Vol. 6. No. 3 R-1 December 2002
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Oxfordbasics: Intercultural Activities

Michaela Canková & Simon Gill(2002)
Oxford: Oxford UP
Pp. 30
ISBN 0194421783
Price £2.95

Teaching English as a Foreign Language often requires teaching to students who have different cultural backgrounds. Oxfordbasics: Intercultural Activities gives the teacher the help needed to integrate this cultural aspect into teaching activities all the while encouraging conversation and interest among students.

The "Contents" announces a "Foreword," an "Introduction" as well as 30 activities, ranging from "Greetings and introductions," (activity 1) to "Festivals and celebrations" (activity 30).

A detailed "Introduction" helps the teacher chose the right approach in selecting the appropriate activities for the students. Cankova and Gill suggest choosing activities that correspond to topics the class is interested in, their age groups, what they know about other cultures all the while minding their level of English. Of course, the teacher must make sure to correspond the activities to the curriculum and syllabus of the course. These activities, Cankova and Gill claim, are flexible: the teacher can add more subjects. For instance in "Greetings and Introductions" (p. 6) there is a list of "Types of Greetings," seven in all, but the teacher can add other types of greetings, or even delete some, depending on the number of students in the class. Some activities might be altered depending on the age of your students. Cankova and Gill invite teachers to increase the list of animals in the "Pets" activity (p. 22) to include a list of famous pets, as they suggest, and hence change or drop the last exercise which asks the class to "write down their reasons for supporting or being against pets." (p. 23)

Each activity is laid out on two pages. On the top of the first page, the teacher finds pertinent information about the type of activity. The first is "language," which indicates what the students will have to be using when forming their sentences. In activity 13 "Clothes," the language that the students will have to practice is "wear, is wearing, names of clothes and national costumes, is made from/of/into." (p. 30) The following, "culture focus," suggests the topic that will be discussed. In this same activity the students will address "typical items of national dress from different countries." In "activities," the teacher is told how to proceed in presenting this unit: "memory game, matching, dictation, information exchange." The next, "materials," tells the teacher what she will need for the activities: "board, map of the world, card with information on Jersey, Tweed, and Shetland." The "time guide," "45 minutes--1 hour," lets the teacher know how much time she has to dedicate to the unit, the "preparation" informs the teacher what to prepare before arriving to class such as "handouts," and the "level" indicates to the teacher the level that this activity can be performed with: "elementary to lower intermediate."

The activity then progresses in steps, guiding the teacher through the activity. For instance, in unit 17 "Shopping" the teacher is asked to begin with

a quick warm up game. Explain to the class that you are going to say a sentence and will choose someone to continue the sentence with a new item of shopping. Say the sentence: Yesterday I went shopping and I bought a newspaper. Choose a member of the class to continue:

Learner: Yesterday I went shopping and I bought a newspaper and a. . .

That person then nominates another learner and so on. The game finishes when no one can remember the whole list. (p. 38)

The teacher is guided through the exercises that build up the activity. This is especially important and interesting for new teachers. It teaches them the ropes and equips them with the appropriate tools to help train them to become experienced teachers. [-1-]

Little or no material is needed to complete these activities. Most of the time only slips of paper and the board are required. The board is used to draw very simple drawings that even a novice can do. Other times a map of the world or objects related to the unit are necessary. In unit 6, "Stamps," for instance, suggests that the teacher bring various and as many postage stamps as possible. Unit 15 "Holidays," require the students to bring postcards of famous holiday spots from all around the world as well as holiday pictures. The teacher must bring a hat or a box. Unit 16, "Souvenirs,' asks the teachers and the students to bring souvenirs and share them with the class.

At the end of every unit there is a "follow-up activity" requiring the students to work on the subject studied. For instance they are asked to write short descriptions "of important customs and habits in their country" (p. 9), "to write a description of their family tree" (p. 11), "to talk about their favourite place they have visited in their country or a foreign country" (p. 15), to "describe their opinions about how men and women are treated in their country" (p. 21), and so on.

These activities are enjoyable ones. I like using them with the corresponding to grammar lesson being studied. By creating realistic conversation, the students can understand how and when we use specific verb tenses, adjectives, questions, telling time, giving opinions, just to name a few. I recommend this book to both new and experienced teachers for the fresh ideas it contains. These activities bring a fun aspect to teaching English as a Foreign language.

Panagiota Dimakis
Université de Montréal

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