Tip # 1: Be explicit about what you’re doing in the writing classroom and why.

By being transparent about forming a classroom culture based on certain values, students with different cultural assumptions about the structure and purpose of a writing classroom will be less likely to get overwhelmed or confused. For example, before assigning a personal essay to students from a collectivist culture, you should explain the (individualist) values behind this particular genre and acknowledge the potential for difficulty for students with a different set of cultural values. Let your students know your expectations about punctuality. Tell them about your plagiarism policy. However, always explain your guidelines, outlining your own cultural assumptions behind these rules. Never assume students share your understanding of terms (such as “punctuality” and “plagiarism”).

Tip # 2: Encourage students to reflect often on their own goals for learning
English.
This includes students’ goals related to their own cultures, particularly the contexts that they intend to use the language in. Connect your findings from these reflections to the assignments and exercises used in class.

Tip # 3: Explicitly discuss relevant cultural assumptions or attitudes in your
written and oral feedback, and be aware of cultural assumptions during the evaluation and assessment process.
State how important it is for writers to be aware of the context of their written work. Mention the negotiation that occurs at the intersection of the writer’s and the reader’s backgrounds. Ask leading questions that help them explore their cultural assumptions about various tasks (such as peer review and critique). During assessment, evaluate whether the student’s organizational structure effectively navigated his/her intended context. Consider how the writer felt about the peer review process and your feedback.

Tip # 4: Be aware of the variety of ways /methods students attain academic
literacy, and employ strategies for each.
Some students are embarrassed to identify what they do not understand, so offer multiple ways for them to ask about aspects of the classroom culture. For example, facilitate communication by allowing students to first conference in groups about classroom procedures and then share their conclusions with you. Or elicit information through student polls or written responses. You may want to ask questions such as, “Do you prefer to work in a cooperative group or individually?”

Tip # 5: Consider alternatives to “U.S. or U.K. centric” choices when selecting
course readings and audiovisual materials.
Provide readings that are written in English by culturally diverse authors and not necessarily from Britain or America. These are important resources that indirectly provide linguistic and crosscultural explanations and demonstrate how language and culture are interrelated. Locate films about world cultures and/or with cross-cultural themes to show in your classroom.

Tip # 6: Have students design their own course materials.
Avoid depending heavily on ready-made course materials. Create an open-ended assignment that gets students to work in pairs to describe some aspect of their way of life for the benefit of their foreign partners. Have the students design web sites or make individual or group presentations on cultural issues of relevance to them. This is most suitable for ESL (or mainstream) courses with higher-proficiency L2 students.

Tip # 7: Set aside time (before the start of a new semester/quarter) to reflect
upon your own cultural values and biases.
Our own cultural assumptions can subtly but profoundly affect how inclusive a classroom environment feels. The following set of questions can serve as a heuristic:
I. Are classroom norms clear, so that if they are different from what students are used to at home or in their communities, they are able to understand and negotiate alternative ways of being? II. Have I examined the values embedded in my discipline that may confuse or disturb some students? III. Are the examples I use to illustrate key points meaningful to and respectful of students? IV. Do I have creative and effective ways to learn about my students’ lives and interests? V. Am I aware of nonverbal communication from a multicultural and cross-cultural perspective?

To see the full list of references from which this sheet was created, please visit our website: https://depaul.digication.com/sumbul_latonyas_resource_guide_for_tesol_instructors/Welcome/published

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