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Book suggestions for ESL students
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Renaissance Man

Joined: 03 Apr 2004
Posts: 6
Location: China

PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2004 8:16 pm    Post subject: Further suggestions Reply with quote

I'm young enough that I still remember the material in my high school english courses quite clearly. I'm actually surprised that nobody has mentioned it yet, but "Of Mice and Men" (Another Steinbeck novel) was a thought provoking book that covers interesting themes. What is the opinion of euthanasia in the culture of your students? What could be better for an esl student than a book with adult themes that was first intended to be read by children?
Another recommendation could be the Ender's series by Orson Scott Card. The first book doesn't fulfill the requisite 'adult protagonists' per se, but the rest do, and they're certainly an interesting read. I was glad to study this book instead of Catcher's in the Rye in my grade 11 english course, though deviating from the curriculum got my teacher in trouble Confused
And finally, a couple war novels. The world wars might be a touchy topic in some countries, but 'All Quiet on the Western Front' by Erich Maria Remarque was an interesting study in my grade 12 year. I would recommend Catch 22 as the source of a popular anecdote and an excellent novel aside, but I think it might be a little complex for some ESL students.
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Joined: 07 Jan 2004
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2004 6:52 pm    Post subject: Books Reply with quote

I mentioned Steinbeck in general in my earlier posts. Many of his books would be good, although Of Mice and Men might be a difficult theme for some.

I will look at some of the Orson Scott Card. Thanks for mentioning him.

All Quiet on the Western Front is translated into English. I generally only use primary English material, although I did read this novel once with high school ESL students assigned to it. Catch 22 might be interesting in spite of some of the complexities for certain young adults.

Thanks for your input.[/i]
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Joined: 31 May 2004
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2004 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What genre's are you're students interested in? It might be worth looking into modern theatre for reading material- we read two plays in my French class (No Exit in the lower level and Le Cid in the higher level) and they were very interesting. There's a lot of dialogue in a play, as opposed to a lot of description in a classic book, which might be more accessible to your students.
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Joined: 28 Jun 2004
Posts: 1
Location: Bronx, NY

PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2004 5:12 pm    Post subject: what about graphic novels? Reply with quote

what great suggestions! what was most surprising is that most are books i know well but just hadn't thought of using with ESOL students.

my problem is that i'm presently teaching lower-intermediate level students who need materials far simpler than anything anyone has suggested --- even steinbeck's the pearl or sachar's holes would be far too much for them. i'd really like to find some appropriate graphic novels, but i just can't find any that are easy enough without being ridiculously boring. does anyone know of any...

1. super-simple graphic novels based on classic literature or american history? i know there are plenty of graphic novels/comic books dealing with both these things, but all i've found are beyond my classes.
2. graphic novels that deal with modern-day immigrant life in new york city or the dominican republic? most of my students are dominican and they nearly leap out of their seats with excitement if our activities have anything to do with their immediate experiences.

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Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 533

PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2004 6:19 am    Post subject: No accounting for taste.... Reply with quote

Hey everyone!

One evening back in the '70s I came home from work and my mother, instead of saying hello honey as was her custom, handed me a book and told me not to begin it that evening or I would not go to sleep until I had finished it. I did not heed her advice and around four the next morning I had finished reading Carrie by Steven King.

Naturally, when that book came out, no one knew who SK was. Now-a-days it is easy to be critical of his simplistic writing, but his earlier novels were surprisingly fresh and even ironic. The hedge animals suddenly coming to life and pulling up roots in The Shineing simply astounded me! I've been a SK fan since, though again, reading his novels is usually a beach activity and not a studious one.

On coming to Spain I began reading Spanish translations of his books. I already knew the plot and the ending, so I could concentrate on the language. Setting aside useless horror vocabulary, I did learn a lot of conversational norms from his dialogue. And there is no doubt that with his generous laying on of American Culture, there is plenty of that to be observed and discussed.

It is not "great" liturature like the other pieces mentioned here (I myself would suggest The Little Prince, though it would be translated from French, it's a delightful read!) but if the teacher and the students want a nice break from "heavier" writing, and if they like the genre (very important, that) he also has short stories that don't have anything to do with ghosts and ghoolies: "Stand by Me" (maybe that is only the title of the film based on the story) for example, ah yes, the story was called "The Body".

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Joined: 10 Mar 2003
Posts: 2
Location: Istanbul, Turkey

PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2005 9:26 am    Post subject: Bump Reply with quote

It's an old thread but on a subject dear to my heart so I'll revive it.

In this last session, I used A Separate Peace by John Knowles with my lower advanced students. At first they didn't like it because the first chapters are heavy on description with little action. As the story continued, they got into it. There are several themes that are easy for them to understand and relate to, such as friendship, jealousy, change, coming of age, et cetera. The novel is rich in symbolism so it's important to pick and choose what to focus on. For example, my students are Muslim so I didn't bother with the Christian symbolism although most of them spotted the most obvious ones (like the tree). It's not an easy book but it was a good challenge for my students -- they had some really interesting insights into the characters and the writing style.

Funny that revel mentioned The Body and its film version 'Stand By Me' as I used both with lower intermediate students in another session. The novel was the graded reader version -- not hard for them to understand but they still learned a lot of new vocabulary items from it. I didn't start using the film until we were halfway through the book, then the students were asked to analyze the similarities and differences between them. Why did the writer do this? Why did the director change that? Are the film characters true to the novel? What challenges did the director face in recreating the novel on screen? If you were the author, would you be satisfied with the film? If you were the director, how would you have done that scene differently?

In general, the students liked The Body and found it a nice break from our textbook. Males seemed to like it more than females, although a couple of King fans -- both female -- found it too tame. However, even the ones who weren't all that excited about it really enjoyed the comparative analysis of the film and book. (Everyone is a director at heart.) Next time I teach that class, I might use L.A. Confidential instead. Heck, I might use both if the students are up for it.

By the way, there are two film versions of A Separate Peace that I know of but I haven't seen either of them. Those who've seen the older one made in the 70s tell me it's bad -- not the 'so bad it's funny' kind of bad but the bad kind of bad. No one I've talked to knows about the newer one but I'm trying to find it and see if it's worth using in class.
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Senorita Daniels

Joined: 22 Dec 2004
Posts: 202

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I work mainly with elementary students, and all (native speakers and non-native) love the Harry Potter series. I know, big surprise. A learning disabled student here told me that they were fast reads, and he isn't the best reader. I would also recommend the Chronicals of Narnia, and Little House (to see how people lived a hundred years ago).
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Joined: 16 Mar 2005
Posts: 3
Location: Kunming, Yunnan

PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:12 pm    Post subject: A Great M/C and Contemporary Classic for ESL Reply with quote

Have you read Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street? It is told from the perspective of a young teen, a Latino girl living in the U.S. It is a series of short vignettes, any one of which stands alone as a very short short story, despite being somewhat chronological. The language is mostly accessible. It does have a feminist undertone to it but one need not delve into it with intermediate learners. I've taught it from ESL 7th Grade to A.P. English 12th grade with success. It's a thin volume and available in paperback (and easy to photocopy).
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Joined: 16 Mar 2005
Posts: 3
Location: Kunming, Yunnan

PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:26 pm    Post subject: Rick's Second Thoughts Reply with quote

Some of the titles suggested on this thread would simply not work with the majority of Chinese secondary students I've encountered in numerous cities and provinces. Steinbeck is a good choice and has the added benefit of a moral message. Some of Hemingway's stories in The Nick Adams Stories are accessible, too, partly because of his journalistic prose. Sorry, but I wouldn't recommend Stephen King and I think a lot of boys would get quickly bored with Jane Austen or any of the English Romantics. August Wilson, the African American dramatist, has written a powerful play, Fences, which is accessible to high intermediate learners.

I also recommend Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" from her novel The Joy Luck Club, especially for East Asian students. I've taught it with a favorable response to intermediate learners (senior middle school).
If anyone else has used this story (or chapter from the novel), I'd really like to know, especially if with mainland Chinese students!

Black Like Me is powerful but not timely. One would have to often remind students that this was the situation in the American South nearly half a century ago, not now. A companion volume could be passages from Richard Wright's Black Boy, albeit also dated.

Most students would find the allegory in Animal Farm elusive but if presented as a fable it might work. Orwell's contempt for communism ought not to be ignored, making it problematic to teach in Cuba, China, Zimbabwe, North Korea, etc.[/i]
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Joined: 14 May 2005
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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 10:47 pm    Post subject: novel for high intermed to advanced community college ESL ss Reply with quote

Thank you to alithia for the call for practical experience wrt selecting an appropriate adult protagonist novel!
I'm at that point again, and have to admit - my last two choices were not ideal. First inappropriate choice was Louis Ramirez' Always Running. Students found the explicit language offensive, and were not able to appreciate the man's genius. Second mistake was another wonderful yet inappropriate choice: Frank Chin's Donald Duk. The theme is an important one, but the subject was too young and the vocabulary not relevant to their lives enough to take the time to explain. Colleagues have used, and I have not yet explored: Two Old Women (Wallis) and Kitchen (Yoshimoto). I try to cover the novel in an eighteen week semester. Have duly noted suggestions made here on this board and will check them out. Others are most appreciated!
Your suggestions please!!
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Joined: 17 Apr 2005
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 2:47 am    Post subject: Chinese Students Reply with quote

I use American literature with Chinese students (mainland Chinese) as they tend to be interested in Hemingway, Steinback, Fitzgerald and willing to put time into reading these classics. If I tried Stephen King on them they would rebel. I will try SK on some of my other students. Good idea.
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Joined: 30 Jun 2005
Posts: 5
Location: New York

PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have begin to use some novels by Lois Lowry with my adult high-intermediate students, specifically The Giver and Gathering Blue . They are young adult novels, but deal with sophisticated themes (in fact, I was kind of shocked that they are written for junior high school students.) My students love them. I read one other by Lowry, Number the Stars, about a young girl in Denmark during the Holocaust (a la Anne Frank, but much shorter and simpler) that would be great for a lower level. I have also taught The Old Man and the Sea and the students were bored stiff! I think there is a lot of young adult literature out there with contemporary themes that can be really great for use with adults.
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j Stevens

Joined: 03 Nov 2005
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2005 3:56 pm    Post subject: Audio For the Classroom Reply with quote

I found this site (which I did buy some material) and the students found it interesting. Some Stories are a bit long but it's a great introduction to classic novels and mystery in general

Old Time Radio Plays from the Golden Age of Radio Drama originally broadcast on CBC Radio.
Mystery & Adventure Theatre, Classic Old Time Radio Plays, World War 2 Audio Books & Historical Radio Dramas. Great material
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michael drummond

Joined: 24 Jun 2006
Posts: 12
Location: Asia

PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 6:44 am    Post subject: teaching resource for mid level to established students Reply with quote


I would like to bring to everyone's attention a very interesting and powerful resource:

What you will find is that they present a discussion of current social topics with the complete transcript in the same page.

On this site on the homepage, look on hte left column that says 'archives' and then click on 'browse archives by date'. Once there, click, for example, on May 2006, then click on Headlines for May 31, 2006. You will then find that the day's news is read with all the transcripts below...

This site's host is Amy Goodman. Her pronunciation of English is slow, clear and perfect for more advanced students...

The site is full of these transcripts and video files. I would greatly appreciate any feedback on the use of this resource.

Best regards.

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Joined: 07 Jul 2006
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2006 1:30 am    Post subject: What Level and Age Group are You Teaching? Reply with quote

Unless I missed it, you haven't indicated the age and language level of students you are teaching. That would help to steer you in the right direction. I am a specialist in teaching literature in EFL, if it helps to know.
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