Teach English in JiAng'An Zhen - Nantong Shi

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Over time, storytelling has cemented itself as an integral part of the human experience, with stories carrying the culture, morals, and histories of a given people, allowing future generations to understand the thoughts and ideas of their ancestors. In order to teach young children English, parents bring out books and stories, sitting together to sound out words and create an understanding of the meaning behind the text. By teaching children to read, we are able to explain vocabulary and grammar alongside culture and moral lessons, showcasing that the value in learning to read lies in the language itself, in the creation of grammatical examples/examination beside cultural understanding. Therefore, when teaching ESL classes, it’s essential to instill the value of reading in your students, creating a subsection within each lesson in which reading and storytelling can reside by creating an opportunity for students – whether they are beginners or advanced learners, children or adults – to expand their vocabulary and understanding of the English culture through stories and books, utilizing texts ranging from fairy tales to classic short stories and poems. For students whose English language capabilities are on a beginner’s level, fairy tales pose the best choice for teaching reading and English stories. Fairy tales are simple to read and understand, utilizing basic vocabulary and grammatical structures to teach lessons that are easy to comprehend and translate. Not to mention, fairy tales transcend geographical and linguistic barriers, with many of the same stories being translated and re-imagined to be taught to children all over the world in every language imaginable. This means that the stories’ central concepts will not be foreign to the students’ as they will have a basis of comparison within their own native language and culture. For example, if a teacher were to introduce “Cinderella” to a classroom of Chinese students, they would be familiar with the tale of “Ye Xian” (the Chinese equivalent to the European “Cinderella” story). While a teacher may not want to introduce a native fairy tale to an ESL class, the fact that the European version would be recognizable offers two major pros: 1. The students would already know the story, leaving more room for vocabulary and grammar analysis rather than intense concentration on the plot; 2. Because fairy tales are simplistic in nature, they are easy to understand and comprehend - this will help raise the confidence of beginner level students. Not to mention, the vast history of fairy tales allows for extensive amounts of texts and materials, which can be printed off from online and handed to the students either as a portion of a lesson (if it’s a short fairy tale) or given as homework/take home material. Fairy tales are also perfect regardless of the students’ age – while they may seem childish in nature, adult readers can experience a sense of nostalgia when reading the stories from their childhood. The moral lessons provided in fairy tales hold no age specifications, but rather are relatable regardless of age. For more advanced students, ESL instructors can introduce more complicated texts, like classical European short stories and poetry. One option would be introducing the works of writers like Edgar Allen Poe, who utilize more complicated vernacular but still remain relatively simple to understand. Having a class read the narrative “The Raven” would be a viable lesson option – the language includes more complicated words like “lore,” “surcease,” and “beguiling,” but also utilizes a repetitive and simple syntactic structure (i.e. the famous line repeated throughout the poem “Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore’”). If Poe isn’t the best option for a specific class, instructors can also look at classic European short stories to include in a longer lesson surrounding English literature, bringing in famous texts like Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” or Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” The specific story will depend primarily on the language level of the class and the time devoted to the readings, but there are copious amounts of classic English stories and poetry available online for teachers to use. Some will be more complex than others, providing differing levels of grammar and vocabulary. Including a short story or poem in every few lessons will greatly aid in the students’ vocabulary intake and syntactic examination and understanding. These stories will be more applicable for advanced classes of university age and adult students. The importance of reading is commonly instilled in students’ when they are young, whether it’s from nightly bedtime stories or daily reading comprehension classwork. While this integration into reading commonly occurs in the child’s native language, it’s important for ESL instructors to continue to instill the importance of reading by integrating English texts into class lessons. Due to the increase in websites offering free copies of English readings, finding available fairy tales, short stories, and poems in English should be of no difficulty. Whether an instructor is providing texts for beginner level children’s classes or advanced adult learners, instructors should have no problem finding suitable texts for any classroom.