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Be original!

June 18, 2015 by Nora Nagy

Do your students read original fiction? Here are three fun stories for them to explore. We love and benefit from reading the classics in and out of the classroom, but since variety is the essence of extensive reading, original stories written for language learners must have a prime position on your students' reading list.

Let's explore three of our latest titles and see which features you can focus on in your classroom or book club.

Illustrations: speaking, writing and vocabulary

Use to original illustrations to inspire discussions. The illustrations in Dan and the Village Fête work well with younger teenagers, whereas Jam and The Right Thing have dynamic images which will engage young adults, adults, as well as teens of course. The illustrations can help you with group writing and speaking activities. Here's an idea.

  1. Before the lesson write words on the board your students can use to describe the images.
  2. Ask students to form groups of 3 or 4.
  3. Give each group a copy of the reader you have chosen.
  4. Ask your students to tell the story based on the illustrations. Allow them to choose a tense, according to their level (present tenses if they are unsure or at a lower level) but encourage them to use narrative tenses, where possible, to create a story together.
  5. Give them about 10-15 minutes to write their stories. Make sure they understand and use the words from the board.
  6. Get them to reread and correct the story in their groups.
  7. They can read out and compare their stories.

Before and after reading activities

Use the before and after reading activities in the readers to introduce topics, present vocabulary, setting and characters. Providing and activating background knowledge is important for a successful and pleasurable reading experience. Do these activities either in groups or pairs.

Reflection boxes

If you decide to do in-class reading sessions, the reflection boxes will help your students connect with the stories and the characters. Personalization is one of the most important elements of reading and learning through reading. These questions will help your students stop and think about the stories and draw links between the story and their own personal experience.

Cultural projects

What is life like in a small English town? What is London like? How much do you know about contemporary English musicians? Which organizations help people? How can you live a happy life when things get hard? There are several topics and cultural projects to explore through these readers. Check the before reading activities and the projects at the back of the readers for some ideas.

What are the stories about?

Illustration by Giulia Sagramola in the reader Dan and the Village Fête. © Helbling Languages

Dan and the Village Fête by Richard MacAndrew

  • Level 1 (CEF A1-A2) reader

It’s the day of the Steeple Compton village fête and everyone is happy. Everyone except Sue Barrington, the new girl in town. Sue’s friend Dan is worried. Dan finds out that someone called Nemesis is bullying Sue and he decides to help. Who can Nemesis be? And why does he or she want to hurt Sue? Only Dan the detective and his dog Dylan can find out.

Read an interview with the author here.

Illustration by Catty Flores in the reader Jam. © Helbling Languages


Jam by Frank Brennan

  • Level 4 (CEF A2-B1) reader

Anne Banks struggles to make ends meet. There is never quite enough money to buy everything she needs for her two teenage children, Gus and Ellie. Gus keeps growing and wants a football kit and Ellie keeps changing the colour of her hair and wants to buy more make-up. One day their luck changes when Rose Stanway, their neighbour, offers to teach Gus how to make her extra special jam. What is it that makes Rose’s jam so good? How can it make a difference to the Banks’ lives and maybe solve their problems?

Illustration by Arianna Vairo in the reader The Right Thing. © Helbling Languages


The Right Thing by Scott Lauder and Walter McGregor

  • Level 5 (CEF B1) reader

When Josh meets Trish and Suzi at their first day of college in London, little do they know that they will soon be swept up into a mystery involving the British and Yolandan governments. Luckily for them, Morrow, a British Security Service agent, takes them under his wing. But by doing so he has to decide what is the right thing to do. What will Morrow’s decision mean for him? Only Control can decide.

Read an interview with the authors here.

If you're interested in more original stories, visit these pages:

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