Here at BGL, we develop our own curriculum for our content-based English program which we deliver via distance learning and in person to students in Taipei, Taiwan. Like with most EFL or ESL programs, it is a welcome and constant challenge to develop curriculum that is both conceptually challenging and on an accessible language level. In the past we have developed adapted versions of classic texts to accomplish this feat. This year, we added a new component: classic poetry.
For our junior high classes we developed two books, one for the seventh graders (whose content was based on Lewis Carroll) and one for the eighth graders (whose content was based on Edgar Allen Poe, just in time for Halloween!). The poetry of Carroll and Poe can be challenging even for native English speakers, but we thought we could follow our model of adapting classic texts by simplifying the poetry’s language for our students. To our delight, the students loved the unit and produced great work in response.
Our students worked to engage with content and pushed themselves to pronounce and understand some of the complicated words used. Silken, solitary, deem & obeisance are not exactly easy words for an EFL student to use freely. We reviewed our new vocabulary strategies – breaking the word into its parts, reading around the word to figure out the meaning from the context, determining word charge and part of speech, and referencing online tools – and taught the students how to read the poem closely and analyze it. The students also created some poetry of their own. Here are a few examples of the finished works:
When viewing these works and watching this video, keep in mind that the level of these students English – many for whom English is their third language – is two to three grade levels behind where native speakers would be at that age. This being said, these results are impressive!
We also included a presentation element to the unit to challenge students to speak these words aloud. Here is some footage of one of the student presentations.
The students giggled a bit and struggled with some of the words but pushed themselves to succeed. Many Taiwanese students have a shy nature which makes speaking English aloud sometimes a challenge. However, we’ve found that working in groups and presenting in a more casual style works well as the students become less intimidated and accept that it is ok if their presentations are less than perfect as long as they tried their best.
This unit proved that teachers can use content-based English instruction not just for straightforward academic subjects but also for complex literature. It pushed them to explore creative boundaries and teach themselves along the way how to learn and explore. What unit have you created this year that pushes and challenges to teach your students in a new and creative way? Reply here and let us know!
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