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Classroom Practice

Cultural Perspective in Writing: A Contextual Approach

by Abigail Ekangouo Awanga |


TESOL Connections would like to welcome our newest columnist, Abigail Ekangouo Awanga. As a teacher trainer and experienced educator, Abigail is a leader and advocate for the English language teaching profession in Cameroon. She joins us bimonthly to write about classroom practice.

As an experienced teacher, I've observed that writing can be a tiresome activity for multilingual learners of English (MLEs). I noticed that when I asked them to write about mundane topics, it often became dull and demotivating for them. To overcome this challenge, I had to get creative and find ways to make the writing tasks more relatable to their own context and culture. This approach has yielded positive results. 

Three middle school kids work together on a writing assignment

For MLEs who come from diverse backgrounds, incorporating their cultural heritage into their writing can provide a powerful tool for self-expression, motivation, and communication. Including cultural perspectives in writing refers to the incorporation of one's cultural background, values, beliefs, and experiences into the process of writing; it includes asking students to reflect on how culture shapes worldviews and influences thoughts, ideas, and communication styles. 

This article presents four practices teachers can adopt for writing instruction that integrate learners’ cultural perspectives:

    • shifting from general topics to personal narratives,
    • encouraging cultural analysis,
    • offering opportunities for home language use, and
    • designing culturally oriented collaborative writing activities.

When teachers incorporate learners’ cultural perspectives in their writing activities, learners are motivated to express their unique cultural identities, share their cultural practices and traditions, and provide insights into their lived experiences.

Shift From General Topics to Personal Narratives

I encourage my learners to write personal narratives drawn from their cultural experiences. They can share stories from their upbringing, family traditions, or significant events in their cultural community. This can be a powerful way to incorporate their cultural perspectives.

For instance, instead of asking my learners to write about wedding ceremonies in their culture, I suggest they write a personal narrative about a traditional marriage celebration they actually attended, describing sequences of the event.

This approach allows MLEs to express their unique identities and provides a platform for them to showcase their cultural backgrounds.

Encourage Cultural Analysis 

Learners engage in cultural analysis by researching and writing about cultural topics, such as customs, traditions, and historical events. For instance, I ask learners to write an essay comparing two similar cultural practices from two different regions in our country. This immerses them into their cultural heritage and motivates them to develop research skills. Then, learners present their findings in a written format, promoting intercultural dialogue.

Offer Opportunities for Home Language Use

Our MLEs come to the classroom with rich and varied linguistic resources. An asset-based approach honors the multiple languages our MLEs bring with them and allows them to strategically maximize their linguistic resources in the learning process. 

For instance, last February, I encouraged my learners to write Valentine’s Day letters to their best friends. I gave them permission to incorporate their home language(s) into their letters if that would help them express their emotions better, provided they translated the letters afterwards.

This was an effective contextual approach. Learners used multilingual or code-switching techniques to express themselves more comfortably, sincerely, and authentically. This approach acknowledges and values their linguistic abilities and allows them to showcase the richness of their home language(s) while developing their English writing skills.

Design Culturally Oriented Collaborative Writing Activities

Collaborative writing projects can provide a supportive environment for MLEs to share their cultural perspectives. These activities can involve group discussions, peer editing, or joint writing activities where they work together to create written pieces that reflect their cultural backgrounds. Collaborative writing promotes teamwork, cultural exchange, and mutual learning.

For instance, during a class discussion on customs and beliefs, I asked my learners to work in small groups to discuss their various superstitious beliefs and write them on small notecards. The activity targeted the use of if and the first conditional tense. Learners were divided into small groups of ten or more with mixed cultural backgrounds. Then, each group assembled their various belief notecards into a cultural magazine with the different beliefs. At the end of the activity, we had about 10 to 12 mini-magazines. Finally, groups exchanged their magazines and read aloud the beliefs or superstitions from other groups. Those who could identify with that belief raised their hands. 

This activity is collaborative, educational, and grounded in cultural context. It enables learners to discover other cultures and relate to them. Interestingly, some learners were happy to know that their mates shared the same superstitions as them, thanks to that exercise. 


Incorporating cultural perspectives in writing is essential for MLEs to develop their linguistic abilities, preserve their cultural identities, and foster intercultural understanding. By keeping them closer to their context while writing, educators create an inclusive classroom environment that values diversity and celebrates each learner's origins while developing their English writing skills.

About the author

Abigail Ekangouo Awanga

Abigail Ekangouo Awanga is an English language teacher in a state secondary school on the outskirts of Yaounde, Cameroon. With over 16 years of experience, she has a passion for instructional technology and trains English language teachers on basic digital skills and tools for teaching and for managing communities of practice. She is the founder of ELT Women Cameroon SIG and serves as CAMELTA vice president for international outreach. In her spare time and to encourage literacy, she offers free English lessons for kids in her community as well as English and French language courses for adults in WhatsApp.

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