American Ways has been used all over the world for more than 30 years. It looks at traditional American cultural values, how they developed historically, and how they have affected life in the United States.
Many people today are talking about American values and asking important questions:
- What are American values?
- What is happening to traditional values in the United States today?
- What do Americans believe now?
- Why do immigrants want to come to the United States?
- What values are new immigrants bringing to the country and what effect will this have?
American Ways Audio Recordings
Language Analyzed in American Ways Chapter Readings
The reading material in each chapter has been analyzed by comparing it to both the Academic Word List (AWL) and the 2,000 Most Frequent Word Family List. The language analyzer shows the reading in different colors for the 2,000 most common words in English, the AWL words, and the off-list words that do not appear on the other lists:
- The first 1,000 most common words are shown in blue
- The second 1,000 most common words are shown in green
- The AWL words are shown in yellow
- Off-list words are shown in red or pink
The analysis also gives the number and percentages for each type of vocabulary item. Our analysis shows that 90-96% of all the vocabulary in American Ways readings is either from first 2,000 most common word list or from the Academic Word List. The AWL words make up between 5-7% and the off-list words (words that are neither first 2,000 words nor AWL) average 6.6% per chapter. Names and nationalities fall into the off-list category.
The percentages of 2,000, AWL, and off-list words are remarkably constant throughout the readings, so the reading level is very consistent. The grammar used in American Ways has not been controlled, but there is an attempt to avoid overly long and complicated sentences.
This language analysis is important because it allows us to tightly control the vocabulary and carefully construct vocabulary exercises.
Vocabulary words used in exercises (1) are from the Academic Word List or (2) are important to the context of the reading and are useful to know for academic reading in general. Words from the 2,000 most common words are generally not used in vocabulary exercises.
We are making this language analysis of all the chapters of American Ways available online and so that you can see the frequency and context of the AWL and other key words that were used in the readings and the vocabulary exercises. We hope that you will find this valuable.
Sample Maryanne’s Teacher Lesson Plans
Sample #1: What do you mean, Culture?
August 21, 2014 by Maryanne Datesman
What do you think of when someone says they are going to talk about the “culture” of a country? Do you think of art, classical music, ballet, and literature? Or do you think about food, hip-hop music, Halloween costumes, and the latest fashion trend?
Well, these are all definitely interesting aspects of culture.
When we started writing about American culture, the first thing we had to decide was where to start. We were using a sociological definition of culture as the way of life of a group of people, developed over time, and passed down from generation to generation. This is a broad definition that really includes every aspect of human life and interaction. Describing all that would be impossible! So, again, where to start?
We started with an iceberg. READ MARYANNE’S FULL BLOG POST
SAMPLE 1 – Lesson Plan for “What do you mean… Culture?”
- ESL Advanced Level (Use with American Ways Chapters 1 and 2)
- High School American English
- American History
- American Civics
- Cross Cultural Communication
Note: The Teacher’s Manual with Answer Key Online for American Ways: An Introduction to American Culture, Fourth Edition, has a section discussing teaching American Culture in the Language Classroom.
Have students preview the blog. Ask them to predict what it’s about. Have the students tell you all the things that “culture” can mean and write them on the board.
Introduce Edward Hall’s Cultural Iceberg. Draw an iceberg on the board and label it as follows:
- The part above the water = Behavior
- At the surface of the water = Beliefs
- Under the water (largest part) = Values and Thought Patterns
Here is a good explanation.
Have the students decide where the items written on the board would fit on the iceberg. Ask them why the larger portion of a culture hidden below the surface could cause conflict. Have them scan the blog to find the explanation of Hall’s iceberg and a quote. Mention that a longer quote such as this is in italics, rather than in quotation marks. Have them scan the blog to find the John Zogby quotation.
Play the Shapes Game. (See the Handout, Podcast, and Description of the Shapes Game at the bottom of this page.)
- Have you ever felt like an outsider? Why? Describe what happened and how you handled the situation.
- What do you think most Americans believe in? What would you say their values are?
- Which is more troublesome about another culture—the values and beliefs, or the behavior? Why? Which is more important?
Note: The Teacher’s Manual with Answer Key Online for American Ways: An Introduction to American Culture, Fourth Edition, has a section discussing teaching American Culture in the Language Classroom, pp. 1-3.
If you are using American Ways, you may want to have the students do the People Watching exercise on pages 20-21 sometime after the students read the blog.
Questions for Comprehension and Discussion:
- Who is Edward T. Hall?
- The blogger is also one of the authors of American Ways: An Introduction to American Culture. Why does she say that the authors started with an iceberg when they began writing the book?
- Why is it important to understand the beliefs, values, and the thought patterns of a culture?
- The author says these values are “subjective,” largely “unconscious,” and learned “implicitly.” What is the opposite of subjective, unconscious, and implicitly? Restate those concepts in your own words.
- Do you agree with Hall that culture hides more than it reveals and that people often lack a true understanding of their own culture? Why?
- How would getting to know the culture of another country help us better understand our own?
- What does the author say is the “cultural engine” of the United States? What does that mean?
- What are the six basic traditional American values? Where did they come from historically and how are they related?
- Why does the author believe that these values are important?
- What do you think is the difference between moral values and cultural values?
- What is “culture shock”? Have you ever experienced it yourself, or do you know of someone who has? Tell about it.
- What do you think are the most important cultural values of your country? How do these values affect your identity?
- Listen to the Interview with Maryanne Datesman. You can follow along with the transcript of the interview as you listen.
Play the game Baffa Baffa. Click here for a version provided by Education for Peace. Visit their site to find other cultural games.
Here’s another source for Baffa Baffa.
Lesson Plan – Copyright © Maryanne Datesman 2014
Sample #2: Suffering from Women’s Suffrage
September 25, 2014 by Maryanne Datesman
Trying to persuade women how best to cast their ballots has been going on for a long time. Here’s a story about a husband’s effort to direct his wife and daughters how to vote 100 years ago:
“The Votes He Influenced” The Youth’s Companion, September 24, 1914, p. 500
An Eastern man, who a few years ago moved his business and family to a Western state, recently told an amusing story against himself to a visiting friend.
He is of a decidedly conservative temperament, and before long found himself engaged actively in politics, especially in opposition to woman suffrage; which, however, much to his disgust, his new state adopted. His wife and daughters, who had always passively accepted his views, also lamented their new privilege, which, in deference to the feelings and convictions of the head of the family, they did not at first intend to exercise.
It was he who finally persuaded them to do so. READ MARYANNE’S FULL BLOG POST
SAMPLE 2 – Maryanne’s Lesson Plan for “Suffering from Women’s Suffrage”
- ESL Advanced Level (Use with American Ways Chapters 4, 7, 11, and 12)
- High School American English
- American History
Have students preview the blog. Ask them to predict what it’s about.
Point out the use of italics: italics differentiate between the article (quoted) from The Youth’s Companion and the commentary.
Have students work in pairs or small groups to answer questions before and after reading the blog.
- What is women’s suffrage? What do you know about suffrage laws?
- Do you vote in elections? How have people tried to influence you to vote?
- Has a family member ever tried to persuade you to vote for a candidate they were supporting? If one of your parents tried to tell you who to vote for, what would you do?
- What attracts you to a political candidate? Do you favor a particular political party?
- What do you think of political ads? What effect do negative ads have?
Before you read the blog, learn more about voting rights in the United States. Use the chart below and scan the reading to find answers to these questions:
- What is the 19th Amendment? When was it passed?
- Were any women permitted to vote before the 19th Amendment?
- In what part of the country are most of the states where women could not vote before the passage of the 19th Amendment?
- Who determined whether or not women could vote—states, or the national government?
If you are using American Ways: An Introduction to American Culture, take a look at the chapter on Government and Politics. Look at the maps on pages 162 and 163 that indicate where people today are most conservative. Compare those maps with the one above. What do you conclude?
Questions for Comprehension and Discussion:
- Was the father opposed to women’s suffrage? Why did he decide to persuade his wife and four daughters to vote?
- How did his wife respond to his efforts to prepare them to vote and educate them about politics?
- How did he learn that his wife and daughters had voted against his candidate?
- The father protests that his wife and daughters should have told him they weren’t going to vote his way. He says there are three things he could have done if he had known. What answer does the wife give for each protest?
- Now that his wife and daughters have voted, what are they going to do in future elections? Why do you think they are planning that?
- How does the blogger make the transition from the story to a discussion of women’s voting rights?
- How many years was this article in Youth’s Companion published before the 19th Amendment was passed? Read about how an amendment is passed.
- What two arguments against the passage of women’s suffrage does the wife mention to her husband? In what part of the country was there the most acceptance of women’s right to vote? In what part was there the least?
- Who got the right to vote first in the United States—African-American men, or all women?
- In 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, could women vote?
- When did the women’s suffrage movement in the United States begin? Who were two of its most important leaders? As reformers, why did they decide to concentrate on getting voting rights for women?
- How important are women voters today? What evidence is there of that?
- What is the status of women’s voting rights around the world today?
- Make sure you know these words associated with politics: party, cast a ballot, vote, suffrage, politics, politician, candidate, election, polls, campaign literature, eligible to vote
- If you were giving a speech urging a country’s leaders to give voting rights to women, what would you say?
Listen to our podcast “How to get the vote out,” an interview with Don Friedman, a political consultant located in Pittsburg, PA.
Lesson Plan – Copyright © Maryanne K. Datesman 2014