How to Make ESL Classes More Culturally Engaging

How to Make ESL Classes More Culturally Engaging

ESL classes should be designed to provide a deeper understanding of the language being learned and connect students with the culture behind it. By providing materials and activities that relate to students native cultures and languages, teachers show them that their heritage and culture are also valued and respected.

ESL classroom

Benefits of Making ESL Classes More Culturally Engaging

There are many benefits of making ESL classes more culturally engaging, including increased engagement, improved understanding of different cultures, and building cultural bridges. 

  • Cultural engagement can help build a sense of community within the classroom, making students feel more comfortable and motivated to learn, especially in multicultural learning groups. It also allows teachers to create engaging lessons and activities that get students thinking and speaking about the language in culturally relevant ways. 

  • Showing students that their heritage is valued helps to create a learning environment where both parties can better understand each other and gain a greater appreciation for each other's culture. It is an excellent way to bring students together, helping to create a safe and supportive learning atmosphere.

  • Making ESL classes more culturally engaging can serve as a way to build bridges between different cultures. Creating a space for open dialogue and sharing experiences can help break down barriers and misconceptions. Including both cultures helps bridge from L1 to L2, improving learners' confidence and success.

Strategies to Make ESL Classes More Culturally Engaging

Making culture a part of an ESL classroom requires teachers to be proactive in creating the right learning environment that encourages students to explore, discuss, and practice cultural elements. To do this, teachers can: 

  1. Utilize visual aids or authentic resources on Pinterest or Youtube (music, art, stories, etc.)

  2. Use multimedia sources (podcasts, videos, music, etc.)

  3. Encourage collaborative learning when discussing cultural topics. 

  4. Encourage cultural activities such as cooking, dancing, and games.

For ESL learners with lower skills, follow these steps to create a collaborative and culturally engaging lesson plan:

  1. Start by providing simple activities that allow students to practice their language's structure, syntax, vocabulary, and grammar.

  2. Provide cultural information about the language or country they are learning, such as idioms, proverbs, songs, and stories.

  3. Use games such as role-playing or charades to help students practice their conversation skills in a more fun and engaging way.

  4. Make sure to give feedback on their progress through individualized instruction and group critiques. 

For ESL teachers, integrating culture into the classroom can be an invaluable tool for both teaching language and fostering global understanding. Not only does culture-based instruction open students up to a world of new opportunities, but it also makes learning more engaging and enjoyable. With proper implementation, integrating culture into ESL will ensure that all students feel represented, connected, and supported in their language learning.

If you're an English-language teacher or student and need help, check out Work/Life English's wide array of tools and resources here.


Related Work/Life English Resources: 

How to Successfully Work Across Countries, Languages, and Cultures

Continue Reading, Understanding, Interpreting, & Learning from Meaningful (Historical / Cultural) Biographical Content


External Resources: 

Teaching Culture for an Authentic and Communicative Learning Experience

4 Ways to Incorporate Culture in World Language Instruction


About Work/Life English
Work/Life English is an experienced provider of fun, effective English language improvement content that advances the lives of native English and English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers by improving their English competence, comprehension, and communication skills.  For more information, visit:




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