instead of always listening to native speakers. A good source for authentic listening is Hancock Macdonald (http://hancockmcdonald.com/materials/topic/authentic-listening). Alternatively, if you are lucky enough to work with non-native English speakers, you can simply ask them to help you make your own recordings for use in class.
We hope this gives you some ideas for how to teach global citizenship in your English classes. If you would like to find out more, why not join our webinar on Friday the 29th of October for more ideas and tips on how to make your students better global citizens. We hope to see you there!