Useful tips for your English classes

Browse the resources below to find some useful tips and resources for your English classes.

As our library of useful tips and articles grows, we’ll be adding to this page, so be sure to check it often.

Addressing the 4Cs with online learning
Click here to read and download the full article.
Priming the brain for teaching and learning: Mindfulness goes to the classroom
Click here to read and download the full article.
Reimagining student engagement in distance learning
Click here to read and download the full article.
How to find free grammar resources using the teacher toolkit
Click here to read and download the full article.

Citizenship Education in a Time of Transitions and Insurrection

US Capitol Building
By Bill Bliss

Important update, February 22, 2021:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it is reverting to the original (2008) version of the civics test for citizenship. We have updated our new citizenship site with information about the decision. Please visit pearsoneltusa.com/citizenship for more information and useful resources.


January 2021 was already going to be a time of transitions for our programs that prepare immigrants to become naturalized citizens. In addition to updating the answers to some civics test questions to reflect recent election results, we need to prepare for a transition to a new version of the civics test that poses challenges for our students and programs. And then came the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which demonstrated to many of our students the precariousness of the system of government they are learning about and the sudden fragility of some of the basic facts they need to know for the test, including the system of checks and balances among three branches of government, and the rules of presidential succession.

The Transitions: A New Administration and a New Civics Test

Every U.S. election can result in changes in answers to some of the civics questions for naturalization, which ask students to name the President, the Vice President, the Governor of their state, their Representative in Congress, the Speaker of the House, and one of their state’s U.S. Senators. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website offers a link with updates for the federal offices. For example, after the inauguration on January 20, the site will let us know the multiple ways students can name the new President, which will likely include Joseph R. Biden, Jr, Joseph Biden, Joe Biden, and possibly just Biden. (A link to the USCIS test update page is here.)

The greater transition challenge this year is the major revision of the civics test of U.S. history and government knowledge. The test is significantly more difficult and lengthier than the current version, which requires applicants to answer correctly six out of ten questions from an item pool of 100 possible questions. The new test requires applicants to answer correctly 12 out of 20 questions from an item pool of 128 possible questions. Many of the new questions are more difficult, use more complicated vocabulary, or are provoking controversy regarding their content. In addition, while the old test stops as soon as applicants answer six questions correctly, the new test requires applicants to answer all 20 questions regardless of whether they have already answered 12 correctly. This will potentially increase the amount of time that USCIS officers need to administer the civics portion of the exam and thereby result in longer and fewer interviews per day, further exacerbating the agency’s backlog in processing citizenship applications.

Given these concerns, many education programs, advocacy organizations, and others have submitted comments to USCIS calling for the new test to be rescinded or delayed until it can be further reviewed by the new administration. (My recent article describing issues with the new test is available here.) As of this writing, there has been no change in the policy, and the new test is required for all students whose citizenship application filing dates are December 1, 2020, and after. Students who filed prior to that date will take the old test. So unless there is a policy change, our citizenship education programs currently need to prepare students for two different sets of civics questions depending on their application dates. And since USCIS regional offices vary widely in their appointment backlogs, programs around the country will experience different percentages of students needing to prepare for the old and new test versions.

Here are some resources that show the comparison between the old and new sets of civics test questions:

A listing of the old test questions (with a comparison to the new questions) is available here.

A listing of the new test questions (with a comparison to the old questions) is available here.

A Voices of Freedom unit-by-unit integration of the old and new test questions is available here.

If you would like to provide comments or suggested edits to USCIS regarding any of the new test questions, you can send them to naturalizationtestrevision2019@uscis.dhs.gov.

The Insurrection

The attack on the Capitol on January 6 has had a profound impact on many of our immigrant students, whose reactions have ranged from shock and fear that an insurrection could occur in the United States, to a wary familiarity with such events from their experiences in their countries of origin. For many students in our civics classes, the principles of democracy and the stability of the government institutions they are studying are beacons of hope lighting their pathway to citizenship. Many cite the rights and responsibilities of citizenship as the fulfillment of a dream as they prepare to take the oath of allegiance at their naturalization ceremonies.

But many know too well from their home countries how fragile government institutions and people’s rights can be. Ironically, while one of the most important aspects of attaining citizenship is for our students to eventually be able to have relatives join them in the U.S. through family immigration, many students were hearing from those family members after the events at the Capitol to check on their safety and the stability of the United States.

When considering these events through the eyes of our students, it is also important to acknowledge that many of them have experienced the effects of growing anti-immigrant sentiment over the past few years, and many are in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting recession. These students’ motivations for acquiring citizenship therefore also may include the goal of increasing their safety and acceptance in the country as well as safeguarding their lives and livelihoods.

The challenges our students may be facing coupled with uncertainty surrounding the recent events may result in their having lots of questions, concerns, and a need to share during instructional time. Whether you are offering citizenship instruction or general English language instruction, and whether you are currently meeting with students remotely or in a classroom, here are links to some resources you may find useful for incorporating lessons or conversations about the U.S. Capitol insurrection:

“What Happened During the Insurrection at the US Capitol and Why?” – a resource from Facing History and Ourselves, is available here.

“Three ways to teach the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol” – a lesson plan with videos from the PBS Newshour, is available here.

“Lesson from an Insurrection” – interviews with 15 instructors about how they and their students have responded to the events, from the education news site The 74, is available here.

A “January 6, 2021 Resource Guide” – from the New York City Department of Education, is available here.

I am currently preparing an article on how immigrant students view the January 6 attack and invite you to share any writing about this by your students. If a student would like to have her or his photo included and give permission, please send any submissions to: bill.bliss@languageandcommunication.org.

Grammar on the Go and Beyond!: Pearson Modular Grammar Powered By Nearpod

By Christina Cavage

Today we are challenged in ways we have never been before. We are preparing to deliver classes both online and face-to-face. In our online classes, we are constantly seeking out tools that are accessible to our students as well as looking for ways to do those quick, formative checks in a digital environment. While in our face-to-face classes, we are often seeking out ways to deeper engage the iGeneration, and make lessons more appealing, yet just as effective. To complicate matters even more, costly texts often do not address all our student learning outcomes, leaving us to seek out additional materials.  These challenges can be overcome. The Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod was developed to meet and address these challenges. So, what exactly is it?

What is the Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod?

Pearson Modular Grammar Powered by Nearpod is a library of grammar lessons built on Nearpod’s student engagement platform. Teachers can select the lessons they want to deliver in their classroom by adding them to their library. Once in your library, you can customize the lesson. By adding, deleting, or modifying the content you can give your students a truly tailored learning experience.

The Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod is organized by units. Within a unit there are several lessons. For example, the present time. This unit is organized around the theme of ‘Here and Now.’ There are four lessons within the unit, and every unit opens up with a section opener, and ends with a section closer. Take a look at the graphic below.

Structure of a unit

Once again, any of the content can be added to, or modified to meet the needs of your learners.

Activities and tasks are engaging. They include Collaborate!, a collaborative discussion board, matching, fill-ins, polls, open-ended tasks, draw-it activities, games, and more.  In summary, the flexibility and adaptability make the Pearson Grammar Modular Course Powered by Nearpod an excellent tool to supplement your current instruction, both in a face-to-face class and online.

Collaborate! board

You can learn more here.

To experience the Pearson Modular Grammar Course Powered by Nearpod yourself, contact your sales specialist and ask for a demo. Find your rep here.

The Road to College and Career Readiness: Why It Just May Be Paved with Rigor

By Lia Conklin Olson

Perhaps you have heard the term rigor dropped now and again at staff meetings, professional development gatherings, and even in lunchroom conversations.  Lest the term lose its glitter from overuse, let’s consider why it may be worth its weight in gold.  When we as adult educators recognize the high stakes our students face and commit to the tall order of helping them succeed, we realize we need a high-yield investment.  Rigor may be just that investment, one that provides our students the successful returns this era of high stakes demands.

High stakes for ABE students

Let’s consider just how high the stakes are for our adult basic education (ABE) students.  The “Tipping Point” study (Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, 2005) found that individuals who completed one year of postsecondary education plus a credential had significantly higher earnings than individuals who held fewer than ten college credits.  A more recent study (Mancuso, 2015) again showed this disparity, finding that individuals who met the “tipping point” earned on average $6,265 per year more and were 23% more likely to be employed than those who did not.  High stakes, indeed.

That is exactly the reason behind the Workforce Investment and Opportunities Act (WIOA; 2013-2014) that legislates rigorous instruction for all ABE students along a pathway towards college and careers readiness.  Since students requiring at least one remedial college class have college graduation rates 27% to 39% lower than students who require no remediation (Wiley, Wyatt, & Camara, 2011), college and career preparedness is specifically defined as “academic knowledge and skills required to qualify for placement into entry-level college credit coursework without remediation” (Camara, 2013, p. 22).  Therefore, to meet the high stakes, we must prepare all students for the rigor of college and careers and propel them toward the point where the balance tips from economic disparity to prosperity.

Credit: sirtravelalot.Shutterstock

Serving diverse needs of ABE students

When we consider these high stakes alongside the diverse needs of our ABE students, we recognize just how tall an order we, in partnership with our students, must fill.  Each year, the ABE field serves approximately 1.8 million adults (Patterson, 2016) from a pool of 36 million who would benefit from ABE services (Coalition of Adult Basic Education [COABE], n.d.).  Adult English language learners (ELLs) represent the largest portion of this population and present a wide variety of educational backgrounds and levels of language and literacy development, including students with limited and interrupted formal education (Lesgold & Welch-Ross, 2012).  Native-born ABE students are equally diverse with wide variation in level of knowledge and skills, educational goals, and prior educational experiences (Lesgold & Welch-Ross).  To magnify these needs further, 29% of all ABE students self-report having a learning disability (Mellard, 2013).

As ABE educators, we are ready and willing to step up and mediate the melee of student needs.  However, a number of professional and programmatic limitations often leave us ill-equipped to do so.  According to Patterson (2016), 78.6% of ABE teachers are part-time, which limits the preparation time and commitment teachers can provide.  Likewise, few ABE teachers have teaching preparation specific to the ABE population and limited professional development opportunities (Sun, 2010).  In addition, ABE programming is severely underfunded, receiving approximately one tenth the funding of the K12 system: $800 per ABE student in 2014 (COABE, n.d.) versus $11,009 per K12 student of the same year (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016).  Clearly, we are left with a tall order, indeed.

Rigor in instruction

What we can latch onto are instructional content and methods that offer our students an opportunity to meet this tall order as efficiently and effectively as possible.  Rigor may offer just this opportunity.  Researchers in education have defined rigor in a variety of ways.  The definition I favor is that of Hess (2014) which describes rigor as “the complexity of content, the cognitive engagement with that content, and the scope of the planned learning activities” (p. 1). This definition lends itself well to instructional considerations around content and material selection, deep student engagement, and the design of challenging learning tasks.

Regardless of the definition you prefer, rigor inherently requires the use of critical thinking and problem solving, skills that are overwhelmingly supported in the research as integral for success in college and careers (Camara, 2013; Conley, 2014; Foster, Strawn, & Duke-Benfield, 2011; Johnson & Parrish, 2010; Pimentel, 2013; Rothman, 2012).  Even adult learners who may not enter postsecondary education benefit from rigorous learning. According to Parrish (2016), when considering the increased literacy and critical thinking demands placed on adult ELLs as they compete in the job market and navigate everyday tasks, it is critical for ELL instructors “to imbed these higher order, more complex academic and career-readiness skills early and often at all levels of adult English language acquisition” (p. 3).

How well does ABE instruction deliver on its commitment to prepare ABE students for college and careers?  Johnson & Parrish (2010) surveyed college faculty and ABE instructors and found four critical gaps between what postsecondary faculty expected students to know upon entering postsecondary education and training and what ABE instructors were actually teaching: critical thinking, notetaking, technology, and presentation skills.  Of particular note, Johnson and Parrish found that 60% of college instructors regarded the critical thinking skills of paraphrasing, summarizing, and synthesizing as very or extremely important, whereas ABE instructors reported teaching these skills only sometimes or rarely.  Clearly, to deliver upon our commitment to our students’ success, we must better prepare them to meet the higher expectations of the future.

WIOA and its legislated rigorous content standards for all students provides the opportunity to do just that in earnest.  The College and Career Readiness (CCR) standards were designed to articulate the knowledge and skills needed to meet the rigorous demands of college and career readiness.  According to Pimentel (2013), these standards articulate three research-based instructional advances designed to increase instructional rigor by targeting high-impact cognitively demanding skills.  One of these key advances is regular student engagement with complex informational texts.  According to Williamson (2006), prior to the CCR standards, a gap of approximately four grade levels existed in the level of complexity between secondary texts and postsecondary texts.  In addition, the ACT study (2006) found the ability to read complex text to be the best predictor of college and career success.  Taken together, these studies indicate that developing the ability to read complex text may better prepare students for college and careers.

Credit: Shutterstock

According to Pimentel (2013), college faculty input and national assessment data indicated the use of evidence to be a critical skill for postsecondary preparation.  As such, the second key advance is a focus on student “reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from text” (Pimentel, 2013, p. 10).  This focus ensures that students must rely on the text to develop their understanding, limiting the role of their prior knowledge and experiences and increasing the need to develop deeper understanding of the text itself.  Tied to this reliance on text is the third advance, “building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction” (Pimentel, 2013, p.10).  This advance recognizes the need for students to build their knowledge base through text in all content areas while developing the ability to read complex text and use critical thinking skills.

How do CCR standards live up to their design?  So far, there is little research available to support or dispute their effectiveness.  My dissertation, Minnesota Adult Educators’ Descriptions of Standards Implementation and Its Influence on Cognitive Rigor (Conklin Olson, 2017), set out to answer this question.  I interviewed 12 ABE instructors regarding their experiences implementing CCR standards in their classes and what they believed to be its impact on the cognitive rigor of their instruction and student learning.  Ten of 12 participants reported that their CCR standards implementation increased the rigor of their instruction and their students’ learning.  Participants described choosing more complex texts, implementing tasks that demanded increased cognitive rigor, and setting higher expectations for students.  In reference to student learning, participants reported that their students demonstrated higher levels of rigor, met increased expectations, and experienced increased confidence and self-reliance.  Obviously, more research is needed to measure the impact implementation of rigorous standards has on the learning outcomes of ABE students.  However, this small study offers a hopeful glimpse into its potential.

Even if we knew unequivocally that imbedding rigor via CCR-aligned standards would result in more successful student outcomes, we would still need to build our own knowledge and skills to exploit its potential to the fullest.  The LINCS website, under the auspices of U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, contains a full battery of professional development resources designed to train educators to enact rigorous instruction and effective implementation of CCR standards.  Equipped with high-quality, CCR-aligned instructional resources (be sure to access publisher-provided correlation charts or request them if not available), we are on our way to facilitating the high returns we envision for our students.

It’s true that a focus on college and career readiness demands a disconcerting concerted effort on the part of us and our students.  Yet, when we acknowledge the high stakes our students face, we recognize that these high stakes necessitate the tall order of preparing all students along a pathway to college and careers.  To fill that tall order, we must believe in the glitter of rigor, not as a flash in the pan, but as a 24-carat commitment to provide rigor-rich content, rigorous student engagement with that content, and rigorous knowledge and skill building along a pathway to college and careers.  True, all that glitters is not gold, but rigor…well, it just may be the real deal.


Lia Conklin Olson, PhD has been an instructor for St. Paul Adult Education for twenty years.  In addition, she is an adjunct professor for the Teaching English as a Foreign Language program at Hamline University and a curriculum developer of College and Career Readiness standards-aligned curriculum for Minneapolis Adult Education.  Dr. Olson is the author of the New Readers Press series What’s Next? (2012) and Bridging English Language Learners to GED Prep teacher’s guides (2017) as well as the series consultant for Road to Work (2017).  Dr. Olson focused her PhD dissertation on CCR standards implementation in Minnesota (Adult Basic Educators’ Descriptions of Standards Implementation and Its Influence on Cognitive Rigor; 2017).


The new edition of Future: English for Work, Life, and Academic Success integrates English language instruction with workforce, academic, and soft skills and the latest digital tools in one complete program. Built on the backbone of College and Career Readiness (CCR) and English Language Proficiency (ELP) Standards, Future empowers students to successfully reach their work, life, and academic goals.

The new edition features increased rigor built into all lessons at every level that challenges students to analyze, evaluate, predict, infer, and problem-solve. Future‘s curriculum closely aligns with WIOA, NRS, ELPS, and CCRS. The skills and competencies are fully and seamlessly integrated in every lesson of the program, equipping learners with higher order skills to help them achieve their personal, professional, and educational goals. Future, 2E is the best solution to ensure your students’ success.

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References

ACT. (2006). Ready for college, ready for work: Same or different. Iowa City, IA: Author.

Retrieved from https://www.michigan.gov/documents/Ready_for_Life_or_Work-Are_They_Different_159090_7.pdf

files/3-PI-%20ELA.pdf

Camara, W. (2013). Defining and measuring college and career readiness: A validation

framework. Educational Measurement: Issues & Practice 32(4), 16-27. doi:10.1111/emip.12016.

Coalition on Adult Basic Education (n.d.). Adult education is needed now. Retrieved (3-3-2017)

from http://www.coabe.org/adult-education-is-needed-now/

Conley, D. T. (2014). The Common Core State Standards: Insight into their development and

purpose. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers. Retrieved from http://cusd200.org/cms/lib7/IL01001538/Centricity/Domain/38/CCSS_Insight_Into_Development_2014.pdf

Foster, M., Strawn, J., & Duke-Benfield, A. E. (2011). Beyond basic skills: State strategies to

connect low-skilled students to an employer-valued postsecondary education. Washington, DC: CLASP Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success. Retrieved from http://www.clasp.org/ resources-and-publications/publication-1/Beyond-Basic- Skills-March-2011.pdf

Hess, K. (2013). Cognitive rigor in today’s classroom. Measured Progress. Retrieved from

http://asdn.org/wp-content/uploads/CCAP3010_Cognitive_Rigor_in_Todays_Classroom.

pdf

Johnson, K., & Parrish, B. (2010). Aligning instructional practices to meet the academic needs of

adult ESL students. TESOL Quarterly, 44, 618–628. doi: 10.5054/tq.2010.230742_2.

Lesgold, A. & Welch-Ross (Eds.). (2012). Improving adult literacy instruction: Options for

practice and research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi:10.17226/

13242

LINCS [Website].  Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education:

https://lincs.ed.gov/state-resources/federal-initiatives/college-career-readiness

Mancuso, D. (2015). Impact for WorkFirst participants of reaching the ‘tipping point’. (Briefing

Document). Department of Social & Health Services. Retrieved from http://www.sbctc.

edu/resources/documents/colleges-staff/programs-services/basic-education-for-adults/WorkFirst-Tipping-Point.pdf

Mellard, D. (2013). Observations about providing effective instruction to adults with low

literacy. Perspectives on Language and Literacy 39(2), 13-16. Retrieved from

http://search.proquest.com/openview/6183a187e471927b78de6f8a9ed84d18/1?pq-o            rigsite=gscholar&cbl=28091

Parrish, B. (2016). Meeting the language needs of today’s adult English language learner (Issue

Brief). Literacy Information and Communication System. Retrieved from

https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/ELL_Increasing_Rigor_508.pdf

Olson, L. C. (2017). Adult Basic Educators’ Descriptions of Standards Implementation and Its

Influence on Cognitive Rigor. (Doctoral dissertation, Capella University). Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/openview/cd9b8b7cd65ea434864d79e21676cc15/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y

Patterson, M. (2016). Full-time instructional staffing and outcomes of advanced adult learners.

Adult Education Quarterly 66(4), 336-358. doi:10.1177/0741713616662906

Pimentel, S. (2013). College and career readiness standards for adult education. Washington,

DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education. Retrieved from http://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/ CCRStandardsAdultEd.pdf

Rothman, R. (2012). A common core of readiness. Educational Leadership, 69(7), 10-15.

Retrieved from http://www.oprfhs.org/documents/CommonCoreofReadiness.pdf

Sun, Y. (2010). Standards, equity, and advocacy: Employment conditions of ESOL teachers in

adult basic education and literacy systems. TESOL Journal 1(1). doi: 10.5054/tj.2010.215135.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2016) Public Education Finances: 2014 (G14-ASPEF). Educational

Finance Branch. U.S. Department of Commerce. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/

content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/econ/g14-aspef.pdf

Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (2005). Building pathways to

success for low-skill adult students: Lessons for community college policy and practice from a longitudinal student tracking study (the “Tipping Point” research).  (Research Report No. 06-2). Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED496218.pdf

Wiley, A., Wyatt, J., & Camara, W. J. (2011). The Development of a Multidimensional College

Readiness Index. Research Report 2010-3. College Board.

Williamson, G. L. (2006). Aligning the Journey with a Destination: A Model for K-16 Reading

Standards.  (White Paper). Durham, NC: MetaMetrics, Inc.  Retrieved from https://www.georgiastandards.org/resources/Documents/AligningJourneyWithDestination_MetaMetricsWhitepaper.pdf

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, 113th Cong., H.R. 803, (2013–2014). Retrieved

from http://www.doleta.gov/wioa

Wrigley, H.S. (2007). Beyond the lifeboat: Improving language, citizenship, and training

services for immigrants and refugees. In A. Belzer (Ed.), Toward defining and improving quality in adult basic education: Issues and challenges (pp. 221–240). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

 

Designing a Superhero Movie Unit

by Lora Yasen

“You’re despicable. Dishonorable. Faithless,” said Gamora to Peter Quill.

This short line from the sci-fi superhero movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, provides a lot of material for the ESL class.  First, this list of adjectives in the movie makes a good multiple-choice listening exercise. Next, students can learn new vocabulary words and talk about the tone, informality and intent of the speaker. This scene is a good discussion topic also. What are some characteristics of a hero?  Is Peter a hero at this point in the movie? Why or why not? At the end of the movie unit, this line from the movie may be cited with a reference in a student essay on the transformation of the hero character during the story.

In my university level reading, writing and discussion skills-based ESL courses, I often use a movie and reader in addition to the usual textbooks. Superhero movies are instantly engaging, and a favorite source of language and cultural content for my students. Here is the process I follow for designing a superhero movie unit.

Superhero Movie Toolkit

First collect the movie resources. Find a junior novelization or ESL reader on the movie (which includes movie photos) as a student textbook. Find teacher reference materials such as the movie script online, movie websites, movie trailers, soundtracks and lyrics, comic books, etc. Official movie websites may have games, quizzes, taglines, trailers, etc. that can be used in worksheets, scavenger hunts, or previewing activities. Most have character photos that can be references for students to learn about the heroes and the villains.

Pearson English Readers have a whole series based on the Marvel Super Heroes

Materials Creation

 For Guardians of the Galaxy, I created a PowerPoint with movie photos to help students learn the character names, and different groups and planets. Later we returned to the character photos to talk about special abilities, motives for wanting the orb, and tragic backstories.

I created a listening assignment called, “Who Said It?” for the movie. I used quotes from the movie or website taglines that are important to the comprehension of the film.

“You keep throwing that in my face!”

Who said It? Peter Quill said it when Yondu reminds him the crew wanted to eat him.

Since music is such an important theme in the movie, I developed lessons on several songs from the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 soundtrack and discussed the lyrics, and we viewed the original singers in YouTube videos. Knowing the songs made the music more meaningful during the movie and helped students comprehend more of the movie.

I chose Scene 13 from the movie script for student role-plays. This scene, “12 % of a Plan”, is significant in the movie. It is a difficult, humorous, sad scene where the characters decide to set aside their selfish motives and unite to save the galaxy. Student read the scripts and then discussed the vocabulary and meaning of the scene before viewing this part of the film. Without this preparation, students would have missed this major change in the plot.

Lesson Plans, Course Outcomes & Assessments

Using a reader and movie offers plenty of opportunities to meet course outcomes and design interesting assessment options. I have students read 3-4 chapters of the reader each week. While reading, we discuss vocabulary in context, discuss parts of speech, work on reading comprehension skills, reading for details and do a lot of summarizing. We practice the concepts learned in our regular textbooks.  We begin with the paragraph and locate main ideas. Then we summarize the paragraph, then the page, and finally the chapter. We practice note-taking skills with the reader and make oral and written summaries. Unless the reader comes with reading exercises, I create my own worksheets that incorporate the skills and student learning outcomes that I normally teach in the course. To scaffold summarizing skills, students work in groups, pairs and then alone to summarize the chapters. Assessments include reading tests on the story and writing assignments on a character or a compare/contrast essay on the reader and movie.

Stop and Go Method

Every Friday after finishing the weekly reader chapters, we watch the portion of the movie we’ve read about. I turn on the closed captions and we watch the movie scene using a stop and go viewing method. I stop at confusing scenes to ask questions. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? At the end of the movie unit, we watch the movie through without stopping to prepare for the final writing assessment.

Superhero Themes

Superhero movies reflect American society and culture and include many interesting themes for discussions or writing assignments. My students decided that one of the themes in Guardians of the Galaxy is that diverse groups of people can work together successfully to help others. Superhero movies are not simply for entertainment, they can be rich sources for teaching language and culture.


Pearson ELT offers a large collection of graded readers at all levels of proficiency. Our new series of readers is based on Marvel’s Super Heroes series. To search the catalog of all Pearson English Readers, click here.