Thursday, December 8, 2011

a refined, but not yet shorter, pitch

Alright, I think I got everything I want to say about this program in the refined pitch.  At this point, I need a second opinion from somebody on what people don't really need to know immediately. 

I have sent out an inquiry to the Mennonite New Life Centre in Toronto (c/o of Dale Sproule) who have great resources and supports for newcomers to Canada.

The Refined Pitch:

My purpose is to develop and launch an adult literacy program for newcomers to Canada with a slight difference to the standard type of ESL or TEOL class.

Like most other ESL or TEOL classes, this program will develop English reading, writing and speaking skills -- with specific goals in resume writing, interview skills and, if desirable, preparation for any English skill level tests. The lesson plans will develop these skills by practicing reading English text aloud and communicating through verbal and written conversation.

The difference in this program is it will use the literary arts to reach its goals.  This program does not wish to simply teach English as a useful language with text that does not inspire any love for the language.   This program wishes to teach English as a multi-faceted useful tool and art-form. 

We would read aloud great works of Canadian and International (in English) literature including fiction, poetry, songs and drama. The better the piece of writing, the more engagement I hope to achieve in the students, encouraging them to practice other skills such as presentation, self-awareness and confidence. I would also be promoting a love for reading and great literature. We would dispel any myth that great literature is an elitist sport.

We would also write letters to each other about the pieces and then respond to them in order to practice English conversation. Thus further developing an understanding of the readings and slowly moving towards creative writing tools and practices (journal writing or memoirs, fiction or drama, poetry or song). They will move from other people's stories and voices and bring this reflection back to their own stories and their own voices.

It's my hope that this method of ESL will have the same time frame and goals as any other ESL class however its results will be more effective in its interest and engagement, teach greater skills other than English language skills and also serve as a way to make newcomers to Canada more comfortable in their new lives. They would know how Canada, especially our most revered Canadian writers, are full of the immigrant story. Creative writing naturally makes a home out of your own body.

Another key and unique aspect of this literacy/literary class is even though I am teaching them practical skills in English communication, I will always encourage them to embrace their native languages first. For written assignments I would let them write first in their native language and then translate it into English. I firmly believe that a person's sense of identity and their writing voice stems from the language they are most comfortable with; everything else is subject to translation. They will know exactly what is lost and gained in the process of translation.

I hope this idea has perked some interest for you and I would value your opinion on this.

The development of this idea was partly inspired by an Artist-Educator course I took with the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. It's mandate is to teach artists to use their preferred art-forms to teach other everyday skills. Mine was the literary arts.

I have taken this further by researching the YMCA and Toronto Public Library to be trained as a volunteer English Literacy tutor. I am also a freelance and creative writer with a BA in English Literature from York University. For more information about me as a writer, please visit my web-link at:  

1 comment:

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