I wanted to report back about my efforts to use non fiction texts with adult English Language Learners. Our attempts to use the latest technology were a total failure. Nonetheless, I figured out a way to do what I really wanted to do in the first place: use actual books.
I went to my library and found that I could indeed request multiple copies of books, as if for a local book group, if I gave them a couple of weeks notice. I also realized that asking my students to try to borrow a copy of a book was an excellent way of introducing them to their local library, practice their English a bit, and learn how to borrow a book.
I used a few different nf picture books and they were largely successful. One book that everyone enjoyed was, “Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds” by Paula Yoo. I think this worked for several reasons. It was at a reading level that was comfortable for the class, the subject matter of Korean-American was interesting to the students, and there were multiple themes to explore including discrimination, work-ethic, the history of the Olympics, and heroes. I even asked them to guess what the title meant. One of my third grade students had reasoned it out really well, but no such luck in this class. Go ahead and guess in the comments if you are up to the challenge!
I was surprised at how much these same students enjoyed Barbara Cooney’s, “Eleanor.” Although the language was a bit difficult for them, they muddled through, asked questions and really got an understanding of Eleanor Roosevelt’s early life. There was much to discuss here from her mother using the insult of “granny” to her lineage and family relationship with Teddy Roosevelt. We had an interesting discussion on respecting elders, family affection, and even alcoholism.
I’m keeping track of the books I’ve used and have already added a few possibilities to the list. Two of my students told me that they’ve enjoyed the books and have learned a lot. One went to the Museum of Modern Art to see some Matisse paintings we had read about. Mission accomplished; one reader at a time.