A recent article in TESOL Journal discussed how to create a more student-centered ESL classroom by providing follow-up projects on reading, in which students personalized the concepts. For example, after reading a story which involved naming, students wrote and spoke about the significance of their own names. The authors, Cloud, Lapkin, and Leninger (2011) concluded that “through the use of a learner-centered curriculum, teachers can harness the real power of personalization and create meaningful learning experiences that support and motivate adolescent ELLs with varied proficiency levels, literacy levels, and cultural characteristics. Such practices stand in stark contrast to scripted curriculum and produce far better outcomes.”

How do you follow up on reading lessons in your language classes? Many teachers provide work to guide students into the reading and verify comprehension. This might consist of a list of comprehension questions that students work on individually, check with a partner, and get feedback on from the teacher. Other teachers also provide post-reading work on the vocabulary or grammar items found in the reading selection. However, don’t overlook providing your students a structure for reacting to the concepts and themes of the reading and reflecting on how those same themes affect their lives.

Reading is receptive. As a reader, the student absorbs all the ideas that the author has provided. After reading, it is his turn to speak and be heard. When the reading selection describes damage from a tornado, your students have personal experience or family history with natural disasters. When the story tells about a person who miraculously survived an illness, your students know someone who cured themselves in an amazing way. Even classic stories or poems have universal themes; that is how they became classic. People can react to Poe’s “The Raven” by describing strange sounds they have heard at night while alone in the house.

Your students have the stories inside them that will bring your English class alive. Now it is your responsibility to structure a task which provides the stimulus to make it happen. Part II will provide a few suggestions.

Cloud, N, Lakin, J. & Leininger, Erin. (2011) Learner-Centered Teaching: The Core of Effective Practices for Adolescent English Language Learners TESOL Journal vol. 2. Num. 2 pp. 132-155(24)