Teaching History and Memory in the English Language Development Classroom

Traditionally, learning grammatical patterns, expanding vocabulary, and practicing conversational phrases have been emphasized in second/foreign language classrooms. With this narrow but prevalent way of conceptualizing the goals of language instruction, few teachers fully envisage themselves teaching culture. The current project focuses on a particular way of viewing culture in terms of history and memory. By analyzing empirical data collected at a public high school in Oakland in 2011-2012, I will discuss (a) how students in the ELD class interpreted the historical events described in the course materials vis-a-vis their prior knowledge, experiences, and memories and (b) whether reading historical fiction that reflects the students’ background equips them with an awareness of multiple perspectives. I then discuss some implications of providing students with history-related materials in a language class.
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