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The following notes come from a student practice session on writing improvement. Includes samples of student writing and teacher comments (in italics).

What We're Reading Now

Student Reading

Student One

I have been reading The Bible since I was fifteen. From The Bible, I can learn the words of wisdom from God, especially a lot of verses are meaningful, and is worth it for me to chew on. It not only increases my spiritual knowledge, but also directly enhances my relationship with God.

Student Two

One year ago, I read a biography named, “Immigration Family.” The author emigrated from China to Canada. At the time I was preparing to immigrate to Canada, so I was looking for some books that describe the life of an immigrant. I spent all of one day to read this book. The author wrote about the family’s life from landing to living for five years in Vancouver. When I finished reading, I learned that the immigrant’s life in Vancouver is very difficult.

Other Students

About finance in Canada and in English.

About shipwrecks in Russian. Gives info about world exploration.

Internet news and a Chinese book about the importance of mothers. A kind of “self help” book.

Ann of Green Gables in an abridged version.

 What goes in the brain (from reading) can then come out again in writing.

 Playing close attention to how the grammar is used exactly: the verbs, adjectives etc. and how to use them to say real things.


Teacher Reading

Right now, I am reading many things. Each day I read the front pages of The New York Times, The Guardian (UK) and Salon Magazine on the internet, although I only read one or two articles thoroughly. On paper, I read The Vancouver Sun and The Globe and Mail every day from Monday to Saturday. Reading the news, especially from worldwide sources, helps me to understand this crazy world.

 I also read my students’ work, usually while sitting at my kitchen table while drinking a good cup of tea. Their work helps me to better conduct my classes and shows how well lessons have been learned. To prepare my classes, I read many books, grammar and otherwise, in order to see what other teachers have suggested.

For pleasure, I am reading Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, a former university professor who taught English Literature at the University of Tehran. The book was suggested to me by my wife, who reads far more fiction than I do and can reliably recommend books I might like. I am slow with fiction, perhaps because it is requires more thoughtful reflection on my part.

The reading of fiction has the most direct connection to the act of writing in my opinion. Nafisi’s description of the young women in her reading club, for example, struck me as particularly well written. Each detail helped me better understand their characters and see them as individuals. From this, I can see an opportunity for using examples from the novel to better teach description to my own students.

 One example I like is this:

I owe my memory of the green gate to Yassi: she mentioned it in one of her poems. The poem is called “How Small Are the Things That I Like.” In it, she describes her favourite objects—an orange backpack, a colorful coat, a bicycle just like her cousin’s—and she also describes how much she likes to enter the university through the green gate. The gate appears in this poem, and in some of her other writings, as a magical entrance into the forbidden world of all the ordinary things she had been denied in life. —page 29 from Reading Lolita in Tehran

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