Why bring UK culture to the teen classroom?
We can introduce UK culture into the English classroom to help our students improve their English and at the same time learn about values and ways of doing things which may be different to theirs. Learning about life and culture in the UK can be very motivating as it brings the language alive for learners and creates a link between language and real life. See if you agree with these comments from teachers on teaching UK culture to their teenage learners:
‘We need to avoid reinforcing erroneous British stereotypes to our teenagers. Not everyone in the UK is very formal and drinks tea at five o’clock!’
‘Culture is the fifth skill in addition to reading, writing, listening and speaking. It’s something you need to know about if you’re going to study or work in Britain. Of course the same principles apply if you are talking about Australia, Ireland, the USA or any other English speaking country.’
‘I try to make British culture "real" to my students. It makes learning English more fun for them.’
What materials can I use to introduce UK culture?
LearnEnglish Teens has two sections all about UK culture specifically for teenagers. Life in the UK and Video UK provide learners and teachers with reading and listening materials that contain up-to-date information on the UK, challenge old stereotypes, and are very much in touch with how daily life is for young British people today.
- Life in the UK In this section teenagers can read about topics with a British connection. From special days, like Valentine's Day, to trends, like gap years, there’s a wealth of information aimed at teenagers who are learning English here. There are online or printable exercises too so learners can check their understanding of the text. Learners can share their opinions about the article they read with other teenagers around the world in the discussion box (see below for how to post comments on the website).
- Video UK This section really brings the United Kingdom to life. Here there are short videos on a broad range of topics such as extreme sports, multiculturalism, food and university life. Each video has a preparation task which pre-teaches key vocabulary with a simple picture and word matching exercise, as well as exercises and a transcript. These are available either online or as printable worksheets. Learners can share their opinions about the video with other teenagers around the world in the discussion box (see below for how to post comments on the website).
Using Life in the UK and Video UK with your learners
Here are some ideas for ways to use the texts, videos and activities in the Life in the UK and Video UK sections in class and for homework.
- Before you read or watch you could focus on vocabulary to help prepare students for the text or video. Students can look at the picture from the Life in the UK section and as a class you can elicit words and expression to describe what they can see. If you are going to watch a video from the Video UK section, learners can do the vocabulary and picture matching activity either online or on the printable worksheet that can be found by clicking the blue 'Worksheets and downloads tab. Now ask students to use the vocabulary elicited or practised to tell you what they think they will read or watch.
- After students have read a text or watched a video for the first time, they could complete one of the exercises online or worksheet version of the exercises. Now put students into pairs to compare their answers. Ask them to read or watch again to check their answers. Can they do the next exercise in pairs?
- You can show or print out the video transcript if your students need help with following the video. Encourage learners to listen without the transcript the first time, so that they really are practising listening, and then let them read and listen later.
- If students found the text quite challenging you could focus on new vocabulary by asking them to underline five new words in the text. Encourage them to identify the part of speech (verb, noun, adjective etc) and have a guess at what the word means from its context before checking the meanings with a dictionary.
- Use the discussion point under the video or text, or on the worksheet as a starting point for discussions in small groups. Give lower levels time to prepare what they want to say, keep the discussion short, and then arrange the students into new groups and have the same discussion.
- Students can read or watch a video from these culture sections at home. After doing the exercises they can then comment on LearnEnglish Teens, give their opinions and join in the discussion in ‘Comments’ underneath the text or video. Teenagers need to sign up for a free account to be able to post comments on the website. (Please note that LearnEnglish Teens is only for 13-17-year-olds so as teachers you can't create your own account. However, there is no content that is only available for registered users. ) If you ask the class to all do the same activity at home, you can follow up with group discussion next lesson (see above). You could also let the learners choose an activity to do at home. Next class they can work in small groups to ask and answer questions about what their classmates read or watched.
Learning the language doesn’t automatically mean learning the culture. Bringing culture to the teen classroom can be fun, motivating and help to develop the intercultural skills that will serve teens in adult life.
You can read more about teaching UK culture in the English language classroom here: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/articles/culture
By Sally Trowbridge