This Is What It Is All About

by William R. Eubank

At the MIDTESOL board meeting on June 19th in Iowa City, Iowa, I saw the results of a class project that illustrates for me "what ESL is all about". Catherine Howland brought a copy of "Stories from Around the World", a booklet produced as A Families and Folktales Project by ESL students in the Cedar Falls School District during the 1998 - 99 school year.

In the acknowledgment section, Catherine Howland and Sarah Wait state that: "The Families and Folktales Project developed from a desire to share and celebrate the variety of cultures that exist in the English as a Second Language Program in the Cedar Falls Community School District. Our dream was for all of the students in the ESL program and their families to share stories and artwork that teach us all something about who they are. As the idea took shape, the project evolved into "Stories from Around the World". . .The students worked together with their families to write the stories in their native language, then retold the stories in English. This is how the stories appear in the book - first the native language version, followed by the English retelling."

The book contains 18 stories, from China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Germany, Greece, Chile, Mexico, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia - written / retold / illustrated by ESL students age 6 to 17.

This type of project teaches English - to the ESL students, but also reaches outside of the formal classroom to involve relatives of the children and other first language adults in the community. It cuts across many disciplines - English, arts, literature, social science -- and it will continue to teach, long after these students have passed through the Cedar Falls School District. Unfortunately, the booklet is not available for purchase since only fifty copies were printed, and there are no plans to print more. A grant from the McElroy Trust had provided most of the original money.

In order to help her share this fantastic class project, I asked her if I could borrow a copy and put it on the MIDTESOL web site. That project is now started. You can find this book at the address above. Each story will take several hours to put on the site but I hope to have them all up by fall.

This will extend the impact of this project - to ESL teachers, ESL students, and to non ESL students around the world! This class project will "teach" for years to come. Do you have a class project that you would like to share - that is what it is all about - contact me.

Added to the WWW on 09-18-99
Last updated on 12/19/2005

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William R. Eubank
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