Of Mice and Men – Essay Questions

These may just help the thinking process. I used this with all of my students to support them when planning essays.

1. Describe in some detail the incident where Lennie crushes Curley’s hand. What does this incident reveal about the characters of Curley and Lennie?

Comment

This topic could be conveniently split into thirds (Describe / Curley / Lennie). However, it may be better to comment on the characters as you describe the incident; this would save you from repeating detail of the incident later.

Answer Plan

  • Beginning of incident
    • Curley is humiliated and angry –       why?
    • Lennie is seen smiling – why?
    • Curley is a coward and a bully
    • Lennie is slow and a dreamer
  • Curley’s attack
    • Curley uses boxing skill to cruelly attack Lennie
    • Lennie does nothing to fight back
    • Stresses Curley’s frustration, cruelty
    • Curley resents big men because he is small
    • Lennie is basically gentle, does not want to fight
  • Lennie crushes Curley’s hand
    • Lennie obeys George’s instructions to ‘get him’
    • Crushes the bones of Curley’s hand, ending fight
    • Frightened, has to be told to stop
    • Lennie is simple, can’t think for himself
    • He is immensely strong, causes serious injury
    • Lacks control (important for later)
  • Conclusion
    • Curley vents his anger on ‘helpless’ Lennie
    • Lennie is a gentle giant who only does what he’s told.

2. The killing of Candy’s old dog foreshadowed Lennie’s death. Describe the two killings, pointing out any similarities and differences between them.

Comment

Which is better – to describe the two killings and then comment on them, or to mention the similarities and differences as you describe?

Answer Plan

  • Killing of dog
    • Carlson nags Candy about dog
      • offers to shoot him
    • Describes how he will do it
    • Carlson takes dog out, tension in bunkhouse
    • Finally there is a shot, Candy withdraws into silence
  • Killing of Lennie
    • George steals Carlson’s Luger, same gun
    • Finds Lennie by pool, different place
    • They talk, George tries to make Lennie happy
    • Others are approaching, George must hurry
    • George shoots Lennie, unlike stranger shooting dog
    • Method of killing exactly the same as with dog
  • Conclusion
    • gun and method are the same
    • reason for both killings
      • to prevent suffering
    • George kills Lennie for love, Carlson doesn’t love dog
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Of Mice and Men – Answer the Question advice

Sometimes  as teachers we need to  show our learners what an answer may look like.  Here is a good example written by the exam board reminding us first what we know about Curley’s wife and then advice on what to use to answer the question posed.

Curley’s Wife
Points and quotes

At first, Curley’s wife is described to the reader through the comments of the men on the ranch. Candy tells Lennie and George when he first meets them that she ‘ got the eye’ for the men on the ranch, even though she has only been married to Curley for two weeks. Candy thinks that she is ‘a tart’.

We first meet Curley’s wife when she comes into the bunkhouse, when Lennie and George are in there. She is apparently looking for Curley but she already knows that new men have arrived. Steinbeck gives a detailed description of her as she stands in the doorway of the bunkhouse and talks to Lennie and George. She is ‘heavily made up’, with ‘full rouged lips’ and red fingernails. Her body language is provocative as she positions herself in the doorway so that ‘her body was thrown forward’. She smiles ‘archly’ and ‘twitched her body’. The general impression the reader gains is of a young girl who is pretty and wants the attention of men.

George’s reaction to Curley’s wife, however, makes the reader realise that she is a potential threat to the two men. George sees her as ‘poison’ and ‘jailbait’. He is angry with Lennie’s admiration of her ‘she’s purty’ and fiercely tells him that he must stay away from her. ‘Don’t you even take a look at that bitch.’ Later, when we find out what happened at Weed, where Lennie frightens a woman by stroking her dress and they are forced to flee the town from a lynch mob, we understand why George is so alarmed that she will be the cause of more trouble for them.

As the story progresses we gain more knowledge of Curley’s wife. When she comes to Crooks’ door when all the men are in town on Saturday night we realise that she is lonely. She knows that Curley has gone to a brothel and we get some insight into what the reality of her life is on the ranch. When Crooks suggests that she should go away because ‘we don’t want no trouble’ she says ‘Think I don’t like to talk to somebody ever’ once in a while’ and we realise that she is lonely with noone to talk to but Curley who spends all his time talking about ‘what he’s gonna do to guys he don’t like’. We also find out that she has her own private dream that she could have been an actress or a showgirl.

However, any sympathy that we might have felt for Curley’s wife is reduced because of the cruelty she shows when talking to the men and by the way she treats Crooks. She is contemptuous of Candy, Crooks and Lennie, referring to them as ‘a nigger an’ a dum-dum and a lousy ol’ sheep’ and she laughs at their dream of having a ranch of their own, dismissing it as ‘Balony’. Far worse though is the way she removes all Crooks’ pride and dignity when he dares stand up to her, asking her to leave his room. She reminds him scornfully that she could have him ‘lynched’ if she chose. She doesn’t actually say so, but Candy and we know that it would be by claiming that he had tried to rape her.

When Lennie is in the barn and Curley’s wife enters the reader is again aware of how lonely she is. Even though she realises that Lennie is not listening to her she is desperate to talk and we hear how isolated she feels. When Lennie tells her that he’s not allowed to talk to her she cries ‘ What’s the matter with me?’ Then adds ‘Seems like they ain’t none of them cares how I gotta live’. We then find out more details of her life, that a man who ‘was in pitchers’ said that he was ‘gonna put her in the Movies’ and would write to her as ‘soon as he got back to Hoollywood’. The letter never came, and Curley’s wife believed her mother stole it but we realise that there was never likely to be any letter. The man was probably just taking advantage of her vanity, allowing her to think that she could be a famous film star.

We also find out that Curley’s wife only married Curley to get away from home. She met him at the Riverside Dance Palais, probably attracted to him because he was the son of a ranch owner. Now, however, the reality is that she doesn’t even like him. ‘He ain’t a nice fella’, she confides in Lennie. When they are talking together she shows some kindness to Lennie when she realises that he understands little of what she is saying. After she is dead we are shown by Steinbeck a different side of Curley’s wife. In death the ‘meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention’ have gone from her face. We see she is just a young and pretty girl.

Does Steinbeck Condemn Or Condone Curley’s Wife?

Answer the question!

It is no good just writing about Curley’s wife as I have done above, if you are being asked a specific question. To answer this question correctly in the exam you must discuss at which point in the story you think Steinbeck is asking us to judge Curley’s wife as being a ‘bad ‘ person, or whether you think that at the end he is trying to make us feel some sympathy for her.

Remember that writers put characters across to us through describing:

  • what they look like –      physical appearance
  • what they say – dialogue      with others
  • what they do – their      actions
  • what other characters say      about them

If we look through the men’s eyes we see that they view her as just a ‘tart’ and are wary of her. The physical description Steinbeck uses reinforces this idea – heavily made up. And her actions are also provocative (leaning against the doorway. We also see she is cruel in what she says to Crooks.

However, there are occasions when we see a better side of Curley’s wife. We see her loneliness; she is kind to Lennie; she has a dream that she is not likely to achieve, like the other men on the ranch, and finally, Steinbeck’s description of her dead body seems designed to make us see her as a victim of life.

You answer should show that you have thought about the question and have set out a line of argument, showing both sides (condemn or condone) but finally reaching your own personal conclusion. If you do not answer the question, especially if you do not refer to it at the end of your answer, your grade will suffer!

Now try these

Hope and dreams help people to survive even if they can never become real. How true is this of the characters in Of Mice and Men? (Higher Tier NEAB)

What do you think about the end? Remember to include your feelings, what you think about the friendship and whether John Steinbeck prepared you for this end.

How does John Steinbeck draw together the two characters of George and Lenny.  What words does he uses to describe each one to make them different, how does he show their unique friendship.  Use quotes to demonstrate your understanding.

Loneliness is an integral part of this story.  Compare the characters that are lonely. What are their differences and similarities, Why does John Steinbeck do this?

Of Mice and Men shows us that people can be cruel.  Find three characters and write about them. Are they either cruel or kind or  a mixture of both? Why do they behave in this way? How do you respond to them? How did John Steinbeck make you feel this way?

Slim is the only character in this story not handicapped. Do you agree?

Comment on George’s idea that ranch hands are ‘the loneliest guys in the world.’ How does this prepare us to meet other characters in the novel?

Why is it important to the plot that Lennie wants to tend the rabbits and likes to pet soft things?

How does John Steinbeck relate this theme to America in the 1930’s?

How does John Steinbeck present women in this novel? How do women fit in the novel ?

How does Steinbeck represent ranch workers?

Of Mice and Men – Who is talking?

Encourage the learners to know the text by using these sentences and phrases to explain who is talking and to also e.xplain the context

‘I ain’t sure it’s good water, … looks kinda scummy.’

‘I remember about the rabbits, George.’

‘God a’mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy.’

‘Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world.’

‘Hide in the brush until I come for you. Can you remember that?’

‘I wrote Murray and Ready I wanted two men this morning.’

‘…what stake you got in this guy? You takin’ his pay away from him?’

‘I seen ’em poison before, but 1 never seen no piece of jail-bait worse than her.’

‘Hell of a nice fella, but he ain’t bright.’

‘You seen a girl around here?’

‘He’ll want to sleep right out in the barn with ’em,’

‘What’d he do in Weed?’

‘We can’t sleep with him stinkin’ around in here.’

‘George, why is it both end’s the same?’

‘I could cook and tend the chickens and hoe the garden some.’

‘Leggo of him Lennie, let go.’

‘This punk sure had it coming to him.’

‘Gonna get a little place an’ live on the fatta the lan’.’

‘A guy can talk to you an’ be Sure you won’t go blabbin’.’

‘I tell ya a guy gets too lonely, an’ he gets sick’

‘You bindle bums think you’re so damn good.’

‘I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.’

‘Why do you got to get killed? You ain’t so little as mice.’

‘I coulda made somethin’ of myself.’

‘I done a bad thing. I done another bad thing.’

‘I’ll shoot ‘im in the guts.’

‘He been doin’ nice things for you alla time’

‘Never you mind … A guy got to sometimes.’

‘Now what the hell do you suppose is eatin’ them two guys?’

Of Mice and Men – Who is being described here? 2

‘She had full, rouged lips and wide spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. Her voice had a brittle, nasal quality.’

Character:

Page No.:

Notes:

‘A tall man … he combed his long black damp hair straight back. … he moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen. … His hatchet face was ageless. He might have been thirty-five or fifty.’

Character:

Page No.:

Notes:

‘A powerful, big-stomached man’

Character:

Page No.:

Notes:

‘The angry little man …’

Character:

Page No.:

Notes:

‘…calm godlike eyes’

Character:

Page No.:

Notes:

‘… thick-bodied’

Character:

Page No.:

Notes:

‘A young labouring man … His sloping shoulders were bent forward, and he walked heavily on his heels, as though he carried an invisible grain bag.’

Character:

Page No.:

Notes:

‘A lean Negro head, lined with pain, the eyes patient’

Character:

Page No.:

Notes:

‘His body was bent over to the left by his crooked spine, and his eyes lay deep in his head, and because of their depth seemed to glitter with intensity… ‘

Character:

Page No.:

Notes:

‘She was very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young’

Character:

Page No.:

Notes:

‘… a little fat old woman. She wore thick bull’s eye glasses and she wore a huge gingham apron with pockets, and she was starched and clean.’

Character:

Page No.:

Notes:

Children in Wales are making progress in developing their Welsh Language skills

A report out today says that at Foundation stage the children in Wales are acquiring Welsh language skills but the focus now needs to be on improving reading and writing skills.

The report says that

 In the best schools, teachers are highly skilled, passionate and plan fun and stimulating activities that engage and excite the children, but in a minority of schools and settings staff are not devoting enough direct teaching time to developing the Welsh language and there are gaps in practitioners’ knowledge and skills that are inhibiting the children’s learning and development.

This is a difficult one if the teacher’s do not speak Welsh fluently then the school will be unable to move further forward without either employing more natural Welsh speakers or up skilling the teachers level of Welsh knowledge. This leads me to wonder about EAL teaching how often do we as teachers/inspectors/observers assume the support assistant has the skill set but they also need up skilling not only in English but in their home language as well? ….  Just as valid is the next question that follows should we ensure we are up skilling these practitioners to support our children to get the best education?     Just an observation open for your ideas and comments.

For the full report see http://www.estyn.gov.uk/english/news/news/children-in-wales-are-making-progress-in-developing-their-welsh-language-skills-in-the-foundation-phase/ or the whole piece below.

Children in Wales are making progress in acquiring Welsh language skills, but more needs to be done to continue the upward trend in their reading and writing skills, according to Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales.
In a report published today, Welsh Language Development in the Foundation Phase, the inspectorate found that in the majority of English-medium schools most children are making good progress in speaking and listening to Welsh in the Foundation Phase, but their reading and writing skills are less well developed.
Ann Keane, the inspectorate’s Chief Inspector said,

“Welsh Language is one of the seven Areas of Learning in the Foundation Phase Framework for Children’s Learning.
During the last two years, we have seen progress being made in Welsh Language Development in the majority of schools and settings. Children are enjoying learning the language of Wales in innovative and fun ways.
In the best schools, teachers are highly skilled, passionate and plan fun and stimulating activities that engage and excite the children, but in a minority of schools and settings staff are not devoting enough direct teaching time to developing the Welsh language and there are gaps in practitioners’ knowledge and skills that are inhibiting the children’s learning and development.”

The inspectorate also found that children’s progress in Welsh Language Development is a concern in over a third of English-medium non-maintained settings. In these settings, children lack confidence in using Welsh outside short whole-group sessions such as registration periods or singing sessions and they do not use the Welsh language in their play or learning without prompts from adults.
Ann Keane continues,

“Schools and settings need to review, evaluate and plan engaging and effective ways for children to speak, read and write Welsh across all areas of learning.
In the best schools, teachers use real life experiences for children to use their Welsh language skills such as making shopping lists or writing party invitations. In these instances, children are highly engaged and are making good progress in writing Welsh.”

The inspectorate outlines a number of recommendations for schools and settings, local authorities and the Welsh Government, to address the issues highlighted within the report.
For example, schools and settings should evaluate planning to make sure that there are enough opportunities for children to use the Welsh language in other areas of learning and outdoor activities and monitor and evaluate how well children are doing in developing their Welsh language skills. In addition, local authorities need to be providing better access to Welsh Language support and training for practitioners as well as sharing good practice.
Ann Keane concludes,

“Every child in Wales has the right to access the best quality Welsh Language education. This report provides a number of best practice case studies illustrating how schools have successfully developed children’s skills in Welsh. I would encourage all practitioners to read this report and use the case studies to assess their own practice and develop new ways of improving the provision of Welsh Language Development.”

The Hobbit and book translations

Sometimes when trying to get a concept or idea over to children it is a good idea to start from a story or illustration to get their interest. Below is a recent article discussing the Hobbit and its various translations and also the different illustrations depending on where it was published.

That in itself is quite remarkable but also is the fact that JR Tolkien was happy to allow different illustrations from my experience of the publishing industry once they have their mind-set on a  particular picture or illustration nothing changes their mind. That is why I am offering individuals the chance to create their own book using a template allowing them to have exactly what they want and not what someone else perceives they want. It doesn’t have to be bilingual or anything specifically to do with languages just one language is fine. Please get in touch if you wish to write in a language other than English so that we can discuss the correct font.

For more info go to: http://www.languagesupportuk.com/Create-Your-Own.php

Extracts from the story are highlighted below:

The Hobbit has been translated into many different languages, and these translations have often been accompanied by fresh and interesting illustrations.

Naturally a Latin edition (popular in Latin America?), Hobbitus ille aut illuc atque rursus retrorsum, published in 2012. There are two Persian translations, one published in 2002, and another, هابيت يا آنجا و بازگشت دوباره (hābit yā ānjā va bāzgašt dobāre), published in 2004.  It’s wonderful that hobbit is almost the same word in Persian: hābit, and it may well be that Persian children are reading hābit yā ānjā va bāzgašt dobāre right now.

There are at least five Russian translations, some of them are supported by splendid illustrations by the Soviet artist Mikhail Belomlinsky, done in 1976.  He also did new maps with place names in Russian.  You can check out the 1976 Russian Hobbit here (Note that Bilbo is shown having hairy legs and not just the top of his feet — this was due to a mistake in translation.)  Our country is fortunate to have Mr. Belomlinsky, who has done many other fine illustrations, living in New York since 1989.

Czech Hobbit

       Cover for Czech edition, by Jiri Salamoun.

And here is a webpage which collects some of the cover pages and a few illustrations from the many translations.  Some of my favorites were done in 1973 by Jiri Salamoun for the Czech edition.  His work is more primative, and is disrespective of tradition proportions, but seems to fit better the mood of adventure and fantasy conveyed by the book.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/17/1162611/-The-Hobbit-in-illustration-and-translation#

Strategies to support students with language learning needs.

Strategies to support students with language learning needs.

There are three types of children at our school with Additional Language Needs:

  1. New arrivals with no English
  2. Arrivals with various levels of English.  These will need to be able to catch up with their peers and once there will have the ability to communicate in both languages particularly if the first language is used as a bridge to the second particularly in relation to academic language.
  3. Students for whom English is their first language but have difficulty in language acquisition.

Here are some suggestions to help.

  1. Use a language mentor someone who has a good model of language themselves.  If EAL learners they can also be encouraged if of a similar language to keep their 1st language alive.
  2. When planning think about the words that the learner will need to engage in the lessons, actively pre-teach these words.
  3. Remember that each word needs to be taught and applied more than once usually around 5 times before it becomes known. Increase usage of these words until they become embedded.
  4. Never teach a word by itself, if taught in context and with visual or aural aids these will help remembrance and contextual use.
  5. Academic words used frequently in Exams need to be actively taught. EMASUK has a GCSE book that:
    1. Contextualises the words
    2. Gives examples of the words in exam settings
    3. Gives real exam sentences to practice
    4. Use prior knowledge and learning when introducing new ideas. One way to do this is via mind mapping or by video capturing a conversation where the children answer questions that draw out their knowledge. (NB the teacher needs to give the questions as a starting point). Specifically for EAL children you can use Two can Talk where the mentor or buddy can ask questions in English, have it translated into their peers language. The peer then answers via the keyboard in their first language and it speaks aloud in English. This can be captured via the PDF icon so that as a teacher you have a record of their discussion.
    5. Learn how to say the learners name properly.
    6. If you cannot understand them then ask them to repeat it, if necessarily ask in a different way.
    7. Make sentences short and clear. Sentences with too many parts of it will confuse, some students will not know which part to complete.
    8. Allow the student time to answer and don’t show impatience of yourself.
    9. Repeat/ Recast  the answer so that the children can hear the correct pronunciation or sentence structure.
    10. Use a variety of activities to engage the learner including visual and hands on activities to support the oral instruction.
    11. Use scaffolding to develop their language further.
    12. Change plenaries to a variety of feedback sessions not just Question and Answer sessions and recast where necessary.
    13. Allow extra time if necessary

Geddes Elementary: Dual Language Early On Reaps Benefits Later

I thought I had posted this last week but the letter gremlins seem to have taken it away into space.

“It’s important for me, because my children are from here. I’m from Mexico, and I want them to know their origins,” said Ana Lepe, speaking in Spanish. The 40-year-old mother of three has sent all of her children to Geddes because she also believes being bilingual will help them get better jobs in the future.

I liked this story because this school is obviously one where bilingualism is really treasured and supported by all within the community. Once again the question of jobs when the children reach school-leaving age are a focus, but sadly this is often forgotten by the policy makers.

What is useful for teachers is If you go through the links there is also a video showing how some of this is achieved.

“There’s a lot of research now that shows that dual-immersion programs/bilingual programs are teaching kids to read better,” she added.

One reason the dual-language program works at Geddes is because it’s one part of a strong academic structure, school officials say. Castro is obsessed with data: Teachers give assessments every two weeks in math and reading to see how their students are progressing and where they might need help.

As bi-literacy starts to become popular and general literacy is a focus in both USA and UK schools there are some lessons that can be definitely learnt from this school. Especially those wishing to become strong free bilingual schools.

The initial news story is interesting but if you go into the school website there are some amazing facts about their achievements.

http://www.educationnation.com/casestudies/geddes/index.html

10 % OF PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS.

The Challenge: For English Language Learners, mastering the language is even more difficult if they struggle with their first language.
The Solution: At Geddes Elementary School in Baldwin Park, Calif., young students in the dual-language program are taught in Spanish 90% of the day until third grade. This approach has led to significant achievement gains, with 60% of third-graders scoring proficient or above in English language arts in 2011.

RESULTS: TEST SCORES

Geddes Elementary School’s API score (California’s system for rating schools based on reading and math test scores) rose from 678 to 838 over four years, exceeding the state target of 800. Proficiency on English language arts tests doubled to 62 percent, and the percentage of the school’s students who are proficient in math rose by half, to 74 percent.

RESULTS: ATTENDANCE & DISCIPLINE

In the 2005-06 school year, 391 students (out of 901) had unexcused absences or were tardy at least three times at Geddes. The truancy rate was 43 percent. In 2010-11, by contrast, 192 students (out of 703) had unexcused absences or were frequently tardy. The truancy rate fell to 27 percent.

RESULTS: PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT

Parental participation went from only a handful of parents regularly visiting the school to between 40 and 50 attending monthly meetings with the principal.

The original news story can be found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48897100/ns/today-education_nation/

The school information can be found here:

http://www.educationnation.com/casestudies/geddes/index.html

 

Developing Literacy for EAL learners

Literacy is one focus of OFSTED in the UK from the start of this month.  First let us be clear what Literacy means…often these words are used without much thought about what it means… Literacy in education is how we help children enjoy reading and writing, with focus on three areas speaking and listening, and reading and writing.

With EAL learners John Foxwell Director EMASUK suggests we look at how to use Pip to support the parents reading to the children in either language (bi-literacy will also be improved when used effectively), use this lovely book to allow them to read to their siblings and new arrivals in English. Pip itself is bilingual so can be used to develop vocabulary by using the first language as a bridge. There is also the advantage of the picture book being part of the range, so that the parent/teacher and child can see how they have progressed in their development of their reading skills.

He further suggests starting points for conversations, and when linked to the computer programme it scaffolds writing by giving word lists.  It encourages story boarding by linking up pictures and words and develops personal awareness by making children think and discuss how they feel.

And so to OFSTED themselves.

OFSTED Inspectors report that they have found  that the factors that most commonly limited pupils’ learning included: an excessive pace of a lesson; an overloading of activities; inflexible planning, and limited time for pupils to work independently. In some schools teachers concentrated too much or too early on a narrow range of test or examination skills and few schools give enough thought to ways of encouraging the love of reading in school and beyond the classroom.

OFSTED have themselves suggested the following as good examples of how to develop good reading practice to support literacy development.

To get the reading habit integrated straightaway, in the first term of Year 7, the English homework for all students is to read independently at home. The school launched a joint parent/child reading group, attended by a local author, which inspired parents and pupils. Family Review Days held in the library give parents the opportunity to talk about books with the librarian and with students. They can drop in anytime to discuss how they can help their child choose a suitable book and offer support and encouragement.

The school annually updates and sends out a list of recommended reads to reflect current trends in reading as well as classics. It also produces ‘Reading Matters’ leaflets for parents, with useful hints and tips to support their child’s reading, which include the following.

• ‘Read aloud with your child, or try reading the same book they are reading and talk to them about it.
• Let them see you reading, whether it is a book, a magazine or a newspaper. Lead by example!
• If they enjoy movies or TV shows based on children’s books such as Tracy Beaker or Harry Potter, encourage them to give the books a try.
• Encourage them to read to younger brothers and sisters. We have a ‘babysitting’ box in the library with great books they could use.
• Encourage them to join the school Readers’ Club. They can then get involved in all kinds of extra-curricular activities, from drama workshops to meeting the illustrator from Beano!’

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/news/driving-standards-of-literacy

John Foxwell reminds us that Pip is available as a picture book or English only, or bilingually in  English and Polish, Albanian, Chinese Mandarin, Chinese Cantonese, Czech, Dutch, Russian, French, German, Nepali, Kurdish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Hebrew, Latvian, and Romanian http://shop.emasuk.com/  Add storycreator to make a truly useful inexpensive package for all language learners whether learning English, MFL Languages or bridging from their home language.

Reading Guidance

Following on from the last blog about reading.  I thought about the types of questions I would ask my EAL readers, or indeed other readers, about the books they have read. Most questions need to be open questions otherwise the reader doesnt have the opportunity to tell you what they gained from the book. There is nothing worse than 30 replies of my book was …… written by ….. I liked it …..because and then the reason doesnt really show you what they have enjoyed, liked etc.  This set of questions is just here to help you stretch them and give you some ideas. If you have further suggestions please add to the comments.

After starting off with finding out the name of the book and author, find out what the book was generally about and if they have been taught about genres what genre/style is it e.g. mystery. If they have been on an end of term break you could ask where they read the book, in bed, outside on the grass, on the beach etc.

Then to encourage further discussion

  • How different was it to how you thought it would be before you read it? … some choose books from pictures on the front and then find the story doesn’t match at all.
  • Was the cover a good cover to let you know what the story was about?
  • For more advanced readers was the book  as good as the back cover details led you to believe?
  • Did you want to read it right to the end ….if not what made them feel this way but what kept them going if they did… I was given the Water Babies by Charles Kingsley as a child after an operation in hospital.  I couldn’t read it then and havent been too since as it all seems to far-fetched, although I have tried many times I get as far as the chimney sweeps and that’s it .
  • What was your favourite part of the book?  This may be a line, a character, a part of the story try to draw out as much information as possible.
  • Is it like a story or stories you have read before? …..maybe they have read a similar series or style
  • What caught your attention? …we often tell them that the first line must when writing, but it is not necessarily the same when reading ?  It may have been something much further through the book.
  • Which bits didn’t you like? ….this gives you further ideas of the types of books they may enjoy and ones to start to drop.
  • What was your favourite character? Why
  • What character didn’t you like? Why
  • Did you read the bits you didn’t like? …… If it is gory I don’t.
  • Did it remind you of a celebration you celebrate ?(i.e.)This may help draw out something about their cultural background
  • What was different about this book … if it’s a series has one of the characters shown a different side to their character, is the adventure in a different land which is different to either this country or the previous country they lived in?
  • Would you read books from this author again?  Why/Why not ….I did love Enid Blyton and the adventures of the characters, probably why I like Agatha Christie’s Poirot in adult life.
  • What made you think about the book now you have finished it … they may have liked it so much they want to read more or it was so awful they don’t want to read similar stories again.  My daughter was sent home from school with the book ‘There a monster under my bed’. We duly helped her read it but at 20 we all still remember the nightmares it gave her because it made her think there may be something under the bed?

Further ideas

  • Take the first line of the book and create a whole new paragraph for a new story
  • Take their favourite line and use it to create a mini story
  • Take their favourite character and write a character profile
  • Reset the story in another setting e.g. if they come from or speak Chinese set in China what differences would that make to the story?
  • If they were the author show the changes they would make to make it better… this could be as simple as a new title or more in-depth by adding a new character.

For older children or more advanced readers

  •  Take a children’s author e.g. Enid Blyton and compare with a  similar Adult author e.g. Agatha Christie and look at the similarities in the plot , characters, locations etc.
  • Write a short synopsis to replace the information o the back cover of the book
  • Find out the authors history and work out what aspects of this are within their work e.g. location, if they worked in a tax office maybe the story is set within this industry etc.