At this very moment, our students are diving deep into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (the Penguin Classics hardback edition), resurfacing from sampling a collection of mind-bending short fiction by Philip K. Dick, approaching the final scenes of Hamlet (The Arden Shakespeare edition, studied by professional actors as well as serious students and academics), and immersing themselves in other books that we’ve assigned as required reading. Their understanding of what these books and their command of the new vocabulary introduced therein is being measured through weekly reading comprehension assignments and quizzes.
These works are important and their authors are titans of the English literary canon and wrestling with great stories is as vital to developing mastery of the English language as regular exercise is to maintaining physical fitness. Assigned reading alone, however, is not going to foster a lifelong love of reading. A reading habit that will endure throughout one’s life is something that’s vastly more valuable than the ability to recite a poem memorized for some pointless competition but never understood or to rattle off a summary of a particular long-ago-read novel or play.
Putting the right book in the right kid’s hands is kind of like giving that kid superpowers, wrote Cecil Castellucci, the YA Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, in 2011. We encourage you to click through that link, read her article in its entirety, and give it some thought. It will time well spent.
Our hearty agreement with Castellucci is a huge part of the reason we strive to ensure that, in addition to our assigned reading, every one of our students is taking home new books, of their own choosing, as frequently as possible. We go to great lengths to fill our book bins (and our DVD bins as well) in such a way that they’ll always contain something of interest to every one of our students — even when that means procuring books about Japanese ghosts, octopus behavior, and the human immune system.
It’s all because, to borrow Castellucci’s turn of phrase, we’re trying to give our students the superpowers!
In this entry we wrote about Our Students
In the image above, one of our newest students (Gabriel), opens his Christmas Lucky Draw present. One year ends and another begins!
In this entry we wrote about Did you know
We observe each and every student’s birthday in class. The festivities are necessarily rather brief, given the amount of work that our students and staff have to do during every lesson, but even a brief celebration presents an opportunity for reflection. Mostly, we tend to find ourselves marveling at how much the birthday gal or guy has matured over the course of the past year.
We’ve been reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s award-winning Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with our most advanced class and have incorporated open-ended pass/fail questions into their reading comprehension homework assignments to supplement the traditional, intensively proofread and marked questions.
One such question invited Chloe and her classmates to create a self-descriptive business card for themselves similar to the one that the protagonist of Foer’s novel hands out to the people whom he meets. Chloe’s answer, visible above, is really great and gives anyone fortunate enough to read it a snapshot of the self-perception of a really intelligent and fascinating young person.
For comparison purposes, here’s Oskar Schell’s card:
One of the most rewarding aspects of the work that we do is the opportunity to interact with young people like Chloe while they develop and grow as human beings. It’s amazing and immensely gratifying to be able to facilitate, even in a small way, the process whereby smart, hard-working children become really sharp, interesting proto-adults with bright futures.
On that note, happy 15th birthday, Chloe!!!
Accella is different from other learning centers in many ways. Foremost among those differences is the fact that all of of our students receive original materials (grammar and writing teaching materials as well as the books that we read together as part of our reading comprehension program) which they will keep after we’ve finished using them in class.
In addition, each student receives has a card bearing their name which is stamped. No matter what, every student’s card gets stamped at least once during a given lesson and usually more than once. A perfect quiz score, which isn’t easy to achieve, is rewarded with three stamps. The student who amasses the highest overall score, based on quiz and homework scores as well as class participation, by the end of a lesson can earn another three stamps. They’ll also receive a ribbon. Several ribbons and another full stamp card grant a student the right to select a DVD.
Our students read those books and watch those films and it contributes immeasurably to their English language learning progress. Only so much can be done inside and in association with a classroom environment. Fostering unstructured reading and viewing of English-language content for pleasure is immensely important.
The animated image at top shows all of the books and DVDs selected from our book and DVD boxes by our students on a single day, August 18th, to keep forever.
Keep up the great work!
In this entry we wrote about BryanF2007, CeciliaC2006, ChrisF2012, HermesW2009, JamieC2012, KeithL2008, KevinM2006, KittyO2007, MordecaiL2007, SharenH2012, SophieL2008, Summer Fun 2012
In one of our classes, we’ve been reading a book that’s always been a favorite with younger students at our center, Big Nate: In a Class by Himself (more about Big Nate on Wikipedia). It’s the first book in the series of Big Nate Chapter books written and illustrated by art-teacher-turned-cartoonist Lincoln Peirce that features an always-on sixth grader who frequently and always humorously crosses swords with the adults in his life, other children, and reality.
The plot trigger Peirce uses to set up the conflict in the story is Nate forgetting to pack his lunch and ending up with nothing to eat at school one day. One of his friends, who has brought leftovers from a Chinese restaurant for his own lunch, oh so generously gives Nate his fortune cookie to eat. The fortune printed on the slip of paper inside the cookie (
Today you will surpass all others.) is what launches Nate on the course of action that drives the remainder of the book.
At the same time that we’ve been following Big Nate on his quest to distinguish himself from his classmates, we’ve been reading another book featuring food that’s sort of magical: Martha Speaks: Shelter Dog Blues). The Martha Speaks tales feature a dog that can speak so long as she periodically consumes bowls of alphabet soup.
We had brought bags of fortune cookies, which are strongly associated with Americanized Chinese cuisine but virtually absent here in Hong Kong, to share with our Big Nate readers but it seemed appropriate to share them with several of our other classes as well.
In the image at the top of this post, you can see ChristieC opening her fortune cookie and discovering the fortune inside, which goes:
Every detail has been planned for your enjoyment. Indeed! That’s certainly what we strive for here at Accella.
In this entry we wrote about ChristieC2012, Summer Fun 2012
This past Saturday, in the writing component of their lesson, our P1 and P2 students’ tackled the task of writing a procedure. In the image above, we can see MarcusI slicing his mango up into chunks.
The text that we’ve been using called for a fairly traditional fruit salad and made use of slightly stodgy old standbys like apples and strawberries, so we elected to kick things up a notch. That’s JamieC up there extracting the delicious and, if pomegranate growers’ claims are to be believed, amazingly health-promoting pomegranate seeds from her pomegranate.
Our students made a version of Nigella Lawson’s Antioxidant Fruit Salad instead. Mangoes, and Pomegranates, and Blueberries! Oh my! The animated GIF image above shows a closeup of a bit of JamieC’s deseeding process.
There’s JamesF with half of the lime that he used to dress his salad. Every student topped their salad off with a bit of lime juice and, the part that makes this fruit salad a version of Nigella’s recipe, optional baby marshmallows!
Above, you can see OlgaC holding her salad, moments before we mixed the components together and drizzled them with lime juice.
[We followed the same general procedure demonstrated by Martha Stewart in this How To De-Seed A Pomegranate with Martha Stewart YouTube video, with instructors handing the bits requiring a sharp knife.]
At Accella, we’re currently gearing up for our Summer 2012 program. It’s going to be a blast!
In this entry we wrote about EmilyT2010, Summer Fun 2012
JasmineL and TammyL both graciously agreed to share their experiences competing with their school’s team in the Odyssey of the Mind 2012 World Finals, held in the heartland of the United States at Iowa State University, with their Accella classmates.
In the image at the top of this post, Jasmine is describing the practice of OMers trading team pins with members of other teams. Below, we can see Tammy showing the accommodations afforded OM team members in the university dormitories.
Our heartiest congratulations go out to Jasmine, Tammy, and the rest of the St. Stephen’s Girls’ Primary School OM team for being awarded second place in their division for their problem (Problem 5: Odyssey Angels)!
In this entry we wrote about JasmineL2007, TammyL2011
At Accella, we’re always looking for new ways to help our students to improve their English skills and we’ve recently begun experimenting with adding another tool to our toolbox: English-language videos and films. In one of our classes, for example, when we began reading a collection of Philip K. Dick‘s short stories, we also distributed DVDs of the film Minority Report.
Both the original story, The Minority Report and the movie are set in a future United States where a police agency headed by the protagonist, John Anderton, uses a trio of “precogs”, profoundly socially-withdrawn people gifted (or, more accurately, cursed) with visions of crimes that haven’t yet been committed, to prevent crimes from occurring. Based on the precogs’ reports, police officers swoop in and apprehend future criminals before they have offended. In the original story, Dick has the agency operating nationwide and dealing with all serious crimes whereas, in Spielberg’s film, the precogs see only homicides and the program is about to be implemented nationwide after running successfully in Washington, D.C.
In addition to answering reading comprehension questions pertaining to PKD’s short story, we asked our students to watch the film and complete a table summarizing the differences in the ways that John Anderton, his family, and the precogs are depicted in Philip K. Dick’s 1956 short story The Minority Report versus its 2002 film adaptation, directed by Steven Spielberg. One of our students, SophieL, did a particularly excellent job and the image at the top of this post is a scan of her paper.
In this entry we wrote about Philip K. Dick, SophieL2008
In the photo above, you can see Jack surrounded by his classmates in a quick group birthday snapshot. Happy birthday Jack!
In this entry we wrote about Birthdays, JackL2011