When I teach English Language students, kids or adults, I find a way to use non fiction children’s books. It’s certainly not part of any curriculum I’ve read about and it hasn’t been an easy thing to do. Nonetheless, I can be somewhat creative and, some might say, a wee bit obsessive in my dual desire to enrich my students lives with some American history and culture and not bore myself silly.
If you have ever read any ESL texts you’d understand. I searched long and hard for a textbook that didn’t put me to sleep and I finally found one about the history of America that’s not half bad. It’s the other half that can be really painful. So I often bring in I.N.K. books to supplement what we’re talking about or take us in a new direction entirely.
The tastes and appreciation of the adults can be much different than for kid readers. For instance, funny I.N.K. books don’t work—their English isn’t strong enough to understand the puns or nonsensical rhymes so these jokes, which kids adore, fall flat. On the other hand, a book about Lincoln’s funeral train which had pretty much bombed with kids actually worked well with the adults. They were interested in trying to understand the concept of a “country in mourning” including what people would wear and how they would show their respect. It also fit well with our ongoing geography study as we followed the train through many states to to its final destination in Springfield, Illinois.
But, as many of you know, using non fiction texts in a classroom setting has other challenges. Xeroxing copies of the text for all students are costly and individual books costlier still. Holding up one book doesn’t work well when you need to read and reread, go slowly, and work through the meaning of unfamiliar words. When I worked at a local elementary school, the school librarian used the SMART board and it’s magnifying feature to great success. The librarian stood and faced the students with the book in front of her, her back to the screen. They could see the images from the book, both text and pictures, on the large SMART board screen in front of them. A large percentage of the kids seemed engaged as they could all see the images and read along. Alas, we don’t all have SMART boards.
But hope and innovation are in the air! My director has an exciting idea that I really hope will work. She thinks that we might be able to use a NOOK or a KINDLE to download a book and then present it, through a laptop and onto a white board, to the class. She knows very little about these products and I know even less so we’re not sure if it will work. But she’s willing to give it a try and I’m very appreciative of the chance to try to make this work. And when we figure it out, she wants to sit in on the class. I.N.K. books have a way of drawing people in and spreading the knowledge. So we’ll see if it will fly. And then, hopefully, we’ll see what happens next.