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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Sage Advice question: Technology and foreign language/culture study

Sage Advice question: Technology and foreign language/culture study

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Readers of Edutopia.org will recall that we have a regular feature called, "Sage Advice." This is where we pose a question to the greater Edutopia community and post some of the best ones on the site. The newest question is this: "How do you bring global cultures and foreign languages into your classroom?" Please feel free to share any and all ideas. These will reprinted on the Edutopia.org site. Thanks in advance! We look forward to hearing from you.

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Lyndsey Dahill's picture

I learned about a great website while I was student teaching that allows students to connect with eachother around the world. The site will allow students to chat via a webcam or they can simply email eachother. The teacher is in control of web addresses and the criteria they are looking for, English speaking, 4th grade, etc. What a cool idea and I can't wait to use it in my own classroom. I believe the website is www.epals.com.

Hiroko Kazama's picture
Hiroko Kazama
7th Grade japanese instructor

I am an instructor of Japanese language and Culture in Punahou Case Middle school in Honolulu. We often talk about creation of Global village which is the crossroads for foreign languages and cultures meet. We often establish our curriculum based on our textbook and we introduce our culture according to the textbook units.
I would like to invite your opinion what the best instruction of Foreign language and Culture for middle school students.
I believe 7 and 8th graders are on the way to their exploration of new findings in the global awareness. I wonder if I can reverse my language instruction reversed: from the cultural awareness to the foreign instruction. Language has to be taught as hands-on experience.

I will invite your opinion.

Mahalo, Hiroko

Kimberly Waldin's picture
Kimberly Waldin
Performing Arts Consultant

I teach a Saturday school program at a Theater Arts School in upstate NY. We spent a semester (twelve one-hour sessions,) working on a wonderful project that maybe some of the other educators on this site might enjoy. We wrote a one act play entitled "The Chain Letter." Each student (ages ranging from 7 - 12,) researched a country of their choosing from out of a large selection of books that I borrowed from our local library. They created a character based on their research (I supplied them with a list of questions to help them create their character's biography,) and they wrote a letter to the Global Community, describing their lives and some of the concerns from their part of the world. I then redistributed the letters to a different student, and each character had to write a letter in response to the one they received. After several exchanges, I took the kids' writing, and pieced it together to form the script for our play. The students were very dedicated to their work and writing. We engaged in a lot of great discussions, some of them very positive, and some of them discussing difficult topics. Nonetheless, it was an amazing experience, and I felt the kids learned a lot!

Nicole Naditz's picture
Nicole Naditz
Teacher of French, levels 1-AP, near Sacramento, CA

As a French teacher, I have a clear obligation to infuse language and culture daily so that each minute of class time is purposefully planned to enhance my students' linguistic and cultural proficiency. I have already done student-created museums at the local Alliance Francaise (giving them direct access to the local francophone community) and student-created web sites on different aspects of the French-speaking world. My students are also paired with a village in rural Senegal through the Peace Corps World Wise Schools program. They have epals at a school in Belgium as well. I use the internet extensively, as others have mentioned here, to "visit" the francophone world, watch the news, view film clips, and listen to music. Each of these distinct online offerings provides different windows into the perspectives of the more than 30 countries that make up the French-speaking world.

This year, my classes are also hosting a "Cafe of the Arts." This grant-funded project-based learning event was designed by the students last year. They are working in groups to learn about visual arts, performing arts, cuisine, or music of the French-speaking world. Ultimately, their research will culminate in a free community event of student performances of francophone music and dance, student-hosted film showings of francophone short films, a student art gallery of original works influenced by the work of francophone artists and student-prepared cuisine from around the world.

Nicole Naditz
Teacher, California

Nicole Naditz's picture
Nicole Naditz
Teacher of French, levels 1-AP, near Sacramento, CA

As a French teacher, I have an obligation to ensure that every moment of my class is purposefully designed to infuse language and culture. My students have produced student-created museums at the local Alliance Francaise on various topics related to the history of the francophone world; they are paired with a village in rural Senegal (West Africa) through the Peace Corps World Wide Schools program (and received a grant to send solar lanterns to the village); they have epals in Belgium; they create their own web pages with research about French-speaking countries; and they "visit" the French-speaking world through the Internet, as others here have mentioned. By watching the news, "touring" sites, "shopping" for products on francophone web sites, listening to music, and watching film clips, the students are exposed to multiple avenues that help them observe the diverse perspectives of the more than 30 countries that make up the French-speaking world.
This year, my students have embarked on a grant-funded, project-based learning event that they designed last year. They are working in self-selected groups to learn about the visual arts, music, dance, film, and cuisine of the French-speaking world. In March they will produce a free community event called the "Cafe des Arts" during which they will perform francophone songs and dances, exhibit student-created art inspired by their study of francophone artists, host short film showings from the French-speaking world, and serve cuisine from several of the cultures of the French-speaking world. Each act, food item and artwork will be accompanied by an explanation (orally or in print) of the cultural perspectives that shape the "products" they are presenting.

Eva Guenther's picture

I volunteer for a DC non-profit called "One World Education" (www.oneworldeducation.org) who publishes student authored reflective essays about their - often global - experiences on their website and then writes curriculum/lesson plans around them and brings them back to Middle- and High-School classrooms. The students' essays are amazing and when other students read them it is quite powerful how they learn from their peer's experience.

Check them out. The student essays can be accessed on the website. They have a fantastic one of a girl in Africa and her experience with AIDS, a girl writing about pollution in China etc. You do have to create an account to access the lesson plans but it is completely free.

Charlene Brown's picture

Our city has 5 sister cities. For our holiday music program each grade level was assigned a country to study the culture and music and then sing a song in that language for the concert. The Sister City Association brought in free speakers from each country to share stories and folklore with our students. It was awesome!

Charlene Brown's picture

Our city has 5 sister cities. For our holiday music concert each grade level was assigned a city to learn about their culture, language and music. The Sister City Association brought in free speakers to talk to our students. Our students not only learned about other cultures, but sang a song from that country in their native language. It was awesome!

Capt. Suz Wallace's picture

From the Art Room (all things cultural), we initiated an 'around the world' focus this year. It began with an school-team assessment that our students did not reflect a cultural/race diversity and that our students may be for the most part, one-dimensional, even though we have a high population of military families. So with the help of my connections to the world-wide sailing community, we partnered with an extremely remote school on an island off of Papua New Guinea through Oceanswatch, a non-profit organization. They sailed to the island and delivered our letters of introduction and the children there wrote and drew pictures for us, giving them a VERY real window to the other side of the world. We also communicate through their website, blog and social network. We are also following the epic voyages of two vessels that are circumnavigating major continents: Around the Americas/ science voyage and the Phoenicia/ an historical voyage. We give weekly updates on our school-wide broadcasts as to their location and within my classes we see a closer view of the places and people they encounter along the way via internet. Our students have grown SOOO much in their global awareness and geography this year, it is so cool to hear my students paying attention to the news and report back to me that our friends in Papua New Guinea had either experienced a volcanic eruption or earthquake. This is an area of the world that I'm sure my students had never even heard of before we began this world adventure trek through the eyes of sailors!

kara buchanan's picture
kara buchanan
Education Department Manager EF Educational Tours

What better way for a student to develop an increased interest in global cultures and foreign language, than to take a step into the global classroom? I encourage all educators to take a look at EF's Global Citizen Scholarship www.eftours.com/globalcitizen. Each year 10-20 high school students are awarded with a free international educational tour. This year ten American recipients and ten Indian recipients will travel together to China. The deadline for applicants is March 1st!

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