Happy Monday Everyone! We are back with another installment in our What’s Your Story series. Today we want to share a heartwarming story from Susan Heavener, whose life has been greatly impacted by her work as an ESL Instructor in Houston.

What a privilege to share this joy filled story with you. Here in Houston, we are excited to welcome new emerging people groups such as the Burmese and Bhutanese. They come with tremendous culture, and positivity. Their status as official guests allow them to work right away. I am an ESL instructor in the community but often God in his humble grace, allows me to be the student. His lessons always seem to leave a lasting impact.

My story begins with listening and observing. My students in this story are new workers to Houston who communicate rhythmically with each other and to me with eyebrows, moving their eyes, head, and hands. It was very charming, but how would a potential employer view these non-verbals? Were my students actually learning or using non-verbal expressions to be polite?

I was now faced with a challenge. How do I break reliance on these non-verbals in my students’ emerging English production to help them become confident in conversation? 

A great work around I discovered was by accident, the parachute game. It removed the silent signaling my students sometimes used to successfully avoid speaking. It also offered a self-check as to how well the students were understanding my lesson. 

It works as follows: each is each student works in community around the parachute to keep the ball in the air. Mid-game, students are asked questions in English about the day’s subject matter to determine lesson comprehension. Everyone is focused on the ball, and less nervous to answer in English.   

I hope you like my story and find the results for this game something you can try with your students to do in community. May it be a measurable guide for you as teacher if the lessons taught, are caught!

I love this story because it really highlights how, although we often enter our students lives with the intent of teaching them and helping them reach their goals and overcome challenges, we often end up being the ones to learn a few lessons ourselves.

If you would like to share your story with Literacy Connexus, please email us at info@literacyconnexus.org. We would love to hear from you!