Lesson plan: Integrating Critical Thinking into the Exploration of Culture in an EFL Setting

Lesson plan: Integrating Critical Thinking into the Exploration of Culture in an EFL Setting

This is based on a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) that I had recently enrolled during the past weekend. 

Description from the website (This course will be active from June 1 – August 24, 2020):

This MOOC is provided by World Learning, as part of the American English (AE) E-Teacher Program. This program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by FHI 360.

This MOOC presents participants with a working definition of culture and tools for analyzing, understanding, and negotiating differences between cultures. Participants explore what critical thinking is and why it is necessary for the development of intercultural competence. With a view toward preparing teachers to implement culture and critical thinking lessons into their current teaching contexts, participants of this MOOC will explore activities for teaching and evaluating culture and critical thinking.

Here is my certificate of completion:

It attracted my attention particularly because with the massive online anti-racist campaign that’s been going on in light of the George Floyd murder incident, as an educator, I think I have a duty to teach my students about different cultures and how to think critically about them. This will thus result in empathy and tolerance.

Although this MOOC targets on teaching EFL students, the methods taught in the course are also suitable for ESL students. In Malaysia, the new syllabus for English textbook that we use is based on the context of United Kingdom. So, there are a lot of materials in the textbook that can be used to integrate critical thinking into the exploration of culture.

I do not think that we Malaysian English teachers should be complaining about how the textbooks don’t include local Malaysian context where it is difficult for our students to relate. It’s a valid complaint but we just have to make do with what we have now. So, how about we use this opportunity to teach students about other cultures? 

This MOOC has given me guidance on how to go about teaching my students abut different cultures and apply critical thinking into the activities.

Below is a lesson plan that I have written based on what the MOOC has taught me. I have yet to apply it into my classroom as school has not reopened (at the time of writing this). However, I will update on my reflection once I am able to implement this in my classroom. 


Time: 2 hours


1. 5 articles of different cultures.

2. Mahjong-papers

3. Marker pens


1. Students will be able to list down their own culture based on surface culture, sub-surface culture, and deep culture.

2. Students will be able to identify differences and similarities between their culture and the culture that they have presented.

3. Students will be able to present what elements of culture that they have found in the article.

4. Students will be able to reflect on 


1. Teacher briefly explains what surface culture and deep culture means.

2. Teacher draws an iceberg on the whiteboard and separates the iceberg into 3 sections – surface culture, sub-culture and deep-culture.

3. Teacher gives one example of Malaysian culture for each section of the iceberg.

4. Teacher selects a few students to give their own ideas for each section and write their responses on the board. 

5. Teacher divides students into groups of 5.

6. Every group will receive an article of different cultures (look for 5 different articles that elaborates on the cultures of 5 different countries).

7. Teacher hands out mah-jong papers and marker pens to every group.

8. Every group will discuss and identify which ones are surface culture and deep culture and compare them with Malaysian culture.

9. Every group will write their findings together with the cultural iceberg and have it labeled surface culture and deep culture.

10. Every group will present their findings in front of the class.

11. Other group members will take notes of other group’s presentations.

12. Teacher asks students to reflect on what they have learned today and write it on their exercise book based on these questions:

a) What is the primary difference that you have identified in the culture that you have studied?

b) What do you think about it as an outsider? 

c) Imagine if you are a part of the culture, what do you think about it?

d) What is the primary similarity that you have identified in the culture that you have studied?

e) What do you think about it?

f) What do you think about it as an outsider? 

g) Imagine if you are a part of the culture, what do you think about it?

13. Teacher checks students’ work and gives comments.

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