The Central Role of Literature in the ESL/EFL Classroom

page43_SybilMarcus Sybil Marcus

Earlier this year, my colleague Jamie Reinstein and I were corresponding about the value and joy of using literature in ESL education. We found that our experiences were closely aligned, and he invited me to run a workshop on literature and ESL at the Community College of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, U.S. Since he was using my anthology A World of Fiction 2 as the text for his advanced class, he also suggested that I take over for the morning and teach a story from the book.

I decided that I would ask Jamie’s students to read Peter Meinke’s short story “The Cranes,” which is about an elderly couple on an outing to the Gulf of Mexico. Although the story seems innocuous at first, the events lead to an enigmatic ending that prompts reconsideration of what’s been happening all along.

Like many ESL classes, Jamie’s class was made up of a mix of nationalities with students from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. They quickly made me feel very welcome and we settled down to business. I had requested that students read the story for homework and then come to class with a written explanation of what the ending meant to them and why. Continue reading