A big "thank you" to Dr. Barbara Schmidt-Rinehart, Ashland University, for the original idea for this lesson.

Teacher: Jean LeLoup

E-Mail: leloupj@cortland.edu

School: SUNY Cortland

Lesson Title: "United Statesian" cultural symbols:  McDonald's

Topic: Meal taking/food/drink: fast food

Language: English/ESL

Skills Targeted: Listening, Speaking, Writing, Culture

Model: Culture - 3 Ps

Class Level: HS III, College Intermediate, Adult learners
1.1  Interpersonal Communication 
1.3  Presentational Communication 
2.1  Cultural Practices and Perspectives 
2.2  Cultural Products and Perspectives
4.2  Cultural Comparisons

1.1  SWBAT discuss cultural products, practices, and perspectives related to the topic of meal taking/food/drink in pairs or small groups.
1.3 SWBAT write an explanation of one cultural product and/or practice and then present/explain the perspective to their peers.
4.1  Students will learn to use direct objects with affirmative and negative commands.
2.2 SWBAT identify cultural symbols (products) related to the topic of meal taking/food/drink in the TL culture as well as their own.
2.1 SWBAT identify cultural practices related to these symbols in the TL culture as well as their own.
2.1/2.2 SWBAT identify and explain at least one perspective underlying each cultural product and practice.
4.2 SWBAT compare and contrast products, practices, and perspectives related to the topic of meal taking/food/drink in the TL culture and their own.

McDonald’s coffee cup (real life or photo)


Set the stage

  1. Ask students what a cultural symbol is – generate defining characteristics and/or a class definition.  Put these on the overhead (OH) or on the board.
  2. Brainstorm a few cultural symbols of the TL culture (here, U. S.) with the class as a whole—write on the board. Ask students for 1-2 meaningful symbols from their own culture. Note these as well on the board.
  3. Narrow the focus to meal taking/food/drink and repeat #1.

Cultural Products and Practices

  1. Show the class a Styrofoam coffee cup from McDonald’s (have the real thing or use a photo).
  2. In pairs or small groups, brainstorm and generate as many words as possible related to this one cultural product/symbol. Some may be nouns identifying other products and practices, some words may be adjectives or verbs.
  3. Have each group report to the class; make a list of all words on the board or OH; eliminate duplications.
  4. Make sure all students understand each entry in terms of vocabulary. If necessary, have the contributing group explain briefly what they meant by any word or idea that is not clear to the rest of their peers.
  5. A sample list can be found here.

Cultural Perspectives

  1. Go through the list, discussing each entry.  Identify it as a product or practice, if appropriate.
  2. Then, ask students to identify what they think is the perspective underlying each entry.  If they do not know, the teacher can elaborate or students can research this for homework.
  3. This activity can be done in small groups or pairs first, w/entries divided up among the groups.  Alternatively, this can be a whole class discussion, depending on the number of students, the level of TL proficiency, etc.
  4. Continue the discussion until all the products and practices have been clarified and the perspective(s) underlying each have been explained.

Cultural Comparisons

  1. Have each student identify a cultural symbol/product related to the topic of meal taking/food/drink from the L1 culture.
  2. Next, the student selects a product or practice from the list generated by the McDonald’s coffee cup discussion.
  3. The student writes a paragraph on these two products and/or practices, with their concomitant perspectives, comparing and contrasting them.  The student may also wish to use a chart or a Venn diagram as a vehicle for comparison.
  4. The student presents this cultural comparison to the class.
  5. The student turns in the written comparison to the instructor.

Various products, practices, and perspectives relating to McDonald’s and then to the L1 cultural symbol.

Overhead projector, Elmo for recording/displaying brainstorming ideas and for student presentation

Copyright © 2004 Jean W. LeLoup


McDonald’s coffee cup (sample list of brainstorm ideas)

  1. fast food
  2. comforting
  3. Ronald McDonald (charity)
  4. disposable
  5. ecology -> styrofoam
  6. trash
  7. stability: sameness; dependability
  8. cheap
  9. coffee – great taste
  10. drive-through
  11. eat on the run; mealtimes; on the go; lifestyle
  12. law suit: suing for hot coffee
  13. supersize
  14. golden arches
  15. McDonald’s -> a national symbol
  16. fashionable in other countries but expensive
  17. workers: labor, wages, age
  18. American imperialism

Copyright © 2004 Jean W. LeLoup