Learning English From Reading Books

There were only a few teachers which I really connected with. One of them was my 10th grade English teacher, who – as far as I am concerned – really taught English, and not just went through the curriculum like a board-certified automaton. I give him credit for seriously teaching me English, and noticing the passion I had for it. I have always loved language, but he was the first one to actually take note of it, and approach me with the idea that this is something I should pursue later on.

One of the best things we did in that class was read books and write book reports. Now, this sounds incredibly dull and repetitive, but he made it fun. He gave us some excellent ways to freshen it up. He gave the class a variety of reports to choose from. Not just a set of open-ended questions or rough guidelines, but an actual way to see what you took from the book. You could create a new ending, or write excerpts from a character’s diary, or change the dialog of a pivotal exchange. He was original, and it resonated with me. (more at Edumuch)

I suppose this was a win-win. On the one hand, the student didn’t have to sweat over long essay questions or similar tasks. It made it more fun. On the other hand, the teacher didn’t get bored from reading report after report of the same book, since these reports were all different. Every student chose a different kind of report to write.

And that is another thing: we did not analyze the books in question to death. We read them, handed in a report, went over them for a class or two, but we weren’t tested on them too rigidly. Like I said, he wasn’t a regular English teacher. At least I don’t think he was. It was one of the first times that I was able to appreciate reading and writing for school, and enjoy the work.

MY BOOK REPORTS

I only had him for one year, unfortunately, and he left the school the following year. Too bad. He read every one of the many book reports I handed in that year, gave insightful comments, and was able to tap into my thought process, and understand where I was coming from. Once or twice, he permitted us to hand in a report of books which were not read as part of the curriculum, but simply ones which we had read or were reading at the time. So, naturally, I chose a couple of books I was reading during that time: Stephen King’s Carrie was one I remember, and Robert McCammon’s Swan Song was another. I really enjoyed writing about books which I was reading for pleasure, as opposed to those I was reading for class. Even though, like I said, either way was good. I always loved reading, and it would be even better if the teacher was one who appreciated the work and not just tried to test and grade us. Oh, and he also got me into Shakespeare, but that is a different story altogether.

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