Webinar 1 - Blog Task: A Critical Glance At ''Count Me In'' Student's Book 12th Grade In Terms Of Social Justice

Posted On 3/25/2020 12:07:00 PM, 3Comments

The coursebook I examined is Count Me In (12th Grade) published by MNoE (Picture 1.1). The reason why I choose this coursebook is that the themes and activities highlight key values friendship, justice, honesty, self-control, patience, respect, love, responsibility, patriotism, and altruism more often when compared to books belonged to primary schools. However, these values are not considered as a separate entity. Rather, they are embedded in the themes and topics of the syllabi. My focus is on the first, second, and eighth units of the coursebook.

In the first unit (Music), the primary aim is to encourage the students to practice agreeing and disagreeing with each other by sharing their opinions about music. They also exchange ideas about their music preferences through the help of surveys/interviews.

In the exercise given above (Picture 1.2), the students listen to the eight extracts of different music types and identify what sort of music they are. Then, they are supposed to write the numbers in the boxes. On the one hand, this activity includes several musical instruments that reflect some cultural aspects of the target language. As Celik and Turkan (2007) put, it is essential that textbooks include several aspects of the target culture, such as oral and written history, literature, music, drama, dance, visual arts, celebrations, and the lifestyle of native speakers. In this regard, the textbook we're talking about is quite successful because it introduces us to English-speaking cultures by representing their musical instruments. However, it is most likely that there will be some students who won't be familiar with these types of instruments because of the cultural differences. Therefore, what I recommend is that there be at least two or three pictures, characterizing first culture (source culture). As Arslan (2016) asserts, there should be a balance in the integrity of native culture, target culture, and international culture, which means cultural items should be distributed in a heterogeneous way. Consequently, I could add pictures of some musical instruments representing our culture. In this way, students learn about both their culture and other cultures. Furthermore, learners see the differences between cultures, and they may learn how to tolerate these differences.

The second unit of the book is Friendship (Picture 1.3). Describing personal features, making conclusions, and stating reasons are the functions of the second unit. While evaluating the unit, I noticed that people from different countries appear in the picture (Ethnicity). As Bulut and Arıkan (2015) state, course books should include people from various cultures because English language speakers come from all sorts of life. In that sense, this coursebook is successful in maintaining diversity and ethnicity because it presents a visual input that shows multicultural friends.


Moreover, while turning the pages of the coursebook, I found a listening text (Picture 1.4) in which the students are talking about a teacher named Mr. Robbins. The text also includes a picture of the mentioned students. In the related picture, a student sitting in a wheelchair got my direct attention (Disability). By using these kinds of pictures in the coursebook, we can prove that disability is not a curse or an unwanted condition, and people with disabilities shouldn't face discrimination, abuse, and an inaccessible environment. Also, the incorporation of people with disabilities into the EFL coursebooks could eliminate the alienation of pupils with disabilities in regular schools. Therefore, we should increase the visibility of people with disabilities in the illustrations of Turkish EFL (English as a Foreign Language) textbooks. Although the topic ''Friendship'' can promote and strengthen friendships between teens, it touches upon the qualities of a good friend, which may cause learners to hypothesize some misconceptions regarding the characteristics of an ideal friend. Besides, learners may escape from interacting with their peers if they think that s/he doesn't have the aspects of a good friend.

The third unit is ''Human Rights''. I think this topic is totally open to the inclusion of social justice. For example, the teacher can ask the students to make suggestions about improving human rights by completing the exercise given below (Picture 1.5). The students can also write an argumentative essay, including solutions for disadvantaged people’s problems. Furthermore, they can write mottos/slogans about human rights and act them out through the help of role-playing (Picture 1.6).










Besides, they can watch a short video that explains The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and discuss the basic advantages around them.

Alternatively, they can watch a short which celebrates the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International in the United States of America. They should try to spot which human rights abuses are shown in the film and discuss how to solve them.

I especially favored the activity in which the students are asked to analyze the paper headlines related to human rights and share their opinions (Picture 1.7). I think this activity has a positive impact on the students because it shows that we can maintain human rights together (globally) no matter how problems arise (optimistic approach). This activity is also an example of the usage of authentic material (newspaper), which leads the students to relate the topic to their lives and provides long-term retention. Therefore, I think this book is sufficient to have the students develop an understanding of what human rights are, appreciate the relationship between rights and responsibilities and apply the concepts of human rights to their own lives. 

Finally, I would like to talk about the eighth unit ''Alternative Energy''. I believe that it is possible for language teachers to design different kinds of tasks related to ecological problems by using authentic texts, posters, pictures, etc. represented in this book. For example, language teachers can use the following exercise, which asks the students to define the vampire power and talk about the waste of energy by looking at the diagram, to attract the students' attention at the beginning of the lesson (Picture 1.8). 

To raise students' awareness, they can be asked to read the following text and search for the celebrities who (have) dedicated their lives to environmental solutions (Picture 1.9). Furthermore, by adapting the following exercise (Picture 1.10), teachers can divide one part of the classroom as citizens and the other part as local or national authorities. Collaboratively, the citizens will write a letter of complaint about an environmental problem, and the authorities will suggest solutions to their letters. 

Lastly, teachers can arrange a debate in which students are separated as in favor and against groups. They will use the boxes below and debate with their classmates over alternative energy in the future (Picture 1.11). 

I believe through the medium of Content-Based Instruction (CBI) and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), teachers can promote personal responsibility and encourage learners to take action to save the environment. From my lofty vantage point, teachers can create fruitful activities if they analyze the coursebook appropriately and add supplementary materials/tasks to reinforce the topic. In general, much attention is paid to the principle of social equality when presenting events, identifying people, giving examples, and addressing issues. Likewise, I haven't seen any part violating the rights and freedoms of persons. When compared to books belonged to primary schools, the gender distribution is more balanced. Furthermore, there is no attribution, prejudice, and gender stereotype in the representation of women and men. Additionally, no narratives are degrading or distorting a certain segment of society or political thinking. Importantly, the book doesn't include any negative generalizations about different ethnic groups.

And although it seems difficult to cope with environmental issues, we can draw inspiration from Helen Keller, who was able to overcome blindness and deafness to become a social activist in the early 20th century:

I am only one, but still I am one.

I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.

And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

Received June 1999

Helen Keller (June 27, 1880 – ∞∞)




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