Saturday was the latest installment of the Yokkaichi Teachers’ Initiative. The day was, as usual, broken up into two parts. The morning was devoted to a writing workshop. The afternoon was a workshop on using culture. In the workshop on writing up the teachers’ accounts of their action research projects, Andy showed the teachers how to organize the material. We worked with them to get a start on writing up the first couple of sections, one on goals, and the other on writing the background information on their projects.
After lunch Andy led another workshop, this one on using culture in the language classroom. I guess the biggest learning point for me was the realization that teachers thought that when they used language they had to focus on the cultures of the target language. It was our contention that in learning more about themselves as well as others that they were better able to appreciate various people’s styles of communication. One topic that came up, that I am especially fond of using in my classes, is names. I ask my students about their names, where they got them, what the kanji means, where their family names came from, and what their names might mean in English. Very very few students can tell me anything about them at first. After a bit of prodding and interrogation under bright lights, they start coming up with ideas. They also have homework to find out about their names. Then we discuss other naming customs around the world.
My impression of the activity in general was that the teachers were happy to find another approach to incorporating culture into their classrooms, one that may not take some much time or imagination.