Going Beyond the Textbook: Revitalizing Culture in the Spanish Classroom

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Basar, Sarah
thesis / dissertation description
Effectively teaching the culture of a target language in foreign language classrooms can be a rather difficult and time-consuming task. Most often, culture is placed somewhere on a spectrum of either being a minor supplement to acquiring and learning the target language or utilizing culture as the direction through which grammar, vocabulary, and conversational practice are attained. Teachers’ beliefs, experiences, and resources all play a significant role in how culture is defined and taught in the schools of a country where globalization and immigration are quickly beginning to change the sociopolitical and demographic dynamics of our society. Thus, it is imperative that teachers address and meet the needs of students who will be more immersed into this type of world than any generation before them.To further understand the reasons why culture is not at the forefront of foreign language classrooms today, numerous sources are investigated from different perspectives over the past couple of decades. This was done with sources that reference a variety of foreign languages, but the discussion will focus on secondary Spanish. First, the history of teaching foreign language in the classroom is discussed and how it has evolved until present time. Then, using numerous sources, culture is defined and described by multiple perspectives, most of which can be identified on the spectrum mentioned above. This leads into different teachers’ views of culture and how culture and language are closely intertwined, transitioning into the different challenges teachers face when trying to bring their ideas and beliefs into the classroom. Most difficulties center around teacher education, curriculum, and resources. Some materials and resources for teaching culture are discussed with mention of their support and/or hindrance of cultural teaching and learning. Student perspectives on learning culture are also mentioned. Lastly, explicit methods and examples for integrating culture are discussed along with their strengths, weaknesses, and possible modifications. Based on these methods, a unit plan with sample lessons for secondary Spanish is given. These lessons are created using an approach that best demonstrates what the role of culture in the foreign language classroom should look like, providing a learning experience that is engaging, authentic, and both culturally and linguistically-centered.