How to raise students’ cultural awareness in primary school English class




The purpose of learning English is to use it freely. However, the process of students real English studying and using often meets with much trouble. Therefore, they need the relevant cultural knowledge and correct cultural awareness.

1. Approaches to cultivate cultural awareness in primary school

In the book Context and Culture in Language Teaching, Kramsch states that cultural awareness facilitates second language acquisition. However, it is often the case that Chinese students learn English culture in the absence of authentic English environment. Either due to limited teaching environment or faculty, students seldom get the chance to communicate in English. Therefore, how to create authentic situation in class is one factor needed considering for English teachers in China. Such approaches as the following may well be carried out in English classroom.

2. Communicative approach—Creating an authentic communicative class atmosphere

Communicative-driven learning is much more efficient than the traditional learning method, because students usually are more motivated and interested when learning with the purpose of communication. By adopting communicative approach, students can freely involve themselves in the communicative activities, like speaking, listening, thinking and even playing.

However, it is often a challenging task for teachers since they have to integrate the actual community and social life of learners when designing tasks to create more realistic and authentic situations. The teachers, especially those in primary school, should design lots of games and activities to arouse students interest according to their characteristics. In this way, students will grasp the knowledge happily in a free class atmosphere. It goes without saying that, to obtain the harmonious combination of the communicative language and effective factors,communicative classroom is the place where the meaningful interaction takes place. However, the inter-cultural communicative language teaching is supposed to attain the “real-life” communication in the classroom and “equip our students with tools for generating unrehearsed language performance.” (Brown, 2001:61). After all, there are some differences between classroom and real situation. When they leave the classroom, they should spend much more energy than on the arrangement or designs of classroom activities. This is definitely one of the major challenges of communicative classroom, so teachers should thoughtfully deal with affective factors in classroom activities.

Communicative teaching approach may be a better way for students to really grasp English including using English acceptably in western culture.

3. Task-based approach—Role-play and mini-drama

The task-oriented approach is characterized by co-operative learning. Cooperative learning in language and culture teaching can help learners form a positive affective state. It can reduce the learners anxiety, promote the students motivation. In addition, it creates opportunities for teamwork so that students can learn how to divide the labor, how to cooperate with each other, etc. This approach of culture teaching is efficient. When students have understood the language used in a situation and then go on to gain an understanding of the cultural factors at work, this is one of the most absorbing and exciting Chapters of an English lesson for them.

This approach provides students more opportunities to practice their communicative ability as well as raises the cultural awareness of students. But task-oriented approach, as a strategy of teaching, is still not perfect. These problems are worthy of being probed into and much research needs to be conducted to solve them.

4. Audio-visual approach—Using audio and video clips

The audio-visual approach means to guide students to experience the cultural atmosphere of English-speaking countries by the use of various audio-visual aids, such as tapes, radio-broadcasts, videos, computer aided instruction, films, cuttings from newspaper and magazines and all other kinds of regalia.

Films and TVs can be used to help students understand the cultural behavior of English-speaking people, accordingly to cultivate the students cultural awareness: what they eat; what they wear; what houses they live in; how they make friends; what traditional activities they have on their important festivals, like “Christmas Day” or “Thanksgiving Day”.

5. Conclusion

This paper provides some suggestions to primary school teachers as to how to raise students cultural awareness in that hope that the English teaching practice in primary school can be improved a bit.