We have the same problems at our schools. Very often our students know a lot of facts and information about Australia, the UK and the USA and can not say anything about their native town and Lake Baikal. We admit that our students have a lack of regional knowledge and can not react in a real cross-cultural situation adequately. So we decided to make an aid “Regional Studies of Irkutsk and Lake Baikal, which will answer students’ needs and our interests.
Our project is designed for the senior students to enlarge their knowledge of the regional studies as well as to develop their reading and speaking skills and to prepare them to cross-cultural communication.
The project contains 17 additional texts about Irkutsk, Baikal and Siberia. The key features of the collection are:
- rich cultural content;
- integration of skills;
- logical structure of reading techniques;
- cross-cultural focus;
- research tasks for students.
There is a number of exercises to each text for pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading stages. The pre-reading exercises are aimed at activating students’ schemata and vocabulary on the topic and prepare them for reading the text. While-reading exercises are aimed at developing different reading techniques and checking their reading comprehension of the texts. Post-reading exercises give students opportunities to express their thoughts and opinions on the topic. The clear organization of pre-, while- and post- reading activities results in effective model of text understanding.
The set of the texts ensures swift progression in reading through a logical structure of comprehension tasks aimed at further development of learners’ cognitive and cultural competence. The cross-cultural context of the set encourages discussions, makes learning interesting and gripping.
As a result of piloting our project during three months we can state some facts. The students have improved their speed of reading scientific texts. They have acquired many peaces of cultural information. We have raised students’ motivation in reading authentic texts from different sources. The students have learned how to allocate information needed, find details and look for necessary information.
We showed the set to our peer colleagues and recommended them to use our texts as the additional information on the appropriate topics (studying the theme “Education in Australia” we suggest the text “Education in Irkutsk” from our project). There are many colleagues who decided to use the whole set of the texts as they liked it very much.
The texts of the project can be used as the additional materials or as the course of regional studies.
In order to trace students’ achievements the final regional quiz at the end of the Regional Studies course is held.