Cultural Content and Questions

Family Structures:
• What constitutes a family?
• Who among these or others live in one house?
• What are the rights and responsibilities of each family member?
• What is the hierarchy of authority?
• What is the relative importance of the individual family member in contrast to the family as a whole?

The Life Cycles:
• What rights of passage are there?
• What are the criteria for defining stages, periods, or transitions in life?
• What behaviors are considered appropriate for children of different ages?
• How might these conflict with behaviors taught or encouraged in school?

Roles and Interpersonal Relationships:
• What roles are available to whom, and how are they acquired?
• Is education relevant to learning these roles?
• How do the roles of women and girls differ from that of men and boys?
• How do people greet each other?
• What forms of address are used between people of differing roles?
• Do girls work and interact with boys? Is it proper?
• How is deference shown and to whom and by whom?

Discipline:
• What is discipline?
• What counts as discipline and what doesn’t?
• Which behaviors are considered socially acceptable for boys versus girls at different stages?
• Who or what is considered responsible if a child misbehaves?
• Who has authority over whom?
• To what extent can one person impose his or her will on another?
• How is behavior traditionally controlled?

Time and Space:
• How important is punctuality?
• How important is speed in completing a task?
• How much space are people accustomed to?

Religion:
• What restrictions are there concerning topics that should not be addressed in school?
• Are dietary restrictions to be observed?
• What restrictions are associated with death and the dead?

Health and Hygiene:
• How are illnesses treated and by whom?
• What is considered to be the cause?
• If a student were involved in an accident at school, would any of the first aid practices be considered unacceptable?

History, Traditions, Holidays:
• Which events and people are sources of pride for the group?
• To what extent does the group in the United States identify with the history and traditions of the country of origin?
• What holidays and celebrations are considered appropriate for observing at school?
• Which ones are appropriate only for private observance?

**Adapted from Reading, Writing, and Learning in ESL: A Resource Book for K-12 Teachers.

Educators need to be sensitive to the cultural diversity that is present in their classroom and help students understand and adjust to the new culture that they are now a part of. Most importantly, tutors and teachers must remember that the classroom climate, as well as the instructional methods, must be respectful and supportive of all cultures. A final note is that as you begin to learn more about language minority students, you will see that differences exist in the expectations that families have about teachers and teaching. The more you are familiar with these viewpoints, the better equipped you will be to help your students succeed.

***An excellent resource for additional information about cultural implications for teaching is Developing cross-cultural competence: A guide for working with young children and their families.