Australian-themed resources

Today’s post will be of interest to anyone wanting to learn something about Australia. If you are a teacher who would like to introduce your students to some aspects of Australian culture or have students interested in visiting Australia, stay tuned for ideas on engaging Aussie-themed classes. If you are a student of English, feel free to take on the activities in the PDFs to learn a few quirky facts about the fascinating land Down Under.

But first things first, why should we teach and learn about culture? Let’s face it, there is so much more to learning a language than memorising grammar rules and vocabulary lists. In fact, you can’t learn a language without learning about the culture it originated from and understanding the cultural background. By expanding our knowledge of culture we begin to understand context and can really live the language we are trying to learn. Learning a foreign language outside its cultural environment is a very artificial and ineffective process.

To give an example, imagine trying to learn about small talk without understanding the importance of small talk in English speaking countries. It would be futile and frustrating. Another example would be learning ways to express ideas indirectly or learning polite phrases when you come from a country where people don’t beat about the bush and get down to business straight away. Being culture-savvy helps us understand the reasons particular phrases are used and, in turn, apply the language better in practice. Raising cultural awareness should go hand in hand with developing linguistic competence as one does not exist without the other.

And apart from everything else, learning about other cultures is like a travel experience. It broadens our horizons and adds flavour to learning – just one more reason why it’s worth incorporating culture-related content into your classroom.

Here are 5 ideas for lessons centred around Australia that will give you an insight into the culture of this riveting country.

1. Australian trivia quiz

Here’s a great introduction to a lesson about Australia – Australian trivia quiz – which will allow you to test your students’ existing knowledge of the land Down Under and help them learn a few new things too. If you are teaching group classes, this quiz can be turned into a super fun whole class competition. Simply divide your class into teams and either project the quiz or distribute paper copies and let the students rack their brains. Make sure the students’ phones are not in use and think of a prize you can offer to the winners at the end. This quiz is available as an interactive quiz here (together with a printer-friendly PDF and the answer sheet):

Australian trivia quiz – Three Wise Kangaroos

But if you’re looking for something more visually-appealing, here’s a more vibrant worksheet:

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2. Aussie lingo

Aussie lingo – the variety of English preferred by many users of the language here – is such a fascinating topic that I devoted an entire post to it. You can read it here:

Aussie lingo – Three Wise Kangaroos

The bottom line of the article was that Australians love their diminutives and use them profusely and this reflects the wider philosophy of the nation- don’t overcomplicate life. This quiz is a great way of testing your students ability to predict meaning and create cultural references. The focus of this activity is the colloquial language used in Oz, but you will also find references to places and items that are an important part of lifestyle here:

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3. Australian icons

This is a great activity for introducing the students to staples of Australian culture- its flora and fauna, its sports legends, famous actors and musicians, iconic locations and more. It can be executed as a general knowledge quiz if you’re confident your students are capable of answering at least some of the questions or as a do-your-own-research kind of activity- allowing the students the pleasure of self-discovery.

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4. Small talk

Being able to makesmall talk is an important skill across English-speaking countries but it is particularly vital in Australia where everybody speaks to everybody all the time. I’ve elaborated on this in a separate post:

Small talk Down Under – Three Wise Kangaroos

Here’s a great copy that will allow you to have a cheeky sneak peek into the conversations that happen Down Under and an idea for how to practise small talk further. Simply do the matching activities from page 1 and 2. As a follow- up, cut up the cards on page 2 and distribute the Australian words among your students. Roleplay a class reunion at an imaginary time and place – say 2033 Perth, Western Australia,  and let your students put their small talk skills to a test.

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5. Immersion challenge

I am lucky enough to be teaching English in a place where it is spoken as the first language and I frequently take advantage of that by assigning an immersion challenge for my students. They enjoy being taken on little excursions around the city and testing their language skills in real life. If you are teaching English in Perth, Western Australia, help yourselves to this immersion challenge I’ve put together. If you are teaching English in another English-speaking place, use it as an inspiration for your own immersion challenge ideas. And even if you’re based in a non English-speaking country, you will still find places where people speak English (tourist information centre, museums, public transport office) and assign similar tasks. Who said learning only happens in the classroom?

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I hope you find these resources of use. Feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to see similar resources appear on in the future or for any other queries and comments you might have.

Happy teaching!