Listening for Intercultural Understanding: A question bank

I know what to plan for if I want to engage my students quickly – almost anything to do with culture. People love learning about other people. What food do they eat? What music do they listen to? What is school like there? And a million other questions. Culture works. It’s interesting, memorable and fun.

The challenge I gave myself was how to regularly integrate culture into listening and viewing activities in my classes. I’ve already found a good basic framework to help my students develop their ability to listen for comprehension, but I know there are a wealth of cultural understanding opportunities available in listening and viewing activities that I don’t yet have a framework for.

So here’s what I’m doing. I started by searching for information on how to break down intercultural understanding by grade level, and I found a great resource from the Australian curriculum, located here. This framework breaks down intercultural understanding into 6 levels, and much like our BC curriculum, is guided by action-oriented big ideas which get broken down into statements of what students can do at various levels. The similarity in the framework helps in putting the two together, but given that my students will be doing this in a second language, I am starting just by using levels 1 to 3 for a stations type approach. I plan to use these levels for my students in grades 8-12.

The big ideas used in the Australian curriculum are as follows:

  1. Recognizing culture and developing respect
  2. Interacting with and empathizing with others
  3. Reflecting on intercultural experiences and taking responsibility

Using the Australian framework and the examples they link from various curriculum areas, I have come up with some sample questions that I can use to go along with listening and viewing activities in my classes. As mentioned, I have created my sample question bank using levels 1 to 3.  You can view the questions here:

Intercultural Understanding Questions Level 1
Intercultural Understanding Questions Level 2
Intercultural Understanding Questions Level 3 

I have included descriptions of the kinds of audio or video to select at each level, and in my classes resource selection will also be coordinated with the language structures and content that my students will be learning at a given point in time. Doing that allows more of a focus on the cultural content, rather than using the audio or video as a vehicle to teach grammar or vocabulary. I have also included a focus on similarities rather than differences up to the end of level 2, because in my experience my students tend to focus on differences, and react with a statement like “This is weird!” unless I can guide them to see similarities. In order to build cultural understanding, I want to focus first on similarities, and then move to differences once we have worked on acceptance and diversity.

Here’s how I plan to organize things:

  Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
French 8 4-6 questions    
French 9 2-3 questions 2-3 questions  
French 10 1-2 questions 2-3 questions 1-2 questions
French 11   2-3 questions 2-3 questions
French 12   2-3 questions 2-3 questions

Once I have played the audio or video for a given class and gone over some of the basic comprehension, I will be using these questions as stations around the room. I have found that 4-6 stations work best, depending on the size of the group and individual needs within the class. This will be an activity that I will do several times with each class. Re-using questions is fine, and actually will help as time goes by. If students have seen a question before, then it is no longer an obstacle to comprehension, and they are familiar with how to answer it. This allows them to focus on content instead, and answers will be richer and more detailed. Over time, I want them to be able to track their progress on responding to certain key questions.

You can even have repetition of a question within one class or set of stations by choosing a smaller number of questions and having students consider two listening tracks or videos, using the same questions for each. This can allow them to compare two stories or two cultures during the same class, and focus more closely on similarities or differences.

I plan to reword the sample questions slightly to make them more tailored to an individual track, to help student comprehension. Examples of things that can be adapted or tailored would include character names, details around a setting such as city or country names, specific key vocabulary about clothing, meals, celebrations, etc.

I will also be differentiating opportunities for responses. This will be laid out for students at each station, with opportunities for choice where appropriate/possible. Depending on the level of my students, they can show their understanding using some of the following response types:

  1. writing sentences
  2. writing paragraphs
  3. creating or labeling diagrams
  4. creating or labeling drawings
  5. creating or labeling maps
  6. making Play Doh figures
  7. building Lego structures
  8. creating or recreating dialogues
  9. creating or recreating short skits
  10. retelling a section of a story or video
  11. paraphrasing
  12. making/eating food
  13. choosing or creating music videos/songs
  14. anything else that is relevant!

Here are some of the resources I will be using to find listening or viewing content for my students (please note – some require subscriptions and some are free):

If you have other resources you use to teach culture through listening and viewing, please feel free to share!


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