Professor of EAP Kate Baldridge-Hale’s summer 2018 EAP1620C class holds their certificates of completion for participating in the reading circle for the novel “Oliver Twist.”
By Amy Downs, Instructional Lab Supervisor
Reading is such an essential skill for all college students. In order to write or reflect on an idea, one must first successfully comprehend the reading material associated with it. For our international or English for Academic Purposes (EAP) students whose first language is not English, this task can seem even more daunting when it comes to a particular text. In an effort to empower students with new vocabulary and reading strategies, the West Campus Communications Center collaborated throughout summer 2018 with various faculty to create a new series of reading circle activities.
Our purpose is always to reach more students at the exact time they need support the most, so we approached faculty to find out how we could best support their students. Together, we created activities that purposefully integrated reading and writing skills while encouraging student engagement with a text.
It all began in spring 2017 with Adjunct Professor of EAP Milena Zaleckaite. She approached us about trying creative ways to increase student involvement with their reading assignments. In fact, Milena’s “twisted” or alternate ending activity for “Oliver Twist” was the impetus that sparked our new design. Together, Milena and I designed our pilot series with activities on main idea, character analysis, patterns, historical settings and more.
Milena explains, “Our reading circles bring stories to life. Amy and I take ideas that we sketch out on paper and turn them into interactive assignments that fully engage students. They get to write alternative endings, draw new cover pages, and even ‘meet’ some of the characters in person. We believe reading circles are a valuable tool for all students, not only EAP texts, especially when interest in books is declining and critical thinking is suffering.”
Professor of EAP Kate Baldridge-Hale also collaborated with us for her EAP1620C Advanced Reading for English Language Learners course. We re-designed activities to illustrate to students how good reading practices transition into better writing experiences. Our intention is to make the transition to ENC1101 smoother and more successful for all students.
Students shared how the reading circles make a positive difference for them. For example, Ricardo Tshilom Tshitshiya reflected, “I’ve learned a lot of vocabulary that I never heard before, and it made me a good reader. I couldn’t imagine myself reading 18 pages a night, but I did it because of the reading circle.”
Rachelle Riguad expressed how it motivated her to read more. “The reading circles made the book more interesting and helped me to read other books and make them interesting,” she said.
On Wednesday, July 11, 2018, we held our last reading circle for the summer series. Students met Miss. Havisham, a notable character from “Great Expectations,” acted out for them with flair by Mia Sotis, instructional lab assistant, senior.
“What I most enjoyed about meeting Miss. Havisham was the opportunity to compare the image I created in my mind with what she would be like in real-life,” Patricia Vacari explained.
Additional reading circles this summer were with Professors of EAP Wendy Wish and Karen Cowden for their classes using “Treasure Island.” Learning-centered activities such as reading circles allow for a more personal connection to the course materials and internalization of course learning outcomes. We want more student engagement and faculty connections.
Stay tuned in late September 2018 as our Communications Center hosts our upcoming Crime Scene Investigation series. Based on a class activity I designed and used as an adjunct instructor, students will use skills from math, science, criminology, communications and technology to solve a murder mystery.
Ultimately, the goal is to inspire life-long learners who possess strong reading, writing and thinking skills they can adapt to be successful in the future.