Are you worried about how to teach culture in a distance learning environment? Or even if you have the time or capacity to teach it at all?
While some look at distance learning as having certain limitations, in reality, #COVID19 closures offer a unique opportunity. World language teachers have the chance to delve even deeper into the richness of the products, practices, and perspectives of the target culture. The trick is just knowing how to do so! Keep reading for recommendations on indelible resources for teachers and students alike.
What is culture?
Most teachers working on their credentials in Spanish education are familiar with ACTFL’s Five Standards of Communications: communication, connections, comparisons, communities, and the glue that holds it all together–culture. This is how we gain knowledge and understanding of our target language. Therefore, that is why at a young age, I coined the expression “culture is the key to language acquisition.”
Understanding all aspects of culture
Culture has three parts: products, practices, and perspectives.
- Products: tangible, concrete aspects of life
- ex: food, laws, art, music
- Practices: patterns of acceptable behavior
- ex: social interactions, formal/informal language, personal space
- Perspectives: beliefs, attitudes, values
- ex: world view
We all know how we taught this in brick and mortar classrooms. Now how do this in a distance learning environment; if at all?
Should I teach culture?
It is important to teach culture because culture is interesting. It’s the bait to staying engaged in the language. It holds students’ attention. Ten years later, which will a student remember more: concordancia or the meaning behind Día de los muertos? In learning a language, it is culture that touches the heart.
In learning a language, it is culture that touches the heart.Tweet
How do I teach about culture in a distance learning environment?
As now distance learning Spanish teachers, we have the unique opportunity to take full advantage of the internet and what is available in the students’ home! Through the use of realia, objects from real life, we can bring culture to life without actually being in the room with the student. Realia can include websites such as online museums & online libraries, podcasts, music, online media, etc. We just need to know where to look.
Below is a list of how I plan on bringing culture into my online classroom:
1. I’m a music fanatic. I love Hispanic music dearly and am always looking for the newest, coolest song. I’m planning on playing authentic music for my online classes during warmups using these resources (that I created!) from Teachers Pay Teachers. These resources include (short) already made PowerPoint presentations about the artists and links to music that exemplify their work. At the end of the week, I will make a Google Form and have the students vote on their favorite artist:
2. I’m aiming to have the students complete choiceboards, much like this free one available on my TPT site, where one activity is to cook an authentic meal! The website, https://www.goya.com/en/recipes offers great recipes in English and in Spanish depending on the level of your students! (BTW: Interested in more free choiceboards/menus? Click here & here)
3. When I get to the clothing unit in Avancemos, I intend on taking the students on a virtual trip to the Museo de la Moda in Chile and creating a mini-project around it. There are many museums around the world that have a virtual component that you can take advantage of! I have compiled a list on my blog: “My Favorite Resources for Distance Learning” but below are just a few to whet your appetite!
1. April brings one of my favorite holidays–Semana Santa. I love to observe how it is celebrated in Sevilla, Spain since that is where I studied abroad in college. Every year, I share the beauty of Semana Santa with my students. ABCSevilla.es live streams it yearly. I saw online that it was canceled but then I saw pictures on social media and live streaming. So I’m not sure if it is canceled or not. Here are several links that I used:
- Video, articles, images from this year’s Semana Santa: https://sevilla.abc.es/sevilla/semana-santa/
- You can read about, watch videos, and look at photos from 2019’s Semana Santa: https://sevilla.abc.es/pasionensevilla/
- (if this doesn’t work, Google “Semana Santa 2019 ABC Sevilla”)
- You can explore Google Maps. They have a collection of posts under the title “La Mejor de Semana Santa“. One post that I particularly enjoyed was “La hermanidad de Triana en Sevilla.“
2. What better time to start using your treasure trove of “telenovela” knowledge than now! Many of us Spanish teachers watch a bunch of novelas (…especially now…). While we may not be able to show a whole show to our class, we may be able to show a clip of this realia to exemplify a pattern of behavior or social interaction. One time, while watching El Gran Hotel, a character said, “me puedes tutear”. What a great clip for showing formal/informal language and the social significance of it! You can show rites of passages such as Quinceañeras or typical ways that people greet each other. The possibilities are endless. You just have to watch your novelas with an eye for “practices.”
1. In general, I discuss the world view of Catholicism and the important role that it has played throughout the history of Spain, the Spanish conquest, and colonialism. This helps students to better understand why religion comes up so much in class–in language and culture. This will be important to hold on to if you plan to discuss Semana Santa in class.
What did you think about my list? Is there anything that you think you’ll be able to implement or tweak for your class? Did it spark new ideas? Let me know in the comments below!