April 17, 2018
by Nora Nagy
1 Comment

Hooked on Books: Writing stories with Paul Davenport

Paul Davenport

In this series of interviews we talk to teachers, ELT writers, visual artists and researchers about the importance of using literature in the language classroom. Together they have over a hundred years of experience in teaching and writing so they can definitely give us plenty of advice and insight into the best practices. We talk about the importance and transformation of literary texts in education, we ask for genre and title recommendations as well as personal stories.

This month we talked to Paul Davenport, the author of two of our graded readers, Princess on the Run and Stubs Grows Up. Paul worked as a teacher for almost 40 years and has written about 30 stories for language learners. He talks about his reading and teaching, his background and shares his views on reading in school. Continue Reading →

April 11, 2018
by Nora Nagy
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The Secret Agent in the English classroom

We are all aware of the benefits of extensive reading, but some of us may feel unsure about how to approach longer texts in class. How should we scaffold the reading for our students and how much time should we dedicate to talking about the book in class? How will the students benefit from their reading experience? How can we link the book to our syllabus?

In this series of posts, we would like to encourage you to take extensive reading seriously and take a novel into class. We will look at how you can prepare your students for the text and expand it beyond the frame of the story. It is important to prepare the students so they are aware of what they are doing. Some of them may feel intimidated by the idea of reading a book in English, others may not see the benefits. These fears and preconceptions can be easily addressed and thereby make the reading process much more beneficial and all-importantly FUN for the students. It is always a good idea for students to keep a WORD BOOK where they can jot down new words and expressions. We also recommend getting your students to read slightly below level (‘I’ minus 1) so they are at ease with the language and consolidating language while learning new words in context.

This month we continue with the important political novel, The Secret Agent written by Joseph Conrad. You can read a short description of the Helbling Reader edition here.

The book was adapted by Donatella Velluti and illustrated by Claudia Palmarucci for teens and adult readers at a pre-intermediate to intermediate level of English (CEFR A2-B1).

Our aims are to:

  • raise interest in the story,
  • become familiar with the reader,
  • find pathways into the story through projects,
  • expand the social, cultural and historical setting of the story,
  • make personal links,
  • have fun.

CLIL links:

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology
  • Political Science

A political novel

This novel was published in 1907 but its themes have resonated among its readers over the long decades since then. It is a political thriller, a spy and detective story and a psychological novel.

The characters in The Secret Agent. Illustration by Claudia Palmarucci. ©Helbling Languages

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April 5, 2018
by Nora Nagy
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Getting Grimm with young children

Both children and adults love reading folk and fairy tales, although often they appreciate different aspects of them. In our last post we looked at ways of viewing the Brothers Grimm with teenage and adult learners. In this post we look at ways of involving young learners through a theme and project-based approach, after thoroughly relishing the story, of course using three Helbling Young Readers which are retellings or adaptations of famous tales.

These picturebook editions of the stories are suitable for young learners. The stories are told in simple language, using rhyme and repetition to capture the young readers’ attention and stunning illustrations create a strong visual narrative to support the students’ learning and draw on their background knowledge. The images are a good starting point for vocabulary development and as a visual prop for storytelling (and retelling) activities. Discussion boxes on each story spread allow the teacher and the reader to focus on language points that can be developed in class and think about the narrative. Dyslexia-friendly fonts are used throughout in order to maximise readability for students with reading difficulties.

The three stories are:

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March 29, 2018
by Nora Nagy
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Lighting up Children’s Lit: The Brothers Grimm

The people who made a difference: 2) Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

“For storytelling is always the art of repeating stories, and this art is lost when the stories are no longer retained. It is lost because there is no more weaving and spinning to go on while they are being listened to.”

(The Storyteller. Walter Benjamin, 1936)

Jacob (foreground, right) and Wilhelm Grimm. 1855. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Once upon a time there were two brothers, who differed very much in person but shared the same passion for folk and fairy tales, legends and sagas. Their passion grew out of their academic interest in languages, folk knowledge and storytelling, and they dedicated most of their adult lives to collecting and publishing stories we still love and retell to our students and children. Indeed the Brothers Grimm are among the greatest weavers and spinners of stories of all time and the web they wove greatly contributed to keeping storytelling alive.

In this series we introduce people who made a difference in children’s literature (or we could simply say, in literature), and today we explore the world of the Brothers Grimm, focusing on their lives and work. The tales have been told, retold, analyzed, interpreted, translated and adapted so many times that we often forget about the collectors of these much-loved (and often gruesome) folk and fairy tales. However, finding out about their lives and work is just as entertaining as reading one of their tales. Continue Reading →

March 20, 2018
by Nora Nagy
0 comments

Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the classroom

We are all aware of the benefits of extensive reading, but some of us may feel unsure about how to approach longer texts in class. How should we scaffold the reading for our students and how much time should we dedicate to talking about the book in class? How will the students benefit from their reading experience? How can we link the book to our syllabus?

In these series of posts we would like to encourage you to take extensive reading seriously and take a novel into class. We will look at how you can prepare your students for the text and expand it beyond the frame of the story. It is important to prepare the students so they are aware of what they are doing, Some of them may feel intimidiated by the idea of reading a book in English, others may not see the benefits. These fears and preconceptions can be easily addressed and thereby make the reading process much more beneficial and all-importantly FUN for the students. It is always a good idea for students to keep a WORD BOOK where they can jot down new words and expressions. We also recommend getting your students to read slightly below level (‘I’ minus 1) so they are at ease with the language and consolidating language while learning new words in context.

This month we continue with the important historical novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. You can read a short description of the Helbling Reader edition here. Continue Reading →