New Year, New Semester!

I’ve had a lovely winter break, and I’m trying to muster up the the energy to go back to work next week! One thing that has gotten me excited to go back to work is thinking about my new classes, and what new, exciting things I have in store for them!

Are you heading back to school soon for a new semester? If you’re an ESL reading teacher, are you looking for a novel to teach in your reading class? Check out some of my ESL Teaching Guides for middle grade and young adult novels! I have a mix of free guides and paid guides, and there should be something that will fit your class. Each guide contains (at the least) suggested vocabulary, comprehension questions, and writing/discussion questions. Most of the guides also have suggestions for pre-reading and post-reading activities.

513hgsybygl-_sx337_bo1204203200_A Wrinkle in Time is a classic, and since the new movie is coming out in a few months, this is a timely read for the upcoming semester! This book is best for an intermediate-level reading class, but can be adjusted to a low- or high-intermediate class as well.

A Wrinkle in Time: ESL Teaching Guide

 

 

 

19351043Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is a graphic novel and a quick, fun read! This book starts off light-hearted, but then delves into deeper and darker issues that lend itself well to discussions and writing. This book would be best for a low-intermediate or intermediate class.

Nimona: ESL Teaching Guide

 

 

 

513jeuiztel-_sx321_bo1204203200_Ms. Marvel is an ongoing comic from Marvel detailing the life of super hero teenager Kamala Khan. It’s a really fun read, and teenage or young adult students will easily relate to her character. The file for this contains two teaching guides for the first two books of this series.

Ms. Marvel: ESL Teaching Guide

 

 

 

 

51ly6rgccjl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Inside Out & Back Again is the heartbreaking and uplifting story of a refugee girl who flees from Vietnam to the United States. This story is told in poetry, instead of prose, which students may have to adjust to, but they will relate to the story’s themes of getting used to a new culture.

Inside Out & Back Again: ESL Teaching Guide

 

 

 

esperanza_rising_coverEsperanza Rising tells the story of the author’s grandmother immigrating from Mexico to California in the midst of the Great Depression. The book is geared towards younger readers, but contains universal themes that can be appreciated by all ages.

Esperanza Rising: ESL Teaching Guide

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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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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!!

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Books With a Little History

I’m currently working on a reading guide for Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising. I’m a big fan of middle-grade books based on historical events because a) they’re a great vehicle for cultural education and discussion among ESL students, and b) they feature a lot of themes that are recognizable to adults without characters being overly childish. You can also find historical books based on a wide range of cultures – even some that your students may relate to. I usually use these middle-grade books in my low-intermediate reading classes.

So if you’re looking to inject a little history into your reading class, check out this list of middle-grade historical novels!

The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle (Cuba, 1896)

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (Kansas, Great Depression)

Heart of a Samurai by Maggi Preus (Japan, 1841)

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (England, WWII)

Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War by Helen Frost (Indiana Territory, 1812)

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine (Little Rock, Alabama, 1958)

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper (North Carolina during segregation…couldn’t find the exact year)

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (Chile and the US, 1970s)

The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau (Mexico, 1950s)

Some Kind of Courage by Dan Geimenhart (American West, again, couldn’t find the exact year)

These are just a few to get you started! There are tons of really great historical novels out there that would work perfectly well in an ESL classroom. I have only read a few of these…the rest are based on Goodreads lists and recommendations…but one of my favorite things about teaching reading is discovering new stories along with my students. I’m currently on the lookout for good middle-grade historical fiction featuring Chinese or Arabic characters (since that’s usually the make-up of my classes), so I’ll be adding to this list in the future!

Enjoy!

Ms. Marvel: No Normal

Ms. Marvel: No Normal Wilson and Alphona51lgrm5dxol-_sx321_bo1204203200_

Marvel Comics presents the new Ms. Marvel, the groundbreaking heroine that has become an international sensation!

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!  (From Goodreads)

 

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

Suggested Age Level (Native Speakers): Young adult

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 five 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.

 

I had a lot of fun reading Ms. Marvel, and I think ESL students (especially young adult age) will find her to be a funny and relatable character. Use this link here to download the PDF for the Ms. Marvel reading guide.

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Can I use comic books in the ESL classroom?

Short answer: YES! Absolutely!

Longer answer: Comic books are experiencing a sort of renaissance right now. Before the current popularity of super hero movies (looking at you, Iron Man), comic books were sort of a niche market, and could only be found in comic book stores. But now, comic books are extremely popular, and can be found in most book stores (and can still be found in your local comic book store!). With the popularity of comic books in the US, and around the world, many ESL students will definitely be drawn towards comic books as a source of fun reading material. Therefore, teachers might want to consider introducing comic books as part of their regular reading classes. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Comics capture the written word in a different way than books do. Comic book dialogue is closer to the spoken word, and is engaging and dynamic to read. The dialogue in comics can help ESL students with cultural humor and contextual speech.

2. Comics are not just for children any more. With the increasing popularity of comics, you can find many comics geared towards adults and young adults, with themes ranging from the terrifying and gritty to the fun and light-hearted. There are so many options for comics, and it’s easy to find comics meant for adults with relatable characters and themes. (One common complaint I hear from students when we read juvenile fiction novels is that the characters are all too young and they can’t relate…this is easy to fix with comic books!)

3. Comics are relatively short; they range from the three panel comic up to entire graphic novels. If you are interested in having students read comics for extended reading, they can read an entire issue (about 18-20 pages) in one class period, or a trade copy (6 issues of the comic) in 2-3 weeks. This is a great way to introduce ESL students to reading in English before jumping head first into a novel.

4. Comics are excellent for teaching inferences. Because a lot of the plot is divided between dialogue and illustration, students must use background knowledge and inferences to determine what exactly is happening in each panel. They can also use visual context clues to figure out meanings of unknown words.

These are all great reasons, but how can I ensure that the use of these comics is still achieving curricular goals?

Great question! You can basically use comics in the same way you might use novels or short stories in the classroom to increase vocabulary and reading fluency. Here are a few suggestions on how to use comics in the classroom:

1. Cultural discussion questions – As stated above, comics are not just for children any more, and they cover a wide range of themes and topics. Some of these will be very American cultural topics, and are a great jumping off point for cultural discussion.

2. Reader’s Theater – Because comic book dialogue captures the spoken word so well, comics books can easily be adapted into your own version of Reader’s Theater. Students can read out loud to practice pronunciation, stress, intonation, and speaking rhythm.

3. Understanding visual symbols – While reading comics, students not only practice reading English, but they practice reading symbols as well. Students can work in pairs or with a group to find and decipher various comic book symbols. They can also talk about comics or visual reading in their own language – do they have symbols with similar meanings?

4. Fill in the text – Copy a few pages of different comics and white out the dialogue. Students then have to use visual clues to fill in the missing dialogue. You can also have students use specific vocabulary words that you may be working on in class.

5. Sequencing – Take any length of comic you’d like (from the 3 panel up to an entire page) and cut out all the individual panels. Students then have to use their knowledge of sequencing and conversation flow to put the comic panels into the correct order.

I hope that this helps you explore a new and fun approach to English reading and literacy. Enjoy!