Publication Details

Burri, M., Mantei, J, & Kervin, L. (2022). “This side is the real world and the other one is like Minecraft”: Using an almost wordless picture book to explore Japanese primary school students’ cultural awareness. Language Teaching for Young Learners, 4(2), 192-214.


English has been introduced as a core subject in primary schools across Asia over the past decade. Besides aiming to improve the English proficiency of Japanese primary school students, Japan’s recent reforms also mandate the development of children’s awareness of cultures other than their own. However, relatively little is known about pedagogical strategies to achieve cultural awareness in the Japanese primary school classroom. The objective of this study was, therefore, to utilize an almost wordless picture book and examine the ways children interpret stories about people from cultures other than their own. This study explored the independent meaning-making practices and processes of six Japanese primary school students as they viewed, without teacher intervention, Mirror, an Australian almost wordless picture book about the daily lives of an Australian and a Moroccan family. Interview and observation data provided insights into the children’s meaning-making processes and the ways they interpreted the messages within the stories that led to a range of understandings and misunderstandings across the cultures. The paper concludes with a discussion about pedagogical implications for supporting the development of cultural awareness, for challenging cultural stereotypes, and for facilitating English language learning processes.



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