“My life, my stories”: Reading, writing, and belonging in the ESL classroom

Stewart, Mary Amanda
Genova, Holly
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National Council of Teachers of English

As I looked around the room, I noticed my students had their heads down, nearly falling asleep. “Class, what’s wrong?” From across the room, José responded, “Miss, we don’t like the topic of pyramids. And who cares about nomads?” (Student names are pseudonyms.) In that moment, I questioned if this was a teacher win or fail. We had recently learned the vocabulary word topic, and José used it correctly. On the other hand, my students were unengaged and uninterested. This was not due to the language demands of our reading, but it was because they simply did not connect to the content we were learning. Suddenly, I saw the irony: my students are not nomadic people and they’ve never been to the Egyptian pyramids. The beginning ESL curriculum was just not working!

Article originally published in English Journal, 108(3), 34-43. English. Published Online 2019. https://library.ncte.org/journals/ej/issues/v108-3/29967
Permission to deposit this file was given through direct contact with the publisher. For more information please see the faculty member's entry in Project INDEX -- EDH 7/7/23
Curriculum for English learners, Language acquisition, Second language acquisition
This is the published version of an article that is available at https://library.ncte.org/journals/ej/issues/v108-3/29967. Recommended citation: Genova, H. & Stewart, M.A. (2019). “My life, my stories”: Reading, writing, and belonging in the ESL classroom. English Journal, 108(3), 34-43.This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.