My Project for Social Justice in ELT: Environmental Education through Content-Based Instruction

Posted On 7/13/2019 7:05:00 PM, 0Comments

It has been a long journey since the introductory meetings held in November. We worked hard to come up with worthwhile projects and implement those ideas for months. For me, the process of contemplating a project started right after the meeting in my university. I thought of several topics revolving around different social justice issues. But I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I wanted to do until the first webinar, which focused on environmental education. After the webinar, I decided to concentrate on raising awareness on environmental problems in my project. One reason that I decided on environmental education is the fact that climate change is such an urgent and immediate crisis that affect each and every one of us in every way possible. But the generation who will suffer the most from the impacts of this climate crisis is the very students we are educating at the moment. They should become more aware of this issue and take action in order to have a better future. Moreover, teenagers and young people have been organizing school strikes for the past few months and demanding governments to take climate action to fight global warming and climate change. They already seek justice for themselves.

I realized that I can implement my project in a local high school in İzmit which already had policies regarding the environment, so I contacted the school to figure out whether they would allow me to carry out my project there. I got a positive response from the school authority. I was allowed to have one lesson a week with one of the 10th Grade classes. When I first started planning, I figured I would have 11 weeks (hence, 11 lessons) with this class and that I would design each week’s lesson to focus on a different aspect my chosen topic. However, exam weeks and health issues interrupted my project for a few weeks. I ended up having 7 weeks to carry out my project. The lessons followed a content-based approach since I could manage to adopt any topic I wanted to integrate into my teaching this way. The project consisted of two main stages, each stage lasting 3 weeks and focusing on one the two targets that I chose as the main topics of my project (The first week was an introductory lesson into the Global Goals and environmental education).

 I wanted to connect my lessons to the Global Goals. So, I settled on Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) as it felt convenient to adopt in order to discuss environmental issues. I narrowed down my scope to two out of the eleven targets of Goal 12, namely Target 12.2-Sustainable Management and Use of Natural Resources and Target 12.5-Substantially Reduce Waste Generation. The main reason why I decided on these two targets is that they complement each other in that the first one (12.2) focuses on how we generate & use resources and the second (12.5) focuses on what we do with these resources once we are done using them. I wanted the topics to come full circle at the end.

I tried to prepare my materials for my lessons as much as possible. But when I found some really good quality lesson plans or worksheets, I adapted these to use them in my class. I meticulously planned each week’s content to align with the general structure I planned for my project. Each lesson had content objectives, language objectives, and Social Justice Objectives. You can check the materials and lesson plans I used during my project in the Materials Booklet that I presented at the 1st Symposium on Social Justice in ELT which was held at Sinop University in May 2019.  Feel free to utilize the booklet in your teaching environment.

Materials Booklet.pdf (7.74 mb)

View from the Window

Posted On 3/20/2019 12:32:00 AM, 2Comments

       Peacebuilding within a classroom should be one of the priorities of any teacher as the atmosphere of a class directly affects the teaching taking place. I would like to focus on the activity in the following link for this blog post and plan a lesson around it with the purpose of building peace in a classroom:

       We did this activity in our creative drama class in our department two years ago. Everyone sat on the floor facing the windows and described everything they saw in detail in a paragraph, including the people that sat in front of them. The results were quite diverse. Everyone read their paragraphs and we realized that almost everyone’s description was different from one another. Some focused on the trees in their paragraphs while some others described the people outside. People’s point of view differed even though each and every one of us was looking at the same scenery.

       For this reason, I think this activity can be used to teach different perspectives. As it allows for first-hand experience, it is especially suitable for younger students. As the students get to hear their friends’ description, they can understand there can be more than one explanation in every situation.  I would look like to use this activity in a classroom where the students can’t get along well with each other or where the students are biased against some of their friends. The activity might help the students accept the existence of other views and other thoughts.

       As an alternative to having each student read their own sentences, we can collect and redistribute all the sentences in jumbled order to the students. Each student would read a sentence written by another student without knowing who wrote it. This anonymity may help the students to be less shy as they wouldn’t have to read their own view out loud.

       After each sentence is read, the teacher can ask the students what they think of it and how it relates to their own view. First, the teacher points out the differences between all the descriptions. They can draw a chart to show different aspects of each description. Next, they can discuss the common points of all the views. In this way, the teacher can promote the students to understand that even though our views differ from each other’s in many aspects, we can find common ground in the end.

A Look at the LGBTQ Issues on Campus

Posted On 3/1/2019 5:50:00 PM, 2Comments

            I decided to interview one of my friends and share her thoughts on LGBTQ issues in this blog post. She is a senior-year ELT student from Kocaeli University. I also informed her about the purpose of the interview and the project I am involved in. She has given me permission to post her responses on my blog.

  • In Turkey, what do people do or say (or not do or say) if they want to be seen as gay [lesbian] [straight]?
    • They usually talk about it openly. They just say "I'm gay" or "I'm straight". And if they want to do something, they just get a girlfriend or boyfriend if they are gay or, I don't know, lesbian. What they don't do is that they don't change their voices. Sometimes a male's voice is like girly, but that doesn't mean that he is gay. And if a girl wears very masculine clothes, that doesn't mean she's lesbian. That's just her style.
  • How is this different in another country? How is it similar?
    • Well, this rule applies to all countries in my opinion, because in all countries there are some stereotypes considering gays or lesbians. Like lesbians should be masculine or male-like, and gays should be girl-like and, I'don't know, fragile. But it's just a myth in my opinion.
  • Why do people sometimes want to be seen as straight [bisexual][lesbian]? Why do they sometimes not want to?
    • Why they want to be seen as straight is because they don't want to be rejected. It's a simple question. They don't want their families to reject them. They don't want their friends to reject them. They want to fit in. (Why they want to be seen as gay) Sometimes they want to be more open, sometimes they want to fit in the gay community. It may be because all their friends are gay or lesbian. So, they want to fit in that friendship. Even if they are straight, they may say "I am gay".
  • Is it easy to identify someone as gay [straight] [lesbian]? Why or why not?
    • The answer to this question is simply "No". You can't just identify someone as gay, straight, or Because, as I said before; it's not about the clothing, it's not about the style, it's not about the voice, the acts, the behaviors. It's just about the person is(fix this). So, if they hide it, you can't tell it.
  • In Turkey/your university, which gender identities seem natural or acceptable? Which do not? How can you tell?
    • Being straight is more natural than the others because it's what the majority is. And there is the religion factor. People are mostly Muslim in this country. It is forbidden in the religion. So, people don't talk about this issue very openly. And straightness is usually more acceptable than others.
  • After people move from Turkey, do they change how they think about gender identities? If so, how? If not, why not?
    • If they change their gender identity or sexual identity in other countries, this is because they feel freer where they’ve moved. It is because, as I said before, there is the fact called religion here and that just limits them. They don't want to become a target. So, when they move to somewhere else, they usually talk about this issue very openly and say they are gay or lesbian. It is because that country is probably freer to talk about these issues than our country.
  • How about when foreigners move to Turkey?
    • I don't know about this, because I haven't met a foreign person who is gay or straight or lesbian who moved to Turkey. But I must say, they probably wouldn't feel verysafe, so they might hide the fact that they are gay or lesbian or bisexual. But if they don't know the situation in Turkey, they might talk about the issue and realize that it is a bad thing (to talk about it). So, after the first couple of months, they would probably choose to hide it rather than talk about it.
  • How safe do you think your university or practicum school is for LGBT students? How do you know?
    • Well, I think it is pretty safe. Because I've seen some people openly talk about the issue, like the x person and the y person. It is pretty normal, I guess, it is safe.
  • What do you think to be an ally to LGBT students mean?
    • An ally to the LGBTQ students is when you support the idea that LGBTQ should be normalized, but when you are not a member of the LGBTQ community. So, if you are an ally to LGBTQ, that means that you are not an LGBTQ person, but you support them, you support their rights.
  • Do you think it’s important to be an ally to LGBT students?
    • Of course.
  • Who can be an ally in your university or practicum school?
    • Some of my friends are allies or might be considered as allies. But I don't know the ideas of most people in our department.
  • What are some examples of things people can do to demonstrate being an ally in our school?
    • Well, they might wear some badges, probably like therainbow flag. To support LGBTQ people don't have to do anything than just talk about their issues. You don't have to create another pride week, or you don't have to celebrate the pride week, for example. You just have to accept them(the LGBTQ community) for who they are. 

Reflecting on This Week's Webinar: Gender Equality in Education

Posted On 2/14/2019 6:08:00 AM, 3Comments

              It is challenging to discuss and do justice to gender equality in a teaching environment, especially in a context where the learners are biased regarding gender roles. This week’s webinar –which centered upon gender (in)equality- provided me with insights to handle gender inequality in my classroom. The outline of the webinar consisted of the terminology related to gender equality, gender bias in teaching environments, factors influencing gender bias, gender in textbooks, case studies where we generated ideas, and suggestions on how to treat gender issues in classrooms.

              One of the new terms that I’ve learned in this webinar is gender socialization. Initially, I supposed that it was a term used for a technique to address gender-related issues. However, it is a term that defines how our views on gender are shaped throughout our lives with the impact of extrinsic parameters. Basically, anything we believe about gender roles and gender stereotypes is influenced by the social context and culture around us. Another thing that I’ve learned from this webinar is that curriculums get named according to what perspective they have on gender. That is to say, non-sexist curriculum and anti-sexist curriculum do not refer to the same thing.

              I realized that bias against gender roles exists not only in learners’ minds and course books but also in educators’ perceptions. In order to tackle gender inequality, the teachers must first notice their own biased mentality. Noticing and overcoming this mentality would be one of the main difficulties an English teacher would encounter if s/he is to have a gender perspective in his/her teaching practices. Only after overcoming our own biases can we really teach our learners to get rid of theirs. Apart from these, adapting our course books is another major problem when we have a gender perspective. Not all course books are gender-sensitive and, most probably, we will need to modify our material to align with a non-sexist or anti-sexist curriculum.

              I feel that what I’ve learned in this webinar is quite transferable into my teaching practice. This is because the case studies assisted the notions we discussed and exemplified the issues within contexts. Another reason why I think what I’ve learned can be transferred into my teaching practice is that we are provided with not only case studies but also with sample lessons/activities and how we can adapt our own lessons. These can act as starters when planning lessons involving raising awareness of gender inequality and gender roles.

              I am planning to integrate some of the ideas presented in this webinar into my teaching practice as I tend to keep gender in mind whenever I teach English. Challenging gender biases and breaking the stigmas around gender roles is a long process. We should keep gender in mind while teaching English so as to have the required agility to recognize possible opportunities to teach gender equality.

              Considering everything I’ve mentioned so far and everything that was discussed during the webinar, I can say that I feel more confident to talk about gender roles in a classroom full of students; and I believe that, in time, students would become more and more comfortable with discussing these issues as well.

How to Incorporate Social Justice Education into Your Textbook: An Analysis

Posted On 2/7/2019 3:32:00 PM, 4Comments

              When it comes to choosing a course book one can easily get confused by the number of options available in the market, especially for language courses. Different publications offer different course books –some promising books are designed elaborately, while some others are not so useful. However, choosing a course book is not always an option for a language teacher. The course book would be chosen for the teacher in advance by the school authority (if you work in a private school) or by the Ministry of National Education (if you work in a state school). Since I did my school observation in a state school, the books used by the teachers were assigned by the Ministry of National Education (as of here: MEB).

              I decided on reviewing a MEB book since MEB books are the most commonly adopted books in schools and; therefore, they should be reviewed more and receive more feedback from teachers and experts than any other publication. I preferred to review Mastermind 8, which is a book I am familiar with as it was used in my observation classes and as I still use it when helping my brother (an 8th Grader) with his English. The book is available as an e-book on EBA (Eğitim Bilişim Ağı/Educational Informatics Network), which is an online social educational platform operating under the supervision of the General Directorate of Innovation and Educational Technologies of MEB[1]. All of MEB’s books are present on this website for everyone. You can access the book through here. I won’t include any images from the book as there is a copyright warning by MEB on the second page of the book. Instead, I will be adding page and activity numbers for you to follow along.

              When I look through the contents spread (pages 8-9), I see that most of the units can easily allow for social justice issues to be incorporated into the topics. There are only one or two units where I couldn’t come up with an idea on how to discuss social issues within the scope of the unit.

              The first unit of the book is Friendship. This unit can be appropriate for discussing issues such as exclusion, homophobia, sexism, and even racism if the student group has a tendency to be biased against minorities or refugees present in their local environment. One of the benefits of tackling the problem of exclusion through this unit can be to help built classroom rapport at the beginning of the year. As I have experienced this myself in my school observations, middle school students can be avoidant against opposite sex students. When my observation teacher tried to have her 8th Grade students act out a dialogue, she couldn’t get a response from any of the pairs as all the pairs were constituted to include one male and one female student. There were also quarrels between male and female student groups during breaks; there seemed to be a mutual intolerance (if not sexism). So talking about these issues within the scope of this unit would help with this mutual intolerance.

              The above issues can be extended into the second unit, Teen Life, as this unit’s scope involves expressing preferences, likes, and dislikes. Through activities regarding preferences or likes and dislikes, common ground can be found among students. One example can be to adapt Activity 1 on page 29 from this unit. Instead of grouping students into three(because most probably they will form a group with their close friends), we can write all the students’ names on the board in jumbled places and ask them to raise their hands if they like, hate, or enjoy what the statements in the questions. As they raise their hands the teacher can draw lines between the names of the students that share the same preferences and this would help them visually see how they are connected to one another.

              I wasn’t so sure about what kind of a social justice issue can be incorporated into the next unit (In the Kitchen). Then I thought that it would be relevant to discuss different cultures and, hence, integrate issues about racism or immigration through introducing different cuisines. It might be a little hard to do so, however, considering how dense the unit already is. The fourth unit (On the Phone) seemed to me to be difficult to adapt for social justice education. I tried to come up with an idea but I couldn’t. On the other hand, The Internet unit is open for many teaching opportunity in terms of social justice education. One of them can be cyber-bullying. There is an activity where the internet habits of a family are discussed (Activity 2, page 61). This activity can be expanded to discuss the internet habits of students and how they use their online identities, whether they bully someone or be bullied by others.

              Adventure unit involves extreme sports as well as jobs (the focus is especially on dangerous jobs). This would be one of the convenient units to discuss sexism and women’s roles. I like that the book included a female police officer (Warm up, page 72) and a female firefighter (Activity 3, page 81) -I am not sure about the firefighter though, as the image is a bit small. Gender equality would be discussed through jobs and how some roles are assigned to females and others to males when it comes to professions.  We can try to eliminate their prejudices about these roles.

              The seventh unit is called Tourism. Environmental issues and the pollution the students see in tourist attractions can be mentioned in this unit. How we should treat the environment and how our actions impact it would be among the topics to be discussed during this unit. Environmental issues and how we can lessen our impact on environment can also be incorporated into the Chores unit. Ways in which our daily actions affect the environment would be explained in class and students would be asked to come up with ideas to adapt their actions.  The unit itself contains a journal entry (Activity 2, page 100) that supports this topic (though not an authentic entry as the publishing date is March 2019). The entry narrates how Japanese students clean their schools. This journal entry can be used as a cue to discuss environmental issues and how students can take action.

              Science unit is quite convenient to talk about gender roles and gender equality as well. I appreciate the fact that they included a part called Women Inventors in History (Activity 2, page 111). I only remember Marie Curie from my school years, so I really like that students are introduced to female scientists as well as male ones in this unit. There are also child inventors (both male and female) presented in the book (Activity 2, page 112).

              The last unit is Natural Forces. Now, this is the unit where environmental issues and global warming can be thoroughly discussed. The unit itself is built around these topics. There are many activities revolving around raising awareness. One example is the activity where students make predictions about natural forces and disasters (Activity 2, page 120). The unit goes on with another activity asking what global warming is, its reasons and results. A blog post titled Stop Global Warming! (Activity 2, page 121) follows. A brainstorming session about stopping global warming can be held after reading the post. Similar activities succeed these. Most of them are about how natural disasters are likely to become more severe in the future, why nature is dying, and what students can do in their daily lives to become more eco-friendly.

              To conclude, I can say that the book allows for many opportunities to support social justice education. There are probably many more issues that can be discussed apart from my suggestions. I only found the third and fourth units to be difficult to adapt for social justice education. Maybe another teacher can come up with topics that can be incorporated into these units; unfortunately I couldn’t find a way to do so. Do you have any suggestions? Then, be my guest and leave your ideas in the comments. Thank you.


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