Vive la Différence: an English Teacher on Teaching Differently

Marusya HrisVive la D 2tova is an English teacher from Bulgaria who lives in England and is into her 18th year of teaching English on a professional level. She says she loves her job and is currently teaching online and designing a free bimonthly e-zine Inspirational English for passionate teachers who want to bring POSITIVITY into the classroom. Below, we are sharing some of her ideas on teaching interesting content and methodology of English teaching.

Every summer, lots of festivals are organised everywhere in England, from the Sweeps Festival in Rochester to the Multicultural Festival in beautiful Folkestone. I love attending festivals because they bring cultures together and I tend to learn a lot not only about the British customs but they make me contemplate on my own roots and outlook on life. 

However, what makes a “fiesta” special is when you participate in it. Olé! When I was invited to go to Oxford and take part in a project called WAVING HELLO, the organisers (musicians from the Oxford Concert Party) wanted to celebrate diversity and recognise the importance of trade and travel in the history of Western art. They set sail a flotilla of almost two thousand tiny paper boats across Bonn Square to raise public awareness of cultural variety and social problems. I felt blessed to be there because I met some wonderful individuals who are eager to help disabled people, refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers. While attending this event, I realised how important the work of ESL teachers is when it comes to bringing people from all walks of life together and celebrating their cultural diversity. Here are a few tips on talking CULTURE in your classroom:

  • My younger students love the episodes of “Little Human Planet” so I eagerly prepare video lessons planned around this BBC series. You can find some episodes on YouTube. Highly recommended!
  •  Let’s colour and learn about indigenous cultures. Have you heard about Princess Vanea? Vanea is a 6-year-old girl who loves exploring cultures. She and her mum create colouring books which help children find out about cultural diversity. Check their website here
  • Create a presentation on unusual customs. There are lots of websites which provide this information. One of the websites that I have used is this one.
  • Create a quiz “What do you know about other cultures”. The students can design the quizzes in groups and then swap them around to test their classmates.
  • Write an article about other people’s traditions. The students need to do some research and choose the most appropriate piece of information to write the report. You could give them some guidance, such as find out why the festival is celebrated, how and when it started, what influence it has on the local people, etc.
  • Create reading activities based on folklore from other countries. I often use the story “Frank and Russie’s Little Big adventures” that I write with one of my students. This is a fictional story, which describes a student and his English teacher’s adventures around the world. It is suitable for A2/B1 students. You can find the first three chapters here.
  • Record a “What’s on guide”. June is packed with festivals so why don’t you ask your pupils to find out about the most exciting events taking place in Oxford, for example, and once you’ve checked the script, they can record their audio guides. 
  • Explore a Culture Museum and then write a review about it. I recently went to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and I have to admit that not even for a second did I think about the differences in culture. On the contrary, what drew my attention was the striking similarity between artefacts, which come from far flung continents.  
  • Teach your students about compassion and generosity by showing them videos about inspiring youngsters from other countries. Have you come across the video about the little Australian boy who saws teddy bears for children with cancer? If not, here’s a link to the video.  Another great source of inspiring videos is Omeleto. You can find the videos here.
  • Design an online encyclopaedia of culture. I would recommend using. Split the class into groups and each one could create an encyclopaedia on a certain topic, such as Festivals, Music, Food, etc.
  • Week of Culture-Designate a week when each class could choose a country and prepare a performance which features a popular custom there.  

Finally, I would like to add that I consider such activities extremely valuable not only because we get to know other cultures but we also learn about ourselves and our heritage. But most importantly it is a way to teach our pupils to stay CONNECTED and remember that they were born to add something, to add VALUE to this world.