First Person

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New York

Learning The Power Of Storytelling With My ESL Students

I have long had a curiosity about the power of storytelling and realized that I could connect this passion to my teaching. In reflecting about my teaching with English language learners in the summer of 2011, I thought about inspiring the imagination of storytelling as bridge between the spoken word and the written word. Ultimately, as a teacher of English Language Learners, I am on a quest for fluency. Only by attaining proficiency in writing as well as speaking can we truly say a student is fluent in English. In my experience, the level of engagement has a significant impact on my students' progress, and designing lessons that are consistently relevant and engaging to my students, has been both a challenge and inspiration to me. So I designed a project in which my students would write their own stories. Working with graduate students in creative writing from Columbia University, my English as a Second Language students described their experiences leaving their families and home countries and living in the United States. Students read their stories aloud to seniors at the Cobble Hill Nursing Home, and we published a book of those stories, "Stories That Changed Us Forever." Proceeds from book sales will go into a scholarship fund for the students who worked on the project. My guiding questions for myself for this project were: 1. How do adolescent immigrants find their voice in writing and in life? 2. What strategies engage students in using their voice to transform their writing, while also building confidence, strengthening literacy skills, and providing real audiences for their stories? My guiding question for my students for this project was: What impact does my story have on peoples' lives? Below are excerpts from my students' stories and from reflections that they wrote after reading their stories aloud.