ICIS Newsletter

ICIS News, Volume 1:1 (March 2004)

by User Not Found | 10/25/2011
In This Issue...

Message From the Chair
Monsters Inc.: Using an Animated Film for Children to Teach Language Development and Cultural Sensitivity
About This Member Community


Message From the Chair

Armeda Reitzel, acr1@humboldt.edu

It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve the Intercultural Communication Interest Section in a leadership position twice within the past 3 years. I will continue to serve the ICIS as its immediate past cochair and as the comoderator (along with Bill Ivey) for the ICIS Electronic Discussion List. I am also a member of TESOL's Sociopolitical Concerns Committee and will carry your questions, concerns, and ideas forward on issues pertinent to the work of this committee.

The people whom I have met through the ICIS have been phenomenal. Their expertise and professionalism, as well as their energy and pizzazz, have made them colleagues and friends.

If you are attending the 2004 TESOL convention in Long Beach, please come by one or more of our events or sessions. I have listed some special opportunities below.

ICIS Open Business Meeting

Wednesday, March 31, 5-7 pm

Please come and meet other ICIS members! Find out more about our interest section. Voice your ideas. (And, yes, there will be door prizes.)

Special Networking Reception

Wednesday, March 31, 7-8:30 pm
Renaissance Hotel, Ballroom 4 & 5

This is right after our Open Business Meeting. ICIS was awarded a TESOL special project grant for this reception. We are collaborating with three other interest sections--English as a Foreign Language; Refugee Concerns; and Speech, Pronunciation, and Listening--and the TESOLers for Social Responsibility Caucus. Everyone is welcome to come chat with other convention goers!

The ICIS Booth

Check out the ICIS booth at the convention. Take a break from sessions and relax at the booth for a spell. It's a great place to meet people, eat lunch, and find out what the ICIS is all about. Chat with colleagues about your interests in intercultural communication. If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity, sign up to staff the booth. There are 1-hour and 2-hour time slots available. For more information, contact me, Armeda Reitzel, atacr1@humboldt.edu.

ICIS Elections

Elections will be held at the ICIS open meeting at the convention in Long Beach. If you are interested in running for one of the leadership positions in the ICIS, please contact Natalie Hess by March 22, 2004 at Natalie.Hess@nau.edu.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Long Beach. Look for me at the ICIS booth or feel free to contact me at my hotel starting on March 29. I will be at the Holiday Inn on Atlantic Avenue. The telephone number there is 562-590-8858.

All the best,

Dr. Armeda Reitzel
Cochair, Intercultural Communication Interest Section


Monsters Inc.: Using an Animated Film for Children to Teach Language Development and Cultural Sensitivity

By Natalie Hess, natalie.hess@nau.edu

What is culture? How is it created? What does it do to us and for us? How is it our prison and how is it our nurturer? How does it give us friends and how does it foster enemies? How much love does it permit? And how does it cultivate dissention and hatred?

Queries such as those above tend to raise their heads directly and circuitously in almost every language classroom and under the auspices of just about every methodology. Discussion of such issues, I have discovered, can easily grow contentious and ugly. Discussion of gender, race, privilege, and ethnicity tends to bring out everyone's strongly developed biases and blind spots. In other words, everyone's cultural stands. One way to neutralize this phenomenon yet nevertheless bring it light is through the use of literature and film for children. After all, a culture will take its time and be quite unanimous on acceptable and unacceptable norms before it dares to present these to its children. This is why the authors of children's and adolescent literature so frequently choose to write science fiction or to use animals or imaginary creatures to state their cultural perceptions. Such a presentation offers a whimsical, unworldly observation and presents a mirror to existing culture, which may or may not be noted.

Monsters Inc. offers just such a capricious and quirky world, where huge and green Sulley, who is a celebrity-scarer in Monstropolis, and Mike, his one-eyed green friend, find themselves captured and gradually enchanted by a human child--little Boo, who has somehow managed to enter the world of the monsters, where human children are seen as the world's most contaminating untouchables.

The film displays a fully functioning culture with a distinct pecking order, an urban society, capitalist rewards, ferocious competition, well-oiled bureaucracies, and the constant terror of contamination from outside sources. Having chosen an adorable human child as the object of ultimate terror is, of course, a distinctly clever ploy because the tactic shrewdly notes that there is usually no rhyme or reason for a society's choice of scapegoat, the principal quality being that the contaminated object, in spite of its obvious weakness, can be presented as somehow possessing great surreptitious powers, infectious qualities, and vicious intentions.

Like every good monster, Sulley is at first terrified by the human child, then intrigued, gradually captivated, later enchanted, and lastly overcome with total love. The turning moment comes when Sulley names the child "Boo," thus removing her from the class of other to the state of individual. By freeing himself of unreasonable fears, Sulley, being the Monstropolis celebrity, can use his fame to promote a society of collaboration, which replaces laughter for scream as its source of power.

How can educators make use of such a film for a discussion of cultural competence? Like any text, the teaching involves pretextual activities that activate the schemata; in-textual activities that promote observation and insight; and posttextual strategies that amplify, synthesize, and analyze.

For a previewing activity, an adult class could discuss the concept of monster, as it is created in all cultures, and contribute specific examples of such monsters. If the class likes to contemplate and analyze, students could also discuss the need for the presence of such cultural monstrosities (e.g., Dracula, Frankenstein, the big bad wolf, the evil stepmother).

Children could draw pictures of monsters and share their drawings with classmates. Those in beginning stages of literacy can each write a sentence about their own monster. Later, these can be compiled into a class monster book. Using Venn-diagrams, pairs of students can compare and contrast their monsters.

During in-viewing, students could look for instances of contamination, friendship, inclusion, or exclusion. Any questions posed to children would have to be very specific and would preferably be in the form of a check-the-box type of formula, so as not to detract from a continuous viewing.

Certain scenes should be viewed on their own and talked about before the remainder of the film is shown. The first scene, in which a monster is sent out to scare a simulated child but instead is totally terrified at the sight of the child, is one that should be predicted prior to viewing and analyzed at its conclusion.

The most interesting part, of course, comes in the postviewing activities, when students can talk and write about what happened and why. It is then that the real world, with all its complexities, comes into focus and can be taken as far as the teacher and the class are willing to take it. Who has been perceived as contaminated by what culture and why? What have been the results? To the contaminated? To the culture that perceived the contamination? When do societies thrive? When do they flourish? When do they atrophy and what can people do about it? Ah yes! That's what its all about.

Excellent Resources for Teachers Who Wish to Use Children's Literature
  • Cole, R. (1989). The call of stories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Short. K. G. (1997). Literature as a way of knowing. New York: Stenhouse.
Children's Books that Work Well in Adult Classrooms
  • Friedman, I. R. (1984). How my parents learned to eat. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Greenfield, E. (1992). Talk about a family. New York: Harper Collins.
  • Hest, A. (1997). When Jessie came across the sea. Cambridge, MA: Candelwick Press.
  • Levine, E. (1989). I hate English. New York: Scholastic.
  • Lorbiecky, M. (1998). Sister Ann's hands. New York: Dial Books.
  • Mochizuki, K. (1997). Passage to freedom: The Sugihara story. New York: Lee and Low Books.
  • Say, A. (1993). Grandfathers journey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Say, A. (1999). Tea with milk. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Soto. G. (1993). Too many tamales. New York: Putnam and Grosset Group.
  • Steig, W. (1986). Brave Irene. New York: Sunburst-Ferrar, Strauss and Giroux.
  • Williams,V. B. (1982). A chair for my mother. New York: Mulberry.

Natalie Hess is professor of BME/ESL at Northern Arizona University in Yuma, Arizona, in the United States. She is the author and coauthor of several ESL/EFL text books and teacher resource books. She has taught and served as teacher educator in six countries and is a frequent conference presenter.


About This Member Community Intercultural Communication Interest Section (ICIS)

Intercultural Communicications promotes intercultural awareness, respect for all cultures and co-cultures, and increased intercultural competency among TESOL educators and scholars.

ICIS Leaders, 2003-2004

Cochair: Armeda C. Reitzel, acr1@humboldt.edu
Cochair: Donald B. Snow, donsnow48@hotmail.com
Chair-Elect: Natalie B. Hess, natalie.hess@nau.edu
Editor: Kelly Jo McClure, kmcclure1@student.gsu.edu

Discussion e-list: Visit http://www.tesol.org/getconnected/ to sign up for ICIS-L, the discussion list for members of this community, or visithttp://lists.tesol.org/read/?forum=icis-l if already a subscriber.