Tag Archives: global citizens

Shifting the dominant culture paradigm in ESL/EAL- Teaching for a diverse, globalized world.

Look at materials designed to teach English as a second/additional language (ESL/EAL) and you’ll probably see a book or audiovisual texts not just about language but also about a host national culture. ESL teaching materials include cultural lessons through vocabulary and grammar teaching. This is because the traditional paradigm of language learning was to integrate immigrants or the colonized into a dominant culture.

One assigned ESL text that I used in the primary classroom presented a very clear target culture. It was published in England and the content expressed a goal of assimilating non-English speakers into a monocultural United Kingdom. The child characters in the textbook were white with Anglo-Saxon names. Their activities in the text determined the learned vocabulary for each unit- they visited ‘castles’, ate ‘roast beef and mashed potatoes’ and wore ‘tracksuits’ and ‘trainers’. On one page per unit, there was an attempt to internationalize the content, but these pages too often related to ethnic festivals or folk tales in lands far away- the type of oversimplified exploration that does not account for authentic traditions existing in a modern context.

The text did not acknowledge my international school students’ hybrid identities or concepts of national belonging. Nor did the text recognize that the students were not learning the English language in order to live in England. Furthermore, the stereotyped England in the material was far from the diverse multicultural reality.

Essentialized dominant host culture in ESL teaching materials is a nationalist wish for assimilation and not multicultural inclusion. Whether it’s kangaroos or maple leaves, ESL texts force-feed a fixed national identity. There are rarely any references to multiculturalism as a norm, except in a few resources that I have seen published in Singapore to explicitly facilitate multiracial harmony as government policy.

So how can ESL teachers inject a global perspective into teaching and learning? To create some lessons that transcended the stereotypes of national culture, I used the concept of “cosmopolitan citizenship” (Hugh Starkey, Language Education, identities and citizenship: Developing cosmopolitan perspectives, Language and Intercultural Communication 7,1, 2007). Language learning is a good opportunity to teach global responsibility and common humanity.

For this sequence, I integrated material from international development organizations plus some commercial resources. The sequence also included an essential element of active citizenship- concrete action for responsible global citizenship.

 Here is my introduction lesson to a primary ESL learning sequence for Grade 2-3 on the topic of PLAY. The focus of this first lesson is that humans are the same around the world and all children need to play. At the end of this learning sequence, students could donate unwanted toys or even hold a toy swap to encourage environmental sustainability and social justice.

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, HMH Books for Young Readers, 1998

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, HMH Books for Young Readers, 1998

  1. Book reading Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
  2. Discussion: Humans are all the same. We all need the same things. List the things humans need. Vocabulary and sentence structure will be reinforced.

Photo-stories-page

    3.Show children the UNICEF photo story Play Around the World http://www.unicef.org.au/Discover/Teaching-and-Learning-Resources/Photo-stories.aspx

    4. Use a Y chart graphic organizer (looks like, feels like, sounds like) to explore- what is play? Children will mention specific toys, which is important for ESL vocabulary but they will also think deeply about how play makes us feel and where we play. To scaffold this deeper cognition, language from students’ mother tongue was included. I used the Y chart from the book Thinking Globally: Global Perspectives in the early years classroom by Browlett, J.E. & Ashman, G.I., published in 2010 by Carlton Education Services Australia. Alternatively it can be found on the Australian Global Education website http://www.globaleducation.edu.au/resources-gallery/resource-gallery-templates.html

     5. Play or not play? In small groups, students look at photo cards of children playing and other children working. They will divide the cards into two piles- play or not play. Students will learn that not all children have the opportunity to play. Photos of children around the world playing and not playing are available from Browlett & Ashman’s Thinking Globally: Global Perspectives in the early years classroom or the images gallery at http://www.globaleducation.edu.au/resources-gallery/resource-gallery-images.html

     6. Circle time concludes the lesson by looking at the photo cards together and saying “play” or “not play”.

     7. Extension activity: UNICEF Australia children’s rights video 

     8. Extension activity: UNICEF Color-it rights http://teachunicef.org/explore/media/read/color-it-rights-coloring-book

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Global Citizenship and the Language of Immigration

This post is dedicated to International Migrants Day, observed on the 18th December. My parents were migrants. I am a migrant now, though mostly living with the more respectable middle class, yet often colonial, badge of ‘expatriate’. I have always insisted that immigrants are among the hardest working people on the planet. Migrants are global citizens.

A contradiction that is difficult to understand is how educational institutions and international organizations aim to create global citizens, yet the real world restricts these internationally minded 21st century citizens from moving. Migrants are vulnerable to exploitation. They become political scapegoats. And in senseless restrictions, governments prevent their own citizens from engaging with difference- inhibiting their economic cultural competence. And in curbing international students, strangle the power of cosmopolitan education.

A dehumanized language of exclusion is used to describe migrants. The mass media and political rhetoric reduces humans to numbers or refers to them as “illegal” and “scroungers”. The Migration Observatory at The University of Oxford analyzed more than 40 million words used by British newspapers to describe migrants. The analysis showed that words with connotations of water were used across print media, such as “influx”, “wave” and “flood”. The use of this metaphor is powerful in shaping public perception- it dehumanizes people and creates an imminent catastrophic threat.

<http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/press-releases/migrants-newspapers-influx-illegal-failed-economic-terrorists>

Juxtaposing the aggressive media immigration fervor, we have the cute popular culture icon of Paddington Bear representing the sanitized, yet still not human, migrant experience. Immigration lawyer, Colin Yeo, exposed the pretense of the popular fantasy in a brilliant review of the new film, making it clear that poor Paddington wouldn’t stand a chance of overcoming the legal hurdles.

<https://www.freemovement.org.uk/an-immigration-lawyer-reviews-paddington/>

So how do educators, particularly literacy educators who promote human rights and global citizenship, inject the humanity into a study of immigration? I suggest a primary focus on the language of migrants- real people with stories and feelings. This humanizes students’ production of knowledge.

Making contact with migrants in students’ families and communities strengthens understanding of commonality and transnational values. Students can compile oral histories from migrants. The language of these commentaries can be analyzed, student reflections can be made in journals and the histories even dramatized to encourage empathy.

Poetry provides an accessible exploration of the language of immigration through the eyes of people who have lived it. I have listed and described some useful poems about migration that could be used in the upper primary and secondary classroom. If you have any other recommended poetry by migrants, please leave a comment below the post.

Antigone Kefala’s The Alien expresses the fear and powerless isolation of the migrant experience, “I am naked, engulfed in tentacles of emptiness”.

<http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/kefala-antigone/the-alien-0059011>

Uyen Nhu Loewald’s ironic Be good, little migrants highlights the exploitation of immigrants.The poem conveys the frustration of knowing one’s place- that to be allowed into a country is not equal to inclusion.

“Give us your faithful service

sweep factories, clean mansions

prepare cheap exotic food

pay taxes, feed the mainstream”

<http://identities.asiaeducation.edu.au/resources/resources_landing.html?resourceId=2970>

Ruth Paddel’s collection The Mara Crossing unifies human movement with animal migration, making both a part of the ebb and flow of the Earth and history. In Time to fly natural images are listed next to human needs and hopes. Comparing humans to animals illustrates the natural order of movement “you go because you need a place to shed your skin in safety”.

<https://soundcloud.com/new-networks-for-nature/ruth-padel-time-to-fly>

James Berry uses the simile of a bird to describe migration in Black kids in a new place, “I’m like a migrant bird who will not return from here.” The tension of the trapped bird then shifts to permanence and hope with the metaphor of a tree “I am a transplanted sapling, here, blossoming”.

Peter Skrzynecki’s Migrant hostel also draws on images of birds to describe the migration experience, “We lived like birds of passage”. The theme of exclusion is expressed through images of obstructions, “barrier” and “gate”.

<http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poem/item/17859/auto/MIGRANT-HOSTEL>

There is also an impeding image of the door in Adrienne Rich’s Prospective Immigrants Please Note. When a migrant goes through the door, a symbol of cultural assimilation, an identity struggle occurs “there is always the risk of remembering your name”.

<http://vimeo.com/39836802>

 

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Filed under 21st Century education, global citizenship, language analysis, poetry