Reading Strategies and Lesson Plans

Students need to master both cognitive and metacognitive reading skills if they are to read well in English. For academic and job-related purposes, students learn cognitive reading skills such as prediction, asking questions while reading, guessing the meanings of unfamiliar words, analyzing themes,  and writing a short summary of a passage to demonstrate comprehension of the main ideas.

Visit  Site Map,  Current Lesson for  integrated skills reading lesson plans concerning current news topics.

Click here for previous Lesson PlansBusiness Writing,  Writing, Speaking, Listening, Vocabulary, Grammar, Charts & OrganizersResources for Teachers,

Click here for  Components for Literary Analysis

Reading Strategies

Reading strategies help students in their reading comprehension. You have to know which strategies will be the most beneficial for your students, and which ones you use will depend on the level of your learners. Here are some reading strategies you might find useful. Be sure to explain to students the purpose for each strategy. Provide your learners with a variety of strategies.

Activating Background Knowledge

Before reading any material, students need to activate their background knowledge and acquire new information about the topic. One technique for doing this is brainstorming, which not only is a good pre-reading activity, it also allows students to interact verbally.

Students divide into groups, write the topic of the reading material in the center of a page, and then write down all words or ideas associated with the topic that they can think of. Then each group shares its information with the class.

Reviewing Unfamiliar Vocabulary

Another effective pre-reading activity is to review unfamiliar words from the selected reading material. This can be done many ways, but here are a few ideas.

Sentences: Hand out a list of vocabulary words from the reading selection, along with sentences that provide clues to the meanings. Students should fill in the blanks where the word belongs.


Words: restaurant beach zoo


Last night we went to a new_____. The food was great, and the prices were reasonable.

After swimming in the water all day, we were tired from our trip to the_____.


You could also prepare a crossword puzzle containing the new vocabulary words and hand it out to groups as a pre-reading activity. Here are several  good sites for L2 learners. There are various levels for students.

ESL Galaxy: Crossword puzzles for three levels.

Graphic Organizers

Visuals such as graphic organizers come in a variety of forms, such as maps, graphs, webs, boxes, and diagrams (as in Venn diagram). They can be used to for finding different information such as the main idea and the supporting details of a reading selection, or similarities and differences between concepts in the story.

The positive effect of graphic organizers is that they present students with a visual picture of the information and help clarify their ideas.  One of the most popular organizer for any level is the KWL chart.

This chart can be used as both a pre-reading activity and a post-reading activity. For a pre-reading activity, prepare a handout with three columns.

The first column will be the What I Know column. In this column students write down what information they already know about the topic.

The second column is the  What I Want to Know column. In this column students write the information they would like (or want) to learn about the topic.

The third column is the What I Learned column. This is  used in the post-reading segment. After students have read the material, they write what new information they have learned. Here is a good example of a K-W-L chart from MSU.



Best Sites for Various Graphic Organizers

Education Oasis They offer  free charts for :  5 WHs questions,  ABC Brainstorming, KWL Chart, Progress Report, and many more.

Write Design Online These charts are more advanced, but they can be modified for lower-levels. Styles: CerebralChart,  Synectics, Human Interaction Outline, Fishbone Map, and more.

TemplateLAB A great site for various charts for teaching and for learning.

Real Classroom Ideas Demonstrates to  teachers / learners how to set up a graphic organizer folder system.

FNO.ORG (vol. 7) Great organizers for  young or  beginning ESL learners. Large graphics.

Enchanted Learning offers a wide variety, must pay to join to  receive full-size print-outs of graphs.

Skimming and Scanning

Two techniques used for locating  information from reading material are skimming and scanning.


Skimming is used to quickly identify the main ideas of a text. People often skim when they have a large amount of material to read in a limited amount of time. Students would use this technique to quickly gather key information from articles, and texts.

The first way to skim is to read the titles, headings, and subheadings of the text. Also, teach students to look for any diagrams or pictures, that may give them clues about the topic.

Another skimming technique is to read the first and last sentences of each paragraph, because these may contain valuable information about the entire paragraph.


Scanning is used to locate specific information. For example students would use this technique when they are looking up a name in a telephone book or a word in a dictionary.

The first strategy for scanning is to look at the key words in bold type at the top of the pages. Second, look at the entire page until you find the word that you are looking for.

Look for words or numbers that are in bold faced, italics, or in a different font size, style or color.

Look for organizers such as numbers (1, 2, 3), letters (a, b, c), or the words first, second, or next.

Highlighting and Underlining

Students need to review how to properly use the techniques of highlighting and underlining certain information. Some students will color or underline everything on the page.

Reviewing a text with students will help. This can be done first as a class activity, then students can practice on their own. Find the main idea of a reading selection, and direct students to highlight only this segment. The same is done with other information, such as unknown words. Students may be directed to underline new vocabulary.

Note taking

Many L2 learners find note taking challenging. They need to practice this skill because it is one that they will find useful in other courses.


Another tool to use for finding out what students have learned and  in which areas they still need practice  is the 3-2-1 Summary method. This is similar to the one-minute essay, but a little more extensive in that the questions are more specific. This is given at the last five minutes of class.


List three things that you learned in class today:

1. __________

2. __________

3. __________

Ask two questions that you have from today’s class:

1. __________

2. __________

List one thing that you will remember from today’s class:

1. __________

The students responses to these questions are an excellent guide to determine if you are reaching your objectives. For example if learners can’t list at least one item they’ve learned, then there might be a problem. They have not picked up the important points of the material. The two questions that students have will serve as material  that you need to review in the next class.

Source: Active Skills for Reading: book 2, Neil Anderson

  • Components for  Literary Analysis

This is an excellent review of components for analyzing pieces of literature. It is intended for  preparation in writing ((there is a copy in Writing skills) however, the terms are also handy for helping students understand  literary pieces.  Depending on the  level of your students, you can decide how much you would like them to analyze the stories and poems they read.

Also note that some of the terms for Poetry can also be used to analyze novels, short stories and plays. Terms in brackets [ ] are ones I’ve added to the list.

‘Students are asked to write literary analysis essays because this type of assignment encourages you to think about how and why a poem, short story, novel, or play was written.  To successfully analyze literature, you’ll need to remember that authors make specific choices for particular reasons.  Your essay should point out the author’s choices and attempt to explain their significance.

Another way to look at a literary analysis is to consider a piece of literature from your own perspective.  Rather than thinking about the author’s intentions, you can develop an argument based on any single term (or combination of terms) listed below.  You’ll just need to use the original text to defend and explain your argument to the reader.”

Novel, Short Story, or Play

Themes – often explore ideas that are both cross-cultural and deeply rooted in the human condition [e.g., loneliness, coming of age, love, friendship, betrayal].

 Symbolism – Authors turn to tangible symbols to represent abstract concepts and ideas in their stories  Symbols typically derive from objects or non-humans — for instance, a dove might represent peace, or raven might represent death; red rose–symbolizes love and romance.

  Imagery Imagery appeals to readers’ senses through highly descriptive language. It’s crucial for any writer hoping to follow the rule of “show, don’t tell,” as strong imagery truly paints a picture of the scene at hand. For example: My head is pounding like a drum; The autumn leaves are a blanket on the ground; His words felt like a dagger in my heart.

Senses: Visual Imagery (Sight) Auditory Imagery (Sound)  Tactile Imagery (Touch) Olfactory Imagery (Smell)  Gustatory Imagery (Taste)

Character – representation of a person, place, or thing performing traditionally human activities or functions in a work of fiction.

• Protagonist – The character the story revolves around.

• Antagonist – A character or force that opposes the protagonist.

• Minor character – Often provides support and illuminates the protagonist.

• Static character – A character that remains the same.

• Dynamic character – A character that changes in some important way.

• Characterization – The choices an author makes to reveal a character’s personality, such as appearance, actions, dialogue, and motivations.

Look for: Connections, links, and clues between and about characters. Ask         yourself what the function and significance of each character is. Make this determination based upon the character’s history, what the reader is told (and not told), and what other characters say about themselves and others.

Point of View – pertains to who tells the story and how it is told. The point of view of a story can sometimes indirectly establish the author’s intentions.

• Narrator – The person telling the story who may or may not be a character in the story.

• First-person – Narrator participates in action but sometimes has limited knowledge/vision.

• Second person – Narrator addresses the reader directly as though she is part of the story. (i.e. “You walk into your bedroom.  You see clutter everywhere and…”)

• Third Person (Objective) – Narrator is unnamed/unidentified (a detached observer). Does not assume character’s perspective and is not a character in the story. The narrator reports on events and lets the reader supply the meaning.

• Omniscient – All-knowing narrator (multiple perspectives). The narrator knows what each character is thinking and feeling, not just what they are doing throughout the story.  This type of narrator usually jumps around within the text, following one character for a few pages or chapters, and then switching to another character for a few pages, chapters, etc. Omniscient narrators also sometimes step out of a particular character’s mind to evaluate him or her in some meaningful way.

Plot – the arrangement of ideas and/or incidents that make up a story

• Foreshadowing – When the writer clues the reader in to something that will eventually occur in the story; it may be explicit (obvious) or implied (disguised).

• Suspense – The tension that the author uses to create a feeling of discomfort about the unknown

• Conflict – Struggle between opposing forces.

• Exposition – Background information regarding the setting, characters, plot.

• Rising Action – The process the story follows as it builds to its main conflict

• Crisis – A significant turning point in the story that determines how it must end

• Resolution/Denouement – The way the story turns out.

Setting – the place or location of the action.  The setting provides the historical and cultural context for characters. It often can symbolize the emotional state of characters.

Structure – The way that the writer arranges the plot of a story.

Look for: Repeated elements in action, gesture, dialogue, description, as well as shifts in direction, focus, time, place, etc.

Allegory – narrative form in which the characters are representative of some larger humanistic trait (i.e. greed, vanity, or bravery) and attempt to convey some larger lesson or meaning to life. Although allegory was originally and traditionally character based, modern allegories tend to parallel story and theme.

• William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily- the decline of the Old South

• Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- man’s struggle to contain his inner primal instincts

• District 9- South African Apartheid

• X Men- the evils of prejudice

• Harry Potter- the dangers of seeking “racial purity”

Figurative Language

What is figurative language?

“Basically, figurative language is anytime you stretch the actual meaning of words for effect, whether to sound artistic, make a joke, or communicate more clearly and engagingly. Figurative language is a common technique in narrative writing, where the author strives to make emotional connections with the reader.

The opposite of figurative language is literal language, or phrasing that uses the exact meaning of the words without imagination or exaggeration. For example, if an athlete is doing well, you might say they’re “on fire” figuratively. If their clothes catch on fire (which hopefully doesn’t happen), then they’d be on fire literally.

What is the purpose of figurative language?

“Literal language serves its purpose in certain contexts, such as professional communication, academic papers, or legal documents. However, in other contexts, to put it bluntly, literal writing could be boring.” Grammarly

The following are some examples of Figurative language:

A simile  is a comparison of two things, indicated by some connective, usually “like”, “as”, “than”, or a verb such as “resembles” to show how they are similar.

Example: “His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry…/And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.“—Clement Clark Moore

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which two “essentially unlike things” are shown to have a type of resemblance or create a new image. The similarities between the objects being compared may be implied rather than directly stated. 

Example: “Fog comes on little cat feet”—Carl Sandburg  fog 

Onomatopoeia is a word designed to be an imitation of a sound.

Example: “Bark! Bark!” went the dog as he chased the car.

Personification is the attribution of a personal nature or character to inanimate objects or abstract notions, especially as a rhetorical figure.

Examples: “Because I could not stop for Death,/He kindly stopped for me;/

An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which a pair of opposite or contradictory terms is used together for emphasis.

Examples: Organized chaos; Bittersweet.

Hyperbole is a figure of speech which uses an extravagant or exaggerated statement to express strong feelings.

Example: They had been walking so long that John thought he might drink the entire lake when they came upon it.

Allusion is a reference to a famous character or event.

Example: A single step can take you through the looking glass if you’re not careful.

An idiom is an expression that has a figurative meaning unrelated to the literal meaning of the phrase.

Examples: Don’t beat around the bush; He’s got time on his hands

A paradox is a statement or proposition which is self-contradictory, unreasonable, or illogical.

Example: This statement is a lie.

A pun is an expression intended for a humorous or rhetorical effect by exploiting different meanings of words.

Example: I wondered why the ball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.

Flashbacks  Flashbacks are an interesting way to reveal to the reader what happened in the past.

Example:A woman is about to get married. As she puts on her veil, she remembers her fiancé three years before, swearing he would make her his wife someday. A tear comes to her eye and she prepares to walk down the aisle.” Here, the flashback is the memory of the woman’s fiancé three years before. The memory serves to show that her fiancé was sure of their relationship early on, and that his prediction has come true. The memory brings a tear of happiness to her eye.

Alliteration Alliteration is the repetition of identical initial consonant sounds in successive or closely associated syllables within a group of words, often used as a literary device. 

Example: A familiar example is “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”. 

Repetition Repetition is a literary device that involves intentionally using a word or phrase for effect, two or more times in a speech or written work. For repetition to be noticeable, the words or phrases should be repeated within close proximity of each other.

Example: Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream
“I have a dream that my four little children will […] I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia […] I have a dream today!”


[The following terms are usually used in analyzing poetry.]

Rhythm – often thought of as a poem’s timing. Rhythm is the juxtaposition of stressed and unstressed beats in a poem. Rhythm is often used to give the reader a lens through which to move through the work.

Meter – measure or structuring of rhythm in a poem

Foot – grouping of stressed and unstressed syllables used in line or poem

• Iamb – unstressed syllable followed by stressed

◦ Made famous by the Shakespearian sonnet, closest to the natural rhythm of human speech

▪ How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

• Spondee – stressed stressed

◦ Used to add emphasis and break up monotonous rhythm

▪ Blood boil, mind-meld, well- loved

• Trochee – stressed unstressed

◦ Often used in children’s rhymes and to help with memorization, gives poem a hurried feeling

▪ While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

• Anapest – unstressed unstressed stressed

◦ Often used in longer poems or “rhymed stories”

▪ Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

• Dactyls – stressed unstressed unstressed

◦ Often used in classical Greek or Latin text, later revived by the Romantics, then again by the Beatles, often thought to create a heartbeat or pulse in a poem

▪ Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.

• The iamb stumbles through my books; trochees rush and tumble; while anapest runs like a hurrying brook; dactyls are stately and classical.

Structure – The pattern of organization of a poem. For example, a Shakespearean sonnet is a 14-line poem written in iambic pentameter. Because the sonnet is strictly constrained, it is considered a closed or fixed form. An open or free form poem has looser form, or perhaps one of the author’s invention, but it is important to remember that these poems  are not necessarily formless.

Symbolism – when an object is meant to be representative of something or an idea greater than the object itself.

• Cross – representative of Christ or Christianity

• Bald Eagle – America or Patriotism

• Owl – wisdom or knowledge

• Yellow – implies cowardice or rot

Speaker – the person delivering the poem. Remember, a poem does not have to have a speaker, and the speaker and the poet are not necessarily one in the same.

Tone – the implied attitude towards the subject of the poem. Is it hopeful, pessimistic, dreary, worried? A poet conveys tone by combining all of the elements listed above to create a precise impression on the reader.

Source: Roane State Community College

General Guide Questions for Reading Novels

Reading a novel as a class can be a rewarding experience. Begin by assigning pages or chapters from the novel, and give questions as homework assignments.

During class, place students in groups and have them discuss the answers, then bring the class together to discuss the discussion questions.

The following are general discussion questions students can answer for just about all novels.


Where and when does the story take place?

What did you learn about the setting? Is it a pleasant place to live?

Is the setting mainly industrial, agricultural, or cosmopolitan in nature?


Can you identify the protagonist and provide a description?

Can you identify and describe the antagonist?

Who are the other characters? Provide a brief description of each one as you encounter them in your reading.

How are the characters connected? Is the relationship family, friend, enemy?


Ae there any important events or special circumstances, such as a war?


Can you tell why each character behaved as they did? Were their motives clear from the time you first met them, or did they only become clear after a lot of action?


What vocabulary or idioms were you not able to understand?

Activities for Novels

Here are examples of reading activities and discussion questions from several novels you could use. Also, note that the reading levels may differ according to the criteria set by your school.

Twilight- Stephenie Meyer

Level: intermediate

Pre-reading activites (these activities are to completed as students read each chapter of the novel).

Vocabulary practice: Have students view a picture or poster from the movie, and generate a list of vocabulary words then in groups, students look up the meanings.  After reading the first chapter, students check to see if any of the original words  are in the story. Ask students if they have ideas what the story is about from the title. Write information on the board. As they read the novel, students find out if the ideas were close to the story plot.

While-reading activity: Place students in small groups, and give them the following handout. As they read, they should underline or highlight the information.

Directions: As the following characters appear in the story provide the following information for each:

Bella Swan, Edward Cullen, Alice Cullen, Emmett Cullen, Jasper Hale, and Rosalie Hale.

1- physical description


3-family background

4-intentions (good or bad?)

Writing Assignment: Choose a character and write an essay discussing why you like or dislike this character. Essays will be shared in class.

The Bean Trees- Barbara Kingsolver

Level: High-Intermediate

Pre-Reading Discussion Questions

In the novel The Bean Trees by Barbra Kingslover, there are several themes discussed. You might want to have discussions with students to check if  they understand the these topics.

For example, immigration, and the consequences of illegal immigration. Mattie, is one of the characters in the story,  who transports and protects illegal aliens. The immigrants Estevan and Esperanza are depicted sympathetically, and Taylor’s horror at their past life changes the way she sees the world. Kingsolver depicts those who denigrate immigrants not as evil, but as ignorant or misguided.

Another theme that comes up in the novel is that of family. Traditionally  the word Family” meant a father, mother,  and children (usually just 2 with the father being the provider, and the mother the caregiver.  Kingslover presents several untraditional models of family. The first mother introduced in the novel, Alice Greer, sets the stage for all the models of motherhood to come. Alice is a loving, responsible single mother, who raises her daughter without a father.  Taylor (the main character) becomes an adoptive mother overnight, acquiring a child of a different racial makeup and background than her own, and Lou Ann gives birth to a child on her own.

The bean trees have a symbiotic relationship with bugs called rhizobia, which move up and down the wisteria vine’s roots and provide a network that transfers nutrients. This mutual aid symbolizes the help and love human beings give one another. The bean trees, like people, only thrive with a network of support.

words and  terms:


legal immigrants

illegal aliens


family/ motherhood/fatherhood

Cherokee Indians

symbiotic relationship

Pre-reading activity:

Vocabulary/ phrases  from The Bean Trees-chapter 1-

Directions: Place students in small groups and have them find the meanings of the words and phrases in bold font.

1. Believe me in those days the girls were dropping by the wayside like seeds off a poppyseed bun…

2. They said he overfilled the tire.

3. That’s my big girl bringing home the bacon,” she would say, and cook those things and serve them up like Thanksgiving for the two of us.

4. She went to the edge of the porch and shook a handful of pea hulls out of her apron onto the flowerbed.

5. Mr. Walter had a wife, Lynda, whose existence was ignored by at least the female portion of the high school but who was nevertheless alive and well, and was in fact one of the head nurses.

6. He made our country boys look like the hand-me-down socks Mama brought home, all full of their darns and mends.

7. Mama in her armhole apron in the caned porch chair and me on the step stool, the two of us shelling out peas into a newspaper.

8. “…we got this particular science teacher by the name of Mr. Hughes Walter.”

9. At school it was a piece of cake to pick me out of a lineup of town girls in their beige or pink Bobbie Brooks matching sweater-and-skirt outfits.

10. Surely you would think he’d pick Earl Wickentot, who could dissect an earthworm without fear.
terrestrial worm that burrows into and helps aerate soil…

11. That is what I told Mama on the back porch.

12. This must not have been entirely true, since they were abundant in Pittman County and many survived to adulthood.

13. Mama was not one of these that wore tight jeans to their kids’ softball games.

14. This is not to say that I was unfamiliar with the back seat of a Chevrolet.

15. He got stuck up there.

16. Mama settled back into the cane chair and scooped up another sponful of peas.

17.About nineteen people congregated during the time it took for Norman Strick to walk up to the Courthouse…

18. You could have painted a barn with all the lipstick that went into “H. W. enraptured forever” and things of that kind.

19. “… twenty-two years after naming him that, Foster Greer’s mother supposedly died of a broken heart.”

20. It was marigolds and Hot Tamale cosmos.
21. Her right hand twisted over and back as she snapped a little curl of string off the end of each pod and rolled out the peas with her thumb.

22. Surely you would think he’d pick Earl Wickentot, who could dissect an earthworm without fear.

23. He was famous for drinking Old Grand Dad with a gasoline funnel…

24. Mr. Walter had a wife, Lynda, whose existence was ignored by at least the female portion of the high school…

25. But the day I saw his daddy up there like some old overalls slung over a fence…

26. He was from out of state, from some city college up north, which was why, everyone presumed, his name was backwards.

Answers to Vocabulary:

1. drop by the wayside -give up in the face of defeat of lacking hope; admit defeat.

2. overfill -fill beyond capacity.

3. bring home the bacon -attain success or reach a desired goal.

4. flowerbed- a  patch of earth in which flowers are growing.

5. head nurse- the person in charge of nursing in a medical institution.

6. hand-me-down -outgrown garment passed down from one person to another.

7. armhole – a hole through which you put your arm and where a sleeve can be attached.

8. science teacher – someone who teaches science.

9. piece of cake- any undertaking that is easy to do.

10. earthworm- terrestrial worm that burrows into and helps aerate soil; often surfaces when the ground is cool or wet; used as bait by anglers.

11. back porch – a porch for the back of a house.

12. adulthood – the period of time in  a person’s life after physical growth has stopped and they are fully developed.

13. unfamiliar with- having little or no knowledge of.

14. get stuck to  be unable to move further.

15. scoop up- to take out or up with or as if with a scoop.

16. congregate- to come together, usually for a purpose.

17. enraptured- feeling great rapture or delight.

18. broken heart -devastating sorrow and despair.

19. cosmos-  everything that exists anywhere.

20. pod – the vessel that contains the seeds of a plant (not the seeds themselves.)

21. dissect –  cut open or cut apart.

22. funnel -a conical shape with a wider and a narrower opening at the two ends.

23. ignore -refuse to acknowledge.

24. overalls- a garment consisting of trousers with a front flap over the chest held up by straps over the shoulders, made of sturdy material and worn esp. as casual or working clothes.

25. presume – take to be the case or to be true; accept without verification or proof.

Discussion Questions: Chapters 1-4

Who is Newt Harbine?   Why does Marietta feel sorry for him?

Why did everyone call Marietta Missy?

What did Lou Ann’s grandmother (Granny Logan) bring with her from Tug Fork for Dwayne Ray?

Who is Bobby Bingo?

How does Lou Ann feel after her mother and grandmother leave?

What does Angel do that upsets Lou Ann?

While-reading activity:  Using one of the brainstorming techniques they have learned, students are to develop ideas for descriptions of the following people:

Marietta, Newt Harbine, Granny Logan, and Bobby Bingo.

Writing Assignment

For homework have students choose one character and write a descriptive essay of that person.

Essays will be presented to the class.

Discussion Questions- Chapter: 5-7

Who is Sandi?

Where does Taylor work?

How long does she work there?

Why did she leave the job?

Why does Taylor decide to move in with Lou Ann?

In this chapter, where does Taylor find a job?

How does Mattie help Taylor resolve her fear of tires?

Who are the “people” that Mattie helps?

Who did Turtle stay with while Taylor worked?

Who are the people that go on a picnic?

What is Estevan’s profession?

What is his job now that he is in the United States? Why does he have this job?

Why do you think that Turtle’s first word is “Bean”?

What is it that Lou Ann does to her hair? Why?

Why is Mattie on TV? What topic does she discuss?

Discussion Questions: Chapter: 8-10

Why is Roosevelt Park nicknamed “Dog Doo Park”?

What is the “miracle” of the park?

What does Dr. Palinowsky tell Taylor about Turtle?

Where does Taylor meet Lou Ann after taking Turtle to the doctor?

Why is Lou Ann crying?

At the end of this chapter, Lou Ann and Taylor are laughing. What are they laughing at?

What horrible thing does Esperanza do?

Why does this upset Estevan?

Taylor explains to Lou Ann that when she was young, she was labeled a “nutter”. Explain what she means by this term.

Why are Estevan and Esperanza afraid to go back to Guatemala?

Who is Ismene, and where is she now?

How is Esperanza feeling now?

Why does Turtle say the words “Bean trees”?

What does Taylor find out about Edna Poppy?

Describe the conversation between Taylor and Esperanza.

Discussion Questions: Chapters: 11-14

What is the name of the company that Lou Ann works for?

Describe Lou Ann’s dream.

Where does Esperanza and Estevan have to go?

What does Lou Ann receive from Angel in the mail?

What happens to Turtle?

Who was with Turtle when this incident occurred?

What does the social worker Cynthia tell Taylor about Turtle?

When Cynthia tells Taylor that she has no “legal” claim to Turtle. What does she mean by this statement?

What must Mattie do for Esperanza and Estevan?

Whose name does Cynthia give Taylor? Why does she give this person’s name to her?

What two important things does Taylor decide to do?

What does Mattie give Taylor, before Taylor leaves?

Why does Taylor get annoyed with Estevan and Esperanza during the trip?

What do Estevan and Esperanza decide to do to help Taylor?

Why is Oklahoma a good place for Esperanza and Estevan?

What new names do Esperanza and Estevan give themselves?

Discussion Questions: Chapters: 15-18

When they reach the land of the Cherokees, why do Esperanza and Estevan feel relaxed?

As they pass a cemetery, Turtle shouts “mama”, why?

Why does Turtle bury her doll in the dirt?

When they reach the office of the notary public, what is the “story” they tell the man about Turtle?

Why is Esperanza crying?

At the end of this chapter, who is the legal guardian of Turtle?

When they reach the sanctuary church, who does Taylor call? Why?

What is the important idea that Taylor must explain to Turtle when they are alone?

Why does Taylor take Turtle to the Oklahoma County Courthouse?

Who is Lou Ann’s new boyfriend?

Where is Angel?

Where does Taylor take Turtle?

What song does Turtle sing?

What do “you” think happens to Taylor and Turtle when they return home?

Discussion Questions for Reflection

Kingslover includes a number of examples in the Bean Trees of characters who use their names as markers of their identities. In addition to this, she shows that a change in their names designates a significant change in their lives. Discuss who these characters are, and the changes that occur.

Discuss the significance of the title. Use examples from the book to support your answer.

What political views does the author express? Give specific examples from the novel.

Identify the antagonist in the novel. Support your answer with examples from the story.

Analyze the role played by men in this novel using specific instances to support your answer.

One of the themes in this novel is that of outsiders and foreigners. Discuss how Kingslover develops this theme throughout the novel, using specific examples.

Writing Assignment

I. Directions choose one of the following and write an essay to be presented in class.

Single motherhood is another obvious theme in the novel. Describe the situations where Kingslover idealizes the single mother, and diminishes the role of the father.

Kingslover focuses the reader’s attention on the growth of plants throughout the novel. She also uses the growth of plants as a metaphor for the growth of the characters. Using examples from the story, discuss how she relates these two things.

The symbol of the Wisteria vine and the information concerning how this plant survives forms the concluding metaphor of the novel. This “symbiotic” relationship is evident in other relationships in the novel. Identify which ones they are, and discuss how the people involved demonstrate this type of relationship.

II. Directions: Write an essay in which you suggest alternate endings for the following:

Esperanza is unable to separate from Turtle.

Taylor falls deeply in love with Estevan and cannot live without him.

In Oklahoma, Taylor finds Turtle’s real father, who wants Turtle back.

While traveling to Oklahoma, the police detain Taylor and her companions.

Taylor’s mother decides to come to Tucson to live with her.

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon – Billie Letts

Level: intermediate-advanced

Note: The author provides reading questions for the students in the book.

Writing Assignment

1. Essay: Compare/Contrast

Choose one character you liked and explain why this character appealed to you. Then choose a character you did not like as much, and explain why this person did not appeal to you. Your discussions should be supported by specific information from the book. Events and/or descriptions,  page numbers, and paragraph references should be included.

2.  Compare/Contrast

Choose two characters from the Honk and Holler Opening Soon and write an essay that either compares the two (shows their similarities), or an essay which contrasts the two (shows their differences).

physical appearances: (use descriptive adjectives)

characters: (are they strong, hostile, loving)

3. Essay: Narrative

The ending of the novel The Honk and Holler Opening Soon leaves many unanswered questions for the reader. Write a narrative (tell a story) which answers one of these questions. You may be as creative as you like, since this is your story

Some examples are:

Does Vena Takes Horses remain with Caney now that they have a child?

Does Bui Khanh’s girlfriend ever arrive at the Honk?

Does Molly O’s daughter Brenda ever return home again?

Research Paper Assignment

Directions: Choose one of the following topics and make it the focus of your research paper. Remember that your paper must include a bibliography, and that when you use the words of another author be certain to reference that person. Review the text A Writer’s Reference, Research Writing.


The protagonist in the novel The Honk and Holler Opening Soon is a Vietnam veteran with a disability. Do a research paper on the Vietnam vets in this country, and the difficulty some of them had in readjusting to American society after the war in Vietnam. You might wish to begin by exploring the background of the Vietnam war, and the reasons for this country’s involvement.

There is a Vietnamese character in the novel who attempts to assimilate into American society. What are some of the difficulties immigrants from Vietnam (or from other countries) encounter when attempting to assimilate into American society?

Native American Indian woman is also involved in the story.

Choose one tribe and write a research paper in which you explore what roles American Indians have in American society. Some examples would be the Mashpee Wampanoag Indians, who reside Massachusetts, the Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma, or the Navajo American Indians of New Mexico and Arizona etc.

During the course of the novel, we are introduced to an African-American woman who has very strong ties to her church.

Write a research paper examining the role of the church in the African-American communities in this country.

Sophie and the Rising Sun- Augusta Trobagh

Level: intermediate

Questions For Comprehension and Discussion

Where and when does the story take place?

How would you describe the town and the people who live there?

Is this a place you would like to visit? Why or why not?

How would you describe Sophie?

Why does she remain in Salty Creek?

Give descriptions of the following characters: Miss Anne, Miss Ruth, Sally, and Mr. Oto.

Given that Sophie grew up in an environment that fostered prejudice and segregation, how do you explain the fact that Sophie still cares very much for Sally?

In your opinion, whose character represents the people of Salty Creek, Miss Ruth or Miss Anne?

Is it a feeling of friendship, a feeling of fear, or a combination of both that causes Miss Anne to hide Mr. Oto?

Japan is known as “The Land of the Rising Sun,” but in terms of this novel, could the image of a rising sun mean something more?

What is the significance of Mr. Oto’s first and middle names?

On page 185, Sally tells Sophie that, “you got to have bad feelings towards some folks…because they do things that are bad.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

What would cause Sally to have “bad feelings” towards some of the people in Salty Creek?

Sally tells Sophie about her method of revenge against the white women in town. What is it? Does it work?

How would you describe Sally’s feelings? What about Sophie’s feelings?

(are their feelings a mix of emotions?)

What led Mr. Oto to Salty Creek?

When Mr. Oto first encounters Sophie at the hardware store, what are his feelings?

Spiritual faith is an important theme in this novel. Describe how it affects the lives of Mr. Oto, Miss Anne, Sally, and Sophie.

At the end of the novel, what do you think happens to Sophie and Mr. Oto?

In your opinion, what creates prejudice in people? (are they born this way?)

Throughout world history, prejudice has been the cause of many infamous events. Give some examples.

As a group, generate some solutions that you feel would help eliminate prejudice.

Menachem’s Seed- Carl Dierassi

Level: high-intermediate-advanced

Questions for Comprehension Discussion

One of the focal points that Djerassi examines in the novel is that of ethical behavior. When Melanie takes Menachem’s sperm without his knowledge for instance, what are the ethical ramifications?

By using Menachem’s sperm without his consent, has she violated any of his constitutional rights? If your response is yes, which one(s)? If no, why not?

Science and advanced technology has now enabled people to create “test tube” babies. Physical contact between couples is no longer necessary for procreation. What impact (if any) will this have on certain groups in our society? Support your response with examples.

If you discovered that you were the product of in vitro fertilization (the manner in which Melanie’s son was created) what would your reaction be? Give examples to support your response.

Writing Assignment

Write an essay choosing one of the above questions.

Body of Lies- Iris Johansen

Level: high-intermediate-advanced

Part I:

Questions for Comprehension and Analysis:

Where does the story take place?

How would you describe the mood of the novel?

Who is the protagonist? Describe this character.

Who is the antagonist? Describe this character.

Who are the main characters; how are they connected to the main plot?

What is the Cabal?

What is the main plot in the story? What are the sub-plots?

Describe the climax of the story.

At the conclusion, are all of the conflicts resolved?

Part II:

Identify each of the following characters from the novel and provide a description of each one.

Eve Duncan

Joe Quinn

Bonnie Duncan

Jane McGuire

Sean Galen

Jules Herbert

Thomas Simmons

Harold Bentley

Bill Nathan

Writing Assignment

Directions: Write a summary of the story in essay format.

Wolf By The Ears-Ann Rinaldi

Level: low-beginner-intermediate

Questions for Comprehension

Directions: The following questions are based on the novel Wolf by the Ears. With your group members you are to answer the questions and provide page references when applicable.

Today there is still controversy regarding the issue of whether or not Thomas Jefferson fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings. After having read the novel, do you agree or disagree that Thomas Jefferson was Harriet’s father? What proof was provided? Was this considered to be reliable evidence?

From the novel you learned that Harriet could “pass”. Explain the meaning of this? Discuss whether or not this was a positive or negative thing for Harriet.

Provide reasons to support your answers?

What was your impression of the manner in which Jefferson treated his slaves in general? Was Harriet treated the same or differently from the other slaves? Provide examples to support your answer.

Upon reaching the age of twenty-one, Harriet was given the choice to either take her freedom and leave Monticello, or she could remain on the plantation as a slave. What were the positive and negative aspects of both decisions?

How did Harriet’s mother (Sally Hemings) feel about Harriet’s dilemma?

The novel addressed several important issues about slavery during that period. What were they?

If you were in Harriet’s position, what would you have done?

Sounder-William H. Armstrong

Level: low-beginner

In addition to the general guide questions for each chapter, here are some possible themes for discussion:

Identity: Why is it that none of the characters have names, with the exception of the dog?

Literacy: Why does the boy have such a strong desire to learn to read?

Optimism: The boy never loses hope that his father and Sounder will return.

Racism: The white jailer treats the boy very badly when he comes to visit his father in jail.

Loneliness: In the beginning of the book, the boy expresses profound loneliness.

Fate: If the father had never gone to jail, the boy may have never met the teacher.

Of Bunsen Burners, Bones, and Belles Lettres: Classic Essays…

This is a collection of essays representing the different approaches to thinking and writing in various academic disciplines. Areas covered are the humanities, science, social science, physical science. It can be used as a source of reading or for teaching students modes of writing. The essays vary in length, however the majority of them are from 3-5 pages long. Because these are essays, the questions reflect the topic discussed by the authors. The level is high intermediate to advanced.

Suggested Reading Plan for All Essays

Objectives: To help students develop a better understanding of the essay format as a short, non-fiction reading selection mostly exploring one subject, and usually providing the personal opinion of the author. Also, to demonstrate the various writing genres presented in the different essays. In addition, students will practice speaking and listening skills.


1. Assign the essay for homework.

2. Pre-discussion activities are reviews of any vocabulary and grammar.

3. Hand out discussion questions to each reading group.

4. Review the discussion questions as a class.

Literary Essays

Of Bunsen Burners, Bones, and Belles Lettres

The following essays are from  Of Bunsen Burners, Bones, and Belles Lettres: Classic Essays Across the Curriculum (Ntc’s Library of Classic Essays)

James D. Lester (Editor)

The Humanities

Why I Am an Agnostic-Clarence Darrow

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) was one of the most famous trial lawyers in America. He was a noted opponent of the death penalty, and was also known as a lawyer for labor. In this essay he speaks about his reasons for being an agnostic. He states:

“…an agnostic is one who doubts or disbelieves the main tenets of the Christian faith.”

Discussion Questions

What is a skeptic? Would you describe yourself as a skeptic? Explain in what ways.

Do skeptical people have a place in society? Explain why or why not, provide examples.

What would be the role of the skeptic in scientific inquiry? Is skepticism important in this field? Explain why or why not.

Bio: Clarence Darrow

A Way of Writing – William Stafford

William Stafford (1914-1990) was born in Hutchinson Kansas, is primarily known as a poet, although he served on the faculty staff at Lewis and Clark College for many years.

In this essay, Stafford “describes the creative process that triggers the many works of art that we find in the humanities.”

Discussion Questions

Describe the process of writing used by Stafford

Why does Stafford refer to his writing as a process? (see paragraph 3).

Describe your own process of writing.

What does Stafford mean by “receptivity” in paragraph 3?

Do you think Stafford’s method would work well for artists who work in other media, such as painting, sculpturing, composing music, and so forth? Explain how with examples.

Writing Assignment

Write an essay in which you describe your own writing process.

Bio: William Stafford

The Social Sciences

Some Thoughts Concerning Education – John Locke

John Locke (1632-1704) was from Wrington, Someretshire, England, and although he began his formal education in the field of medicine, his poor health prevented him from continuing. For a number of years he worked as a secretary for the Earl of Shaftesbury, and he tutored both the Earl’s son and grandson, thereby gaining a deep interest in education. In this essay Locke shares his thoughts about nurturing and developing intelligence in children.

1. A sound mind in a sound body, is a short, but full description of a happy state in this world. He that has these two, has little more to wish for; and he that wants either of them, will be but little the better for any thing else. Men’s happiness or misery is most part of their own making.  He, whose mind directs not wisely, will never take the right way; and he, whose body is crazy and feeble, will never be able to advance in it. I confess, there are some men’s constitutions of body and mind so vigorous, and well built  by nature, that they need not much assistance from others; but by the strength of their natural genius, they are from their cradles carried towards what is excellent; and by the privilege of their happy constitutions, are able to do wonders. But examples of this kind are but few; and I think I may say, that of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education. It is that which makes the great difference in mankind. The little, or almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies, have very important and lasting consequences: and there is as in the fountains of some rivers, where a gentle application of the hand turns the flexible waters in channels, that make them take quite contrary courses; and by this direction given them at first in the source, they receive different tendencies, and arrive at last at very remote and distant places.

2. Those therefore that intend ever to govern their children, should begin it while they are very little, and look that they perfectly comply with the will of their parents. Would you have your son obedient to you when past a child; be sure then to establish the authority of a father as soon as he is capable of submission, and can understand in whose power he is. If you would have him stand in awe of you, imprint it in his infancy; and as he approaches more to a man, admit him nearer to your familiarity; so shall you have him your obedient subject (as is fit) while he is a child, and your affectionate friend when he is a man.  For methinks they mightily misplace the treatment due to their children, who are indulgent and familiar when they are little, but severe to them, and keep them at a distance, when they are grown up: for liberty and indulgence can do no good to children; their want of judgment makes them stand in need of restraint and discipline; and on the contrary, imperiousness and severity is but an ill way of treating men, who have reason of their own to guide them; unless you have a mind to make your children, when grown up, weary of you, and secretly to say within themselves, When will you die, father?

3. In all the whole business of education, there is nothing like to be less hearken’d to, or harder to be well observed, than what I am now going to say; and that is, that children should, from their first beginning to talk, have some discreet, sober, nay, wise person about them, whose care it should be to fashion them aright, and keep them from all ill, especially the infection of bad company. I think this province requires great sobriety, temperance, tenderness, diligence, and discretion; qualities hardly to be found united in persons that are to be had for ordinary salaries, nor easily to be found any where.

4. If a tutor can be got, that, thinking himself in the father’s place, charged with his care, and relishing these things, will at the beginning apply himself to put them in practice, he will afterwards find his work very easy; and you will, I guess, have your son in a little time a greater proficient in both learning and breeding than perhaps you imagine.

As the father’s example must teach the child respect for his tutor, so the tutor’s example must lead the child into those actions he would have him do. His practice must by no means cross his precepts, unless he intend to set him wrong.

5. But pray remember, children are not to be taught by rules which will be always slipping out of their memories. What you think necessary for them to do, settle in them by an indispensable practice, as often as the occasion returns; and if it be possible, make occasions. This will beget habits in them which being once establish’d, operate of themselves easily and naturally, without the assistance of the memory. But here let me give two cautions. The one is, that you keep them to the practice of what you would have grow into a habit in them, by kind words, and gentle admonitions, rather as minding them of what they forget, than by harsh rebukes and chiding, as if they were willfully guilty.  Another thing you are to take care of, is, not to endeavor to settle too many habits at once, lest by variety you confound them, and so perfect none. When constant custom has made any one thing easy and natural to ‘em, and they practice it without reflection, you may then go on to another.

6.  This method of teaching children by a repeated practice, and the same action done over and over again, under the eye and direction of the tutor, ’till they have got the habit of doing it well, and not by relying on rules trusted to their memories, has so many advantages, which way soever we consider it, that I cannot but wonder (if ill customs could be wondered at in any thing) how it could possibly be so much neglected. I shall name one more that comes now in my way. By this method we shall see whether what is required of him be adapted to his capacity, and any way suited to the child’s natural genius and constitution; for that too much be considered in a right education. We must not hope wholly to change their original tempers, nor make the gay pensive and grave, nor the melancholy sportive, without spoiling them. God has stamped certain characters upon men’s minds, which like their shapes, may perhaps be a little mended, but can hardly be totally altered and transformed into the contrary.


7. The great skill of a teacher is to get and keep the attention of his scholar; whilst he has that, he is sure to advance as fast as the learner’s abilities will carry him; and without that, all his bustle and pother will be to little or no purpose. To attain this, he should make the child comprehend (as much as may be) the usefulness of what he teaches him, and let him see, by what he has learnt, that he can do something which he could not do before; something, which gives him some power and real advantage above others who are ignorant of it. To this he should add sweetness in all his instructions, and by a certain tenderness in his whole carriage, make the child sensible that he loves him and designs nothing but his good, the only way to beget love in the child, which will make him hearken to his lessons, and relish what he teaches him.

Nothing but obstinacy should meet with any imperiousness or rough usage. All other faults should be corrected with a gentle hand; and kind engaging words will work better and more effectually upon a willing mind, and even prevent a good deal of that perverseness which rough and imperious usage often produces in well disposed and generous minds. ‘Tis true, obstinacy and willful neglects must be mastered, even though it cost blows to do it: but I am apt to think perverseness in the pupils is often the effect of frowardness in the tutor; and that most children would seldom have deserved blows, if needless and misapplied roughness had not taught them ill-nature, and given them an aversion for their teacher and all that comes from him.

8.  Men learn languages for the ordinary intercourse of society and communication of thoughts in common life, without any farther design in the use of them. And for this purpose, the original way of learning a language by conversation not only serves well enough, but is to be preferred as the most expedite, proper and natural. Therefore, to this use of language one may answer, that grammar is not necessary. This so many of my readers must be forced to allow, as understand what I here say, and who conversing with others, understand them without having ever been taught the grammar of the English tongue. Which I suppose is the case of incomparably the greatest part of English men, of whom I have never yet known any one who learned his mother-tongue by rules.

9. Had the methods of education been directed to their right end, one would have thought this so necessary a part could not have been neglected whilst themes and verses in Latin, of no use at all, were so constantly every where pressed, to the racking of children’s inventions beyond their strength and hindering their cheerful progress in learning the tongues by unnatural difficulties. But custom has so ordain’d it, and who dares disobey? And would it not be very unreasonable to require of a learned country school-master (who has all the tropes and figures in *Farnaby’s Rhetoric at his fingers’ ends) to teach his scholar to express himself handsomely in English, when it appears to be so little his business or thought, that the boy’s mother (despised, ’tis like, as illiterate for not having read a system of logic and rhetoric) outdoes him in it?

10. To write and speak correctly gives a grace and gains a favorable attention to what one has to say: and since ’tis English that an English gentleman will have constant use of, that is the language he should chiefly cultivate, and wherein most care should be taken to polish and perfect his style. To speak or write better Latin than English, may make a man be talk’d of, but he would find it more to his purpose to express himself well in his own tongue, that he uses every moment, than to have the vain commendation of others for a very insignificant quality. This I find universally neglected, and no care taken any where to improve young men in their own language, that they may thoroughly understand and be masters of it. If any one among us have a facility or purity more than ordinary in his mother tongue, it is owing to chance, or his genius, or any thing rather than to his education or any care of his teacher.

Note to Teachers: The following vocabulary, reading, and writing exercises are based on the excerpts from Locke’s essay given above.

Vocabulary in Context– Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold. Answers at the end.

1. I confess, there are some men’s constitutions of body and mind so vigorous, and well built by nature…(para. 1)
2. The little, or almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies, have very important and lasting consequences... (para. 1)
3. Those therefore that intend ever to govern their children, should begin it while they are very little, and look that they perfectly comply with the will of their parents.(para.2)
4. …and on the contrary, imperiousness and severity is but an ill way of treating men…(para. 2)
5. In all the whole business of education, there is nothing like to be less hearken’d to, or harder to be well observed…(para. 3)
6. I think this province requires great sobriety, temperance, tenderness, diligence, and discretion…(para 3)
7. … rather as minding them of what they forget, than by harsh rebukes and chiding, as if they were willfully guilty. (para. 5)
8. Nothing but obstinacy should meet with any imperiousness or rough usage. (para. 7)
9. …the original way of learning a language by conversation not only serves well enough, but is to be preferred as the most expedite, proper and natural. (para. eight )

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

1. In paragraph 1, Locke states, “ He, whose mind directs not wisely, will never take the right way; and he, whose body is crazy and feeble, will never be able to advance in it.” Explain what he means in your own words.

2. According to Locke, if a person is unhappy, whose to blame? (para. 1)

3. At what age does Locke think it is correct to govern a child?

4. Who should be a child’s first teacher? (para. 2)

5. What does Locke think of parents who indulge their children? (para. 2)

6. Describe the qualities of the type of person Locke feels is qualified to care for a child. According to Locke is this type of person easy to find? (para. 3)

7. Locke states that the best method to use to help children learn something new is what? (para. 4-5)

8. Locke describes the skills of a good teacher. Identify the skills, then explain why you agree or disagree with his views. Can you think of any additional qualities? (para. 7)

Answers For Vocabulary in Context

1. constitutions noun. person’s physical state with regard to vitality, health, and strength : pregnancy had weakened her constitution;  a person’s mental or psychological makeup.

2. impressions noun. a clear and telling mental image; the events left a permanent impression in his mind.

3. consequences noun. having important effects or influence; The car accident was the consequence of his drinking.

4. govern verb. direct or strongly influence the behavior of; His belief in God governs his conduct.

5. comply verb. act in accordance with someone’s rules, commands, or wishes; He complied with my instructions.

6. imperiousness: noun. the trait of being imperious and overbearing;

7. severity: noun. excessive sternness; severity of character.

8. hearken: verb. listen; used mostly in the imperative.

9. sobriety: noun. the state of being sober and not intoxicated by alcohol.

10. temperance: noun. abstaining from or avoiding excesses.

11. diligence: noun. conscientiousness in paying proper attention to a task; giving the degree of care required in a given situation.

12. discretion: noun. knowing how to avoid embarrassment or distress; “the servants showed great tact and discretion”

13. rebuke [rebukes]: noun. an act or expression of criticism and censure;

14. obstinacy: noun. the trait of being difficult to handle or overcome.

15. expedite: verb. speed up the progress of; facilitate;

Writing Assignment

Write an essay in which you discuss what constitutes a good education in your opinion.

*Thomas Farnaby

Modern History Sourcebook: John Locke

Bio: John Locke

Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts- Bruce Catton

Bruce Catton (1899-1978) was born in Michigan, where he became an editor of American Heritage magazine. This lead him to a profound love for history. This particular essay Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts has become a classic example of the Compare and Contrast technique of writing. In it, Catton clearly shows us, “Two great American, Grant and Lee–very different, yet under everything very much alike.”

Discussion Questions

In paragraphs 4-6 Catton describes General Robert E. Lee. In your own words explain what kind of man was General Lee.

What kind of man was General Grant ?

What were the differences between the two men?

What did the two men have in common?

Is it likely that these two men could ever have become friends?

Writing Assignment

Write an essay in which you compare the characters of two well public figures in your country.

Bio: Bruce Catton

A Day in Samoa-Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead (1901-1978) was born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, and was a cultural anthropologist. She earned degrees from Barnard College and Columbia University. She taught at Columbia for many years, but also served as a lecturer and visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. This essay, A Day in Samoa, is an excerpt from her book entitled, Coming of Age in Samoa, and describes one day in the life of a samoan village.

Discussion Questions

Are the women equal to the men in the Samoan village? Provide examples.

Are their any places in your country where the people live in small groups?

How important are the interpersonal relationships in the everyday activities of this village? Provide examples.

In a larger city, would interpersonal relationships be important to the survival of the people in that city?

Writing Assignment

Using Mead’s essay as a resource, imagine that you live in the village.

Describe what you think the village school would look like. For example, what material would it be made of ? How many floors would there be?

Give a physical description of the classroom. In your opinion, what would be the most important things the children of the village would need to learn?

Bio: Margaret Mead

The Physical Sciences

Touch and Sight…Bertrand Russell

Touch and Sight: The Earth and the Heavens

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was born in Trelleck, Monmouthshire England, and was a noted mathematician and philosopher. He taught in institutions located in both England and in America. This essay Touch and Sight: The Earth and the Heavens is an excerpt from The ABC of Relativity, in which Russell attempts to explain Einstein theory of relativity to non-scientific readers.

Discussion Questions

In paragraph 2, what point does Russell make about touch and sight?

What point is Russell making with the analogy of the drugged balloonist in paragraph 4?

What audience is Russell addressing? A high school group, college, adults.

Do you think he communicates well? Provide examples.

Bio: Bertrand Russell

But a Watch in the Night…James C. Rettie

But a Watch in the Night: A Scientific Fable

James Rettie (1904-1969) was an economist who preserved his privacy, “so the biographical facts about his life are obscure.” He worked for a while at an experimental station of the National Forest Service in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. It is also known that Rettie served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of the Interior during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. In this essay Rettie discusses the fictional planet of Copernicus, where the residents (the Copernicans) have been photographing Earth with time-lapse film. Rettie builds this story around factual information concerning soil erosion and the destructive effect of human beings on Earth’s environment.

Discussion Questions

Why do you think Rettie call his essay “a scientific fable”?

In paragraph 18 he describes a “story of all that has happened since we became a nation.” Explain what occurred in this story, using examples from the paragraph.

What critical comment is Rettie making about humans and their treatment of the earth?

Writing Assignment

Write an essay in which you discuss the problems with the environment

Bio: James C. Rettie

The Moving Tides-Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was born in Springdale Pennsylvania, and earned her A.M. from John Hopkins University; she did additional graduate work at the Marine Biological laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

In this essay The Moving Tides Carson explains how the sun and the moon, continuously changing, affect the tides in different places.

Discussion Questions

How do the sun and the moon effect the rhythms of the ocean?

Will the tides ever cease? Why or why not?

In paragraph 38 Carson describes her favorite creature and its link with the tide. In your own words explain why she likes this particular relationship.

What effects do the tidal patterns have on ocean life in general?

Bio: Rachel Carson

The Bird and the Machine- Loren Eiseley

Loren Eisely (1907-1977) was born in Lincoln Nebraska, and he developed an interest in both anthropology and in writing. In this essay as Eisely reads an article in the New York Times, he speculates that some journalists claim that machines are becoming smarter and smarter.

Discussion Questions

In paragraphs 1-3, explain what troubled Eisely.

What caused Eiseley to release his captured sparrow hawk?

Describe his attitude toward machines?

In what sense are animals, humans, and even individual cells like machines?

Are we slaves to our machines? Why or why not?

Bio: Loren Eiseley

Additional  Reading Activities and Lesson Plans

A collection of  Reading lessons (low-intermediate-advanced) is available at the TESL Journal