Monday, March 19, 2012

Reflection - Critical Learning: Critical Discourse Analysis in EFL Teaching (Martínez, 2012)

“All in all, the classroom presents tangible and attractive ways of interpreting contemporary culture; it is an excellent forum for teaching discourse analysis and for making students aware that there is a rich and complex world outside to be analyzed and criticalized” (p. 288).
Last post, I reviewed an article from the Journal of Language Teaching and Research called Critical Learning: Critical Discourse Analysis in EFL Teaching, by Dolores Fernández Martínez. This post is a reflection on that review.


A couple of weeks ago, I had the students in one of my conversation classes bring in the lyrics to a song in English. In groups, I had them look at the lyrics, find out what the meaning of the whole song was, and bring out any new or strange “song” phrases. The activity was really enjoyable, and while I was reading the article, I thought of this activity. At the time, my intention was for the students just to practice talking about the songs and to learn a few new words. However, looking at it after reading about using critical discourse analysis (CDA), I think I could have improved the salience of the activity somehow.

Most of the content for my current courses is based on heavily regulated materials. However, I think a good teacher should be able to include good teaching activities and content in almost any situation. I've been brainstorming how I can include a little bit of CDA into some of my classes. Here are two ideas:

Idea One
I have a technical English course where we have been looking at the company's mission statement. Whenever we talk about it, though, the students keep telling me about the company's advertising slogans. So why not look at them, also? I plan to bring in a list of famous advertising slogans to discuss, using a format like the one mentioned in the first activity in the article. Then, I would like to have the students re-write their company's strange English-language one (it doesn't make much sense at all). I found this website for finding a list of famous slogans. It's conveniently organized by category.

Idea Two
I also have a Business English conversation course that I would like to use this activity with. The next unit is called “Ways of Working,” and I would like to find some slogans or phrases that have the vocabulary words in them. To start, I found a campaign slogan from Florida Governor Rick Scott (“Let's Get to Work”) that I will use to talk about slogans and the purpose of slogans. Luckily, last week we just talked about the difference between “Get to work!” and “I get to work by car.” Additionally, Section B in the unit talks about adjectives used to describe jobs. The first category is good job descriptions (satisfying stimulating, fascinating, exciting). I found two separate lists of fake “work” slogans that would be used to convince people to work for a company.

  • Come for the job… stay for the challenge
  • People “just like you” work here
  • Build your dream job here
  • We make work an adventure
  • Even the rookies get to start on our team
  • Tired of working “inside the box”? Come join us

  • If you do a good job and work hard, you may get a job with a better company someday.
  • Never quit...until you have another job.
  • Hang in there: Retirement is only 30 years away!
  • Go the extra mile--It makes your boss look like a slacker.
  • Pride, commitment, teamwork--words we use to get you to work for free.
  • There are two kinds of people in life: people who like their jobs, and people who don't work here anymore.

After using the initial phrase (“Let's Get to Work”) as an example, I think I will have the students analyze a good phrase and a bad phrase in pairs. Then, we can talk about why the phrases are powerful, which company you would least want to work for, and which company you would most want to work for. These are the discussion questions that I would take from the article:
  • Can you observe any hint of control or inequality in the phrases?
  • How do these slogans make you feel? What is your reaction?
  • What is the goal of the slogan?
  • (Also, to populate the question list, I found this chart that would be really helpful)

After I try it out, I'll write a reflection post. Until then...

Any other ideas? Guidance? Have you tried an activity like this in your classroom before?

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