PME 811 – Richard Stefano Blog Post 1 – Determining my question

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I’ve decided to look into something that I’ve tried in my own practice, but which I need to explore further:

How can we use media to create cultural context or cultural understanding in the classroom? Can video, images, and music create a “cultural impression” of a time, place or society that can enhance students’ learning or bridge a cultural difference in understanding?

To narrow this down – and relate it to my own practice – I’ll describe the issue that I’m having, and how I’ve been handling it:

In my Grade 9 class, I’ve taught Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. My students are 14-15 year old (wealthy!) Chinese students with varying experiences studying or traveling overseas, and with varying levels of English ability. Therefore, I give a general historical background about 1950s America (when the novel was written) with emphasis on issues raised in the novel (ex. The introduction of new technology and the effect on society). 

What I’d like to explore is research, testimonials, and strategies related to relaying that historical background, cultural context, or general understanding of a time and place, and how we can use media (images, video, music, etc.) to enhance that understanding.

Of course my focus will be on my own students or English learners in general, but difference in age is also a factor.

I am not an expert in 1950s America, but I am a 32 year old man who has consumed a huge amount of television, movies, novels, etc. that have given me an understanding or at least an impression of the 1950s (supported by actual information gathering before teaching my course, I promise!), and that has changed the way I analyze and discuss the novel.

The next blog post: What are my current strategies for doing this? How can I determine if they are effective? What are follow-up or focusing questions to enhance my exploration? Is cultural context necessary for an initial approach, or is it more valuable to explore the perspective of students without “pre-reading” to create that understanding?

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