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C.B. - Australia said:
Promoting cultural sensitivity in an ESL classroomAn ESL classroom is perhaps one of the most culturally diverse learning environments. Cultural diversity involves more than different languages. Learners from different cultures have different ways to think, to act, to react and to express themselves. How can a teacher promote cultural diversity in an ESL classroom and ensure a respectful environment allowing students from different cultural background to learn and to progress? Some could think that this inherent element in ESL could be a problem. Some others would say it is in fact a challenge and a richness element to the class. In the following lines, let?s have a look at some ideas to promote cultural diversity, to avoid stereotypes and to use cultural sensitivity as a learning tool in an ESL classroom. The first thing a teacher can do is to try to create a respectful learning environment and this could start with the physical environment. Decorating the class with flags, maps, pictures of landscapes or people, quotes or drawings helps create a welcoming atmosphere. Seating arrangements allowing students to sit next to someone who comes from a different country also facilitate establishing rapport among the students. The teacher should also try to get the students to work with different partners when doing pair work. The key to promote cultural diversity is basically to create cultural awareness among the students. Some students attending an ESL class for the first time will sometimes have never been exposed to a different culture than their own. In that case, the teacher has to make the students become curious about other cultures. The website suggests interesting ideas to develop cultural awareness: ? At the beginning of a semester, the students can write an autobiography and share it with the rest of the class. This could also take the form of oral presentations on the students? native countries. ? The teacher can organize or help organizing peer tutoring with the students. ? Discussions activities on current events from a multicultural viewpoint are also a good way for the students to discover about different ways to think. ? The students can organize a cultural bazaar or fair to share their cultural identity with the other students or with the rest of the school or community. ? Cultural food days where every student brings a plate from their country are also often appreciated by the students. Finally, a very interesting article from Australian Curriculum Studies Association suggests to the teacher to create a celebration or holiday calendar with the students. For the activity, the students should be encouraged to think further than religious holidays like Christmas or Ramadan. After describing to the class the way to celebrate the holiday, the meaning of this special day or the symbols, the group could design a cultural calendar. Every holiday, a small celebration could take place in the classroom. This activity could help establishing respectful rapport among the students. As well as sharing cultures with other students, the learners also get to practice and use English to discover more about their own and different cultures. When organizing activities like the ones mentioned above or others, the teacher always has to choose appropriate material. It is essential for teachers to know about their students? cultural backgrounds and what is appropriate or not for them. For example, in some cultures, topics such as religion, politics or sexuality can be taboo. Asking the student to talk about such a topic could make him or her very uncomfortable in front of the class. To conclude, the esl teacher has a major role to play when comes the time to promote respect and open-mindedness regarding cultural diversity in the classroom. No matter where they are from, the students have the right to learn, and to do so in a respectful environment. When standing in front of the group, the teacher acts as a model for the studenst. It is therefore his or her responsibility to show students to go over cultural stereotypes and to appreciate the cultural diversity around them. Sources: