While clearing out my cupboards, I came upon an old boxed set of classic books that I had bought for my children when they were younger. Rather than putting them into the donation bin, I thought they might come in handy in my level 3 LINC class. As it turned out, I found them to be quite a useful tool in the classroom.
I focused in on one particular student (I will refer to him as John) who I felt was just about ready to be promoted to level 4, with the minor exception of a weakness in his reading skills. He was an excellent, hard-working student, but he was lacking confidence in his own abilities.
I suggested that he take home one of these books and read a little each evening. The books are small, about 4 inches by 5 inches, and about an inch thick, with brightly coloured illustrations on the covers – not very intimidating looking. They are adapted for children from classics written by the likes of Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, etc. The print is fairly large, which is perfect for older students with vision issues.
My student selected the novel Huckleberry Finn and proceeded to do as I had asked. As we all do with such things as New Year’s resolutions, etc., he started out well, but interest waned as he continuously came upon words he didn’t understand.
I suggested he bring me a list of words each morning that he had had trouble with the evening before. It is difficult to spend time with just one student without ignoring the others, so we turned this into a morning vocabulary exercise for the class. As this stirred up some interest about the book from the other students, I decided to have John give a little summary to the class each morning after we had discussed the vocabulary.
To my delight, the mornings have become more and more interesting, with the students very curious about the continuing adventures of Huckleberry. They look forward to it with anticipation. I have to admit that I too am finding the mornings to be quite entertaining, as I have never read that particular classic.
I believe that this exercise has enhanced John’s confidence in reading and speaking. He seems quite proud of himself when the other students are captivated by his storytelling. Not only is John benefiting from this, but the other students are also learning vocabulary, practicing their listening skills, and asking questions out of interest. Some students have asked to take books home. I have turned my boxed set of books into a little classroom library. Amazingly, students are now bringing in books that they have at home to share with each other. I never expected this venture to blossom as it has.
Unfortunately for me and the rest of the class, John is ready to move to the level 4 class, and he hasn’t finished the book yet. I am thinking of inviting him back as a guest speaker to bring us up to the end of the story.
Maureen Sullivan has been teaching for over thirty years. Prior to teaching ESL, she worked with special needs clients and young offenders. Currently, she teaches with the TDSB at Civic Centre LINC in Etobicoke.