Teaching American Culture to English Language Learners

Whether my students are permanent U.S. residents or short term visitors, I believe it is important to teach American culture to help them adjust to the U.S.A. and understand those around them. This can be done in several ways, but one of the simplest one is teaching American holidays. My class always reads about the holiday and learns the customs associated with it. Then the students compare the holiday with ones in their culture. In addition, we often have a cultural activity such as making valentines cards, carving pumpkins, or having a school Thanksgiving dinner.
Another way to teach culture is to encourage participation in seasonal activities. I provide information and give suggestions of what to do in each season. In the fall it is common in my area to visit apple orchards, corn mazes, and hunted houses. Sledding, tobogganing, and ice skating are typical winter activities in Michigan. In the spring, visiting butterfly gardens or farms, and picnicking is popular. Swimming, concerts in the park, farmers markets, and the county fair are popular summer activities. Many of my students try these activities.
Discussing common American attitudes is another way to teach culture. For example, we discuss how Americans relate to both older and extended family members during a family unit. During a shopping unit we discuss materialism and consumerism. The desire to own a home is discussed during our housing unit and our attitude toward work in the jobs unit. During our government unit we discuss the freedoms and rights of Americans. Often gun control and ownership is debated. Of course these are general attitudes, and my adult students can grasp there is a range of attitudes.

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