Of all the tricks in an ESL teacher’s bag, a quohog shell from nearby Long Island Sound may seem the least likely. But the remains of the small clam may be all that is needed to compose an in-class assignment. Focused on journalism’s five W’s, students in Carol Evans’ Level 5 Academic Speaking ask what it is, where it came from, why she picked it up, when, and most tantalizing of all, how it arrived at Rhode Island. Short answers turned into a coherent report as students demonstrated their clear knowledge of the conversation.
Meanwhile this week, Genette Nowak conducts the kind of grammatically intense hour many Americans remember from their own schooling.
Writing the old chestnut “verbs” are “action words” on the board, she leads Level 5 Critical Thinking through tenses and the difference between physical and mental verbs. “Run, sweep, walk” for one, “think, hope, consider, imagine” for the other. In this advanced elective, students learn how to recognize problems, strategize arguments, and assess the credibility of sources.
Students in Level 6 score higher than some Americans on knowledge of current events, and all in English. In another room on another day, Sylvia Stipich takes students through an online quiz, part of a broader curriculum of news analysis and commentary for her classes.
Carol studied at URI for her Master’s in Education and has solid experience in ESL and Adult Basic Education. Genette has a Master’s in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from The New School for General Studies and an impressive writing portfolio. Sylvia is in the midst of her MA in TESOL at Rhode Island College, taught in South Korea, and is a native speaker of Croatian and English. All are new instructors to the A.C.E. Language Institute at the University of Rhode Island, and all bring expertise, professional and academic experience, and the irreplaceable creativity, dynamism, and engagement that make a day in the classroom so much more than just language instruction.