Sometimes in the day-to-day rush of a world language classroom culture can seem like an optional kind of icing on the cake: great for the Friday after a test or the day before Thanksgiving break.
The fantastic Isabelle Jones, a language teacher in the UK, recently posted this study to her Twitter stream. It outlines how a student’s attitude toward the target culture profoundly affects their language acquisition progress. This highlights to me that teaching culture deserves equal footing with grammar and vocabulary because it gives them context, affect and real-world meaning.
This year my middle school students recognized Mexico’s Day of the Dead by making their own ofrenda and decorating it with papel picado. We talked about the contrasting treatment of death by American and Mexican culture and students made personal connections to the traditions of the holiday.
I knew the lesson had stuck a few weeks later when students were completing a writing prompt to list all of the family members attending their Thanksgiving Day feast. One student asked, “Can we also put relatives that have passed away and that we want to come back to share our meal?”