Holiday Hiatus

Hey all! I finally finished up my fall semester, and am enjoying a well-deserved winter break! Because I’m on break and traveling for the holidays, I won’t be posting anything until I’m back in the office on January 9th.

If you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, a happy New Year, and a relaxing break from teaching! Cheers!

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

19351043Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit. (Description from Goodreads)

Topics: identity, friendship, heroes, villains

Suggested Age Level (Native Speakers): Meant for young adult readers, but lexical analysis shows that this books is acceptable for a 5th grade reading leve

Suggested ESL Level: This book would be good for an intermediate class, and because it’s a graphic novel, it is a fairly quick and easy read. It would be good to read this book in the first half of a semester to get students interested in reading in English, and then transition to a traditional novel.

This Guide: This guide is divided into five sections, and further divided into chapters within those sections. This guide contains suggested vocabulary, comprehension questions, and writing/discussion questions.

Amazon | Goodreads

Nimona was a very fun, interesting read. The first few chapters are short and quirky – they’re fun and adventurous. However, the more you read, the story gets darker and more complicated. ESL students will like the action and readability of Nimona (lexical analysis shows that roughly 87% of the words are K1 words), and advanced students will benefit from analyzing the themes of good vs. evil and hero vs. villain found within this graphic novel.

Click here to purchase Nimona: An ESL Teaching Guide


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Book Theme: Hurricane Katrina

Though it’s been over ten years since Hurricane Katrina, many Americans are still dealing with the after-effects of this event. While most ESL students will probably not be too familiar with the details of Hurricane Katrina, these books are bound to generate some worthwhile discussions in your class. All of these books are related in some way to Hurricane Katrina. All descriptions are from Goodreads, and the books are all middle-grade novels (I tried to find some young adult novels for more advanced readers, but no luck!).

7118768Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane–Katrina–fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

Ninth Ward is a deeply emotional story about transformation and a celebration of resilience, friendship, and family–as only love can define it.


17815784Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

Armani Curtis can think about only one thing: her tenth birthday. All her friends are coming to her party, her mama is making a big cake, and she has a good feeling about a certain wrapped box. Turning ten is a big deal to Armani. It means she’s older, wiser, more responsible. But when Hurricane Katrina hits the Lower Nines of New Orleans, Armani realizes that being ten means being brave, watching loved ones die, and mustering all her strength to help her family weather the storm.

A powerful story of courage and survival, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere celebrates the miraculous power of hope and love in the face of the unthinkable.


18222549Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick

Newbery Honor author Rodman Philbrick presents a gripping yet poignant novel about a 12-year-old boy and his dog who become trapped in New Orleans during the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.

Zane Dupree is a charismatic 12-year-old boy of mixed race visiting a relative in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hits. Unexpectedly separated from all family, Zane and his dog experience the terror of Katrina’s wind, rain, and horrific flooding. Facing death, they are rescued from an attic air vent by a kind, elderly musician and a scrappy young girl–both African American. The chaos that ensues as storm water drowns the city, shelter and food vanish, and police contribute to a dangerous, frightening atmosphere, creates a page-turning tale that completely engrosses the reader. Based on the facts of the worst hurricane disaster in U.S. history, Philbrick includes the lawlessness and lack of government support during the disaster as well as the generosity and courage of those who risked their lives and safety to help others. Here is an unforgettable novel of heroism in the face of truly challenging circumstances.


23395689Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith

In this stunning debut novel, two very different characters—a black boy who loses his home in Hurricane Katrina and a white boy in Vermont who loses his best friend in a tragic accident—come together to find healing.

A hurricane, a tragic death, two boys, one marble. How they intertwine is at the heart of this beautiful, poignant book. When ten-year-old Zavion loses his home in Hurricane Katrina, he and his father are forced to flee to Baton Rouge. And when Henry, a ten-year-old boy in northern Vermont, tragically loses his best friend, Wayne, he flees to ravaged New Orleans to help with hurricane relief efforts—and to search for a marble that was in the pocket of a pair of jeans donated to the Red Cross.

Rich with imagery and crackling with hope, this is the unforgettable story of how lives connect in unexpected, even magical, ways.


15377798Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick

Reesie Boone just knows that thirteen is going to be her best year yet—this will be the year she makes her very first fashion design on her Ma Maw’s sewing machine. She’ll skip down the streets of New Orleans with her best friends, Ayanna and Orlando, and everyone will look at her in admiration.

But on Reesie’s birthday, everything changes. Hurricane Katrina hits her city. Stranded at home alone, Reesie takes refuge with her elderly neighbor, Miss Martine. The waters rise. They escape in a boat. And soon Reesie is reunited with her family. But her journey back home has only begun.

This is a story of a family putting itself back together, and a young girl learning to find herself.


Thanks for reading Book-Theme Tuesday. Have a great day!

Current Events Round-Up: 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

Last Wednesday was the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Not only did this attack result in America’s involvement in WWII, but it also resulted in a wave of anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States. This lead to thousands of Japanese around the United States being put in internment camps, and with the current anti-Muslim feelings around the country, as well as the idea of a national registry for Muslims, I thought it would be worthwhile for ESL students to analyze how this historical event relates to the current political climate.

If you teach an intermediate class, you could just stick to looking at Pearl Harbor from a purely historical standpoint – what happened, who was involved, what were the results? However, if you teach an advanced or academic class, I suggest having students compare and contrast the political climate post-Pearl Harbor with the current political climate.

Here are some different news articles around the web relating to the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. These links range in skill level from low-intermediate (who can usually read the NPR articles) to advanced or academic.

For teachers that want to compare and contrast anti-Japanese sentiment with current anti-Muslim sentiment:

The lesson plan is based on an NPR article that details the life of a woman who had lived in a Japanese internment camp. The article, however, does not actually address the reasons for Japanese internment camps, so you might want to start with one of the articles above, or a video about Japanese internment camps (there are a few short ones on Youtube). This lesson plan contains pre-reading discussion questions, and active reading activity on annotating, a vocabulary section, and post-reading short answer questions. There’s also an extension activity which might be more appropriate for advanced classes.

Click here for the lesson plan: A Japanese-American Reflects on The Lessons of Internment Camps

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Ms Marvel: Generation Why

23017947Ms. Marvel: Generation Why by Wilson, Alphona, and Wyatt

Who is the Inventor, and what does he want with the all-new Ms. Marvel and all her friends? Maybe Wolverine can help! If Kamala can stop fan-girling out about meeting her favorite super hero, that is. Then, Kamala crosses paths with Inhumanity — by meeting the royal dog, Lockjaw! But why is Lockjaw really with Kamala? As Ms. Marvel discovers more about her past, the Inventor continues to threaten her future. Kamala bands together with some unlikely heroes to stop the maniacal villain before he does real damage, but has she taken on more than she can handle? And how much longer can Ms. Marvel’s life take over Kamala Khan’s? Kamala Khan continues to prove why she’s the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is! (From Goodreads)

Topics: family, tradition, fitting in, super heroes, religion

Suggested Age Level (Native Speakers): Teens and young adults

Suggested ESL Level: This can be adapted to most ESL levels, depending on how much you want students to read every week, or how in-depth you want to go into discussion and analysis.

 This Guide: This is more like a mini-guide, since comic books are not that long, and a lot of the story is told visually. Trade paperbacks are a collection of five to six issues of a comic, so I’ve divided this guide into six sections – one section per issue. You can always combine sections if you want students to read the book more quickly. This guide contains suggested vocabulary, comprehension questions, writing/discussion questions, and quotation analysis.


Ms. Marvel: Generation Why is a continuation of Ms. Marvel: No Normal, so students should probably read the first trade paperback in order to understand Generation Why. I found this to be a really enjoyable read, and younger ESL students (teens to young adults) will really enjoy Kamala Khan as a character. Personally, I found No Normal to be much more interesting than Generation Why, but this one is still pretty great!

Click here for the Ms. Marvel: Generation Why comic book mini-guide!!

If you liked this lesson plan and have used it in class, please consider supporting me on Ko-fi so I can continue creating free content!

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Book Theme: Great Depression

The Great Depression is a vital piece of American history, and understanding the importance of the Great Depression helps students to understand current politics and the economy. Stories that take place during the Great Depression often share similar themes that are fairly universal and easy to understand: inventiveness, overcoming difficulties, perseverance, independence, and so on. If you have a class of history-minded ESL students, they may enjoy reading and learning about the Great Depression. These are all middle-grade books and would be appropriate for low-intermediate to high-intermediate students (or advanced students if you have them read a larger volume of pages). They also contain a mix of poetry and prose books.

25346Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

When Billie Jo is just fourteen she must endure heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.

Written in free verse, this award-winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma’s staggering dust storms, and the environmental–and emotional–turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength.



17866844What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren

Thanks to her superstitious mother, Esther knows some tricks for avoiding bad luck: toss salt over your left shoulder, never button your shirt crooked, and avoid black cats. But even luck can’t keep her family safe from the Great Depression. When Pa loses his job, Esther’s family leaves their comfy Chicago life behind for a farm in Wisconsin.

Living on a farm comes with lots of hard work, but that means there are plenty of opportunities for Esther to show her mother how helpful she can be. She loves all of the farm animals (except the mean geese) and even better makes a fast friend in lively Bethany. But then Ma sees a sign that Esther just knows is wrong. If believing a superstition makes you miserable, how can that be good luck?


8293938Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.

Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”

Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.


368468Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

It’s 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud’s got a few things going for him:1. He has his own suitcase filled with his own important, secret things.2. He’s the author of Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.3. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers of Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!!Bud’s got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road and find this mystery man, nothing can stop him–not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.Bud, Not Buddy is full of laugh-out-loud humor and wonderful characters, hitting the high notes of jazz and sounding the deeper tones of the Great Depression.


11288619The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

“We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful” is the motto of Deza Malone’s family.

Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie’s beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father.

The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.


22546133Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

When the Ku Klux Klan’s unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella’s segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this Depression-era tour de force from Sharon Draper, the New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind.

Stella lives in the segregated South; in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community – her world – is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end.


12180212Looking for Me by Betsy Rosenthal

One of 12 siblings growing up in depression-era Baltimore, Edith isn’t quite sure of who she is. Between working at her father’s diner, taking care of her younger siblings, and living in the shadow of her more mature sisters, Edith feels lost in a sea of siblings. When a kind teacher encourages Edith to be a teacher herself one day, Edith sees prospects for a future all her own. Full of joy, pain, humor, and sadness, this novel in verse is a wonderful look at the life of Edith Paul, the author’s mother, and is an enduring portrait (complete with family photos and an author’s note at the end) of one family’s pursuit of the American dream.


6871737Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

In Jennifer L. Holm’s New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor winning middle grade historical fiction novel, life isn’t like the movies. But then again, 11-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She’s smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it’s 1935 and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle’s mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn’t like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida to live with relatives she’s never met. Florida’s like nothing Turtle’s ever seen before though. It’s hot and strange, full of rag tag boy cousins, family secrets, scams, and even buried pirate treasure! Before she knows what’s happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she’s spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways. Filled with adventure, humor and heart, Turtle in Paradise is an instant classic both boys and girls with love.

Current Events Round-Up: Fake News Stories

In a new weekly post, I’d like to give you some resources for one current event topic that has been in the news (including social media). I’ll include several links to different news stories about the topics, and include at least one lesson plan that you can download and use in your class with very little prep.

These posts would be good for a recurring current events reading project – I’ve done a ‘Tuesday News-day’ project in several different reading classes. You can present a ready-to-go news article for students to read and analyze, or have students find their own articles to share with classmates.

This morning I woke up to news that a man had opened fire in a pizza shop because he so strongly believed in a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton. Because fake news is so prevalent on the internet and social media, and because current students do not know when news is fake or not, I thought that fake news might be a good place to start for the current events round-up. Below are a few links to news stories relating to fake news, and finally there’s a short lesson plan on how to recognize fake news stories. These links range in skill level from low-intermediate (who can usually read the NPR articles) to advanced.

The Lesson Plan: This is a lesson plan on learning to recognize fake news articles. Part of this is understanding the bias behind certain websites or organizations. This is difficult for American students, let alone international students. I would recommend making bias-recognition a regular part of class, especially if you are teaching a reading or writing class, so students can start to understand this in their IEP classes before moving on to university classes where they will be expected to be able to analyze sources. This lesson plan is most appropriate for intermediate and advanced readers. The majority of the words in the article (78%) are K-1 and K-2 words (words found within the 1000 and 2000 most commonly used words), but the length may be a bit difficult for low-intermediate readers.

Click here for the lesson plan ‘How to Recognize a Fake News Story’

Fake News Story


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Happy Monday!