Tag Archives: teaching English

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.

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    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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Graphic novels and new media literacies

I have a literacy corner in my classroom with a variety of interesting books. The most popular books by far are the graphic novels. They have folded pages and frayed edges- signs of good use! Children of all reading abilities love graphic novels and comics. The use of complex multi modal literacy in graphic novels is now educationally recognised. The excellent graphic novel The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman was recently added as a prescribed text to the senior Victorian English Curriculum in Australia. Finally the fear of graphic novels as somehow less worthy literature is dispelling, and teachers now value the contribution graphic novels make to enhancing literacy education.

complete maus

Image from The Conversation

 http://theconversation.com/teaching-graphic-novels-as-literature-the-complete-maus-enters-the-curriculum-13852

Graphic novels are stories in comic strip format. Illustrations, panels, printed text, word balloons and captions give contextual information and create meaning. Children’s lives are multimodal. Globalization, with the exchange of culture and spread of technology has led to the need for multi literacies. Think about the ways we have to use literacy each day- emails, signs and icons, videos, tweeting, Facebook, gaming, … A pedagogy of multi literacies requires extended modes of meaning. These modes are “dynamic  representational resources, constantly being remade by their users as they achieve various cultural purposes” (Cazden, Cope, Fairclough & Gee 1996 p 64). Speak to adolescents about their use of images on Tumblr blogs and you will discover how quickly these resources change in meaning.

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Graphic novels, comics and manga versions of children’s literature offer readers an understanding of the impact of our visual culture. Language acquisition is based on thinking visually (Britsch 2009). It is how we make meaning of the language we learn. Graphic novels, comics and manga assist children’s ability to interpret their world. Language alone does not represent reality. Our lives have become increasingly multimodal as communications extend and change, and global socio-cultural linguistics diversify the English language.

“Graphic novels give the brain more of a workout per sentence than any other type of media” (Lyga 2006)

Let’s examine a twentieth century novel transformed into a graphic novel

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The novel A Wrinkle in Time was written by Madeleine L’Engle in 1962. In 2012, a graphic novel version was published by Hope Larson. It encourages a new generation of readers to the classic with meaningful images. Read page one from the original text and compare the first page of the graphic novel.

“It was a dark and stormy night.

In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraith-like shadows that raced along the ground.

 The house shook.

 Wrapped in her quilt, Meg shook.

She wasn’t usually afraid of the weather.”

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The graphic novel introduction page establishes time, setting and atmosphere. The reader makes inferences from the diagonal strokes, bent trees and dark shadows to create a foreboding mood. The type used for the sentence “It was a dark and stormy night” appears handwritten, suggesting a personal narrative. The reader sees the image of the wide shot and uses vectors on the roof to draw the eye to the attic window, identified in the close up.

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This image interprets page 5 of L’Engle’s text “she left the twin’s room and went downstairs, avoiding the creaking seventh step”. Look at how text and images work together to show meaning. The “intuitive processes” (Mouly 2011 p 12) detect movement, direction, weight, sound and time.

Visual images contribute to visual culture which in turn is part  of a wider culture (Mirzoeff 1999). The image of Margaret Murry in the graphic novel echoes the distressed female in Lichtenstein’s pop art, showing the socio-historical continuum of comic images. Our visual memory connects the images to make meaning. The reader must also discern characters’ non-verbal gestures. Facial expressions are examined and then culturally cross-referenced. This is a serious brain workout!

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lichtenstein

The remarkable image depicting people listening from inside their houses uses the detached symbol of the ear with lines of movement to represent the act of listening.

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The numerous symbols suggest many people hearing. Arnheim’s (1971) theory of prior knowledge to make meaning, is apparent.

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What is illustrated is as important as what is not. Here the black void creates impact and drama. The simple 9 panels are actually sophisticated “sequential art” (Hoover 2012 p 175).

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Graphic novels are complex forms of literature synthesizing linguistic and visual meaning. Uses for graphic novels in the classroom can include analysis, extension reading, encouraging literacy across a range of reading abilities and as a springboard for original text composition. It’s encouraging to see many scholars researching the impact of graphic novels in literacy education. May graphic novels continue to be included in prescribed reading lists!

Arnheim, R. (1971) Art and Visual perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. Berkeley: University of Berkeley

Britsch, S (2009) ESOL Educators and the Experience of visual literacy, TESOL Quarterly, 43 (4) p 710-721

Cazden, C., Cope, B. Fairclough, N., Gee, J. (1996) A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review 66 91) p 60-91

Hoover, S. (2012) The Case for Graphic Novels. Communications in Information Literacy 5 (2) p 174-186

L’Engle, M. (2007) A Wrinkle in Time. London: Puffin Books

Larson, H. (2012) A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux

Lyga, A. (2006) Graphic Novels for (really) young readers. School Library Journal 52 (93) p 56

Mirzoeff, N. (1999) An Introduction to Visual Culture. Routeledge: London

Schwarz, G. (2002) Graphic novels for Multiple Literacies. Journal of Adolescent and adult literacy 46 (3) p 262-265

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