• Stimulating Small-Group Discussion Activity 9: Comparing Life in Cultures with Strict Rules and Ones with Easy-Going Rules

Cover read for discussion SHOT

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

 Some reasons why students seemed stimulated by this discussion:

1) They seemed interested in comparing the social rules in their countries and what happens to people who break them.

2) They had stimulating discussions how safe their hometowns were.

3) They were surprised by how tight or loose their classmates’ hometown and family rules were.

4) They enjoyed comparing how much or how little contact they had with people who were different from them (e.g. different race, religion, sexual orientation) and how open their neighbors would be to having them live next to them.

Here is the basis for this discussion: According to research, countries can be categorized as relatively tight or loose. Tight cultures, with stricter rules, tend to be safer more orderly, whereas, loose cultures tend to be more creative and more accepting of people who are different. After reading about the characteristics of different cultures, students compare their experiences and share their opinions about life in tight and loose cultures.

This and future discussion activities include four parts:

1) A one-page article usually including a brief summary of a high-interest research study.
2) Ten true-false comprehension questions.
3) Pre-Discussion Exercise in which students read and think about several questions about their experience and opinions about the topic before discussing them in groups.
4) Small-group discussions of the article in which each student is given a paper with different content/personal experience questions in the form of Student A, B or C.

About Discussion Activity 9: Comparing Life in Cultures with Strict Rules and Ones with Easy-Going Rules and the handout.

Here is an excerpt from the article

2 Researchers conducted some interesting studies to compare social rules in different countries. In one study, they hired assistants to put on temporary tattoos, purple hair wigs, fake nose and lip rings and fake facial warts. Then these assistants approached strangers on city streets to ask for directions or went into stores and asked clerks for help with a purchase. They did this in 14 countries. In some countries, people were more willing to help the assistants than in others.

Here are some of the personal experience discussion questions that students will discuss.

Pre-discussion Exercise 

Think about these discussion questions.  You don’t have to write anything.

  • Do any of your friends in your hometown have tattoos? Unusual hair color?
  • Have you ever wanted to look different from other people in your hometown, for example, get a tattoo, wear unusual hair color, wear unusual clothes, etc.?
  • Have you or someone you know ever been punished or fined in your country?
  • Are there some laws in your country that you think are too strict?
  • Are there some laws that your country doesn’t have but you think your country should have?
  • If I visit your hometown, can I feel safe walking around at midnight?
  • In your country, what would happen if I drink liquor while driving a car?
  • Do you wish your hometown had more surveillance cameras?
  • When you were in high school, did your school have strict rules? Explain.
  • When you were in high school, what would happen to students who broke rules?
  • When you were in high school, did your parents have strict rules? For example, did you have to come home by 10 pm at night?
  • Do you think people in your hometown would be comfortable living next to these people: homosexuals, someone from a different race, someone with a different religion?
  • Are divorced people or unmarried mothers treated differently in your hometown?

Here is the link to the complete activity: Tight Loose Cultures Article and Exercises

To make group discussion most successful, see these postings for activities

Conversation magic: Two most important conversation techniques (Part 1)
Conversation magic: Two most important techniques. (Part 2)
Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 1)
Discussion Technique to Get Quiet Students Involved (Part 2)

For more about culture discussions, see

 Cultural Differences

Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview) 

 Stimulating Small-Group Discussion Activity 6: Happiness Is Not the Same in the East and West  

Four-Part Series: Why, How And When to Teach ESL Integrated- and Discrete-Skills Courses.

David Kehe

About the free download materials. During my 40 years of teaching ESL, I have had many colleagues who were very generous with their time, advice and materials. These downloads are my way of paying it forward.

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