Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Teacher Ideas: Travel Stories

It's summer so you and your students may have more wanderlust than usual. Encourage students to talk about their travels in class! Thank you to Kevin for another submission to the Teacher Ideas series (submissions welcome!)

Travel Stories, by Kevin Lathrop

I encourage students in level four Saturday to see learning English as an adventure. Not that they need such encouragement. To a one, Saturday students are fully aware of the challenges and embrace them wholeheartedly. Otherwise, they wouldn't be in class bright and early on a Saturday when they could be home taking a break from hard schedules. In level four Saturday students read and listen to and watch stories of people who have traveled to New York and other parts of the country from around the world. There is talk of differences encountered, surprises both good and bad, adventure. On the last day of the semester, students brought stories of their own travels.

Jose described his story as a small one. It happened one summer day in New York. His family had come from Ecuador for vacation. His nephew and cousin planned a trip together to Liberty Island. Since Jose works every day from six p.m. to four a.m., they had to leave home at about eight. From Queens, where he lives, they took the Seven Train to Grand Central, then the Four to the bottom of Manhattan. Six people in all boarded a ferry, on which they took pictures and made a video of the family as well. When they arrived on Liberty Island, they shot more photographs, made more video, walked around, bought some things, got some food. They really enjoyed being together as a family that day.

They decided to come back, and the ferry stopped at Ellis Island. Jose and family thought they were instead already on Manhattan. They had to wait for the next boat. He had been afraid of arriving late to work, but fortunately that didn’t happen. Everybody was happy, but Jose said his pocket was unhappy because the trip hadn’t been cheap. “Do it one time,” Jose advised us. Paulina, a classmate, added, “We don’t live for money.” Jose has a very busy work schedule but is able to enjoy life and also find time to improve his English on Saturdays. He has been an excellent student this semester! So has Paulina, of course!

Paulina talked about her first adventure in the U.S.A., when her friend took to “Old Memories Classic Car Show.” The event is organized by Hot Head, a very interesting group of people, Paulina assured us. She was driving a 1958 Edsel, which was produced by one of the Ford brothers. That car has its own soul, she said. The adventure was great. Paulina chose this story because she had been in  Poland, in France and in other places but she doesn’t have pictures of her adventures there, whereas she has not only pictures but also video of her trip to the car show.

Anna’s story is about Egypt. She said that as a child and in her youth Egypt seemed as far away and as unreal as the moon. One day she won two thousand dollars. She had written a program for school children that was awarded first prize in a competition. In the past, when she had won similar competitions she’d spent the money on practical things. This time she decided to use it for herself.

It was her first plane flight. Going to Egypt had been her dream for thirty years. She had studied art in school and the ancient civilization had captured her imagination. The pyramids especially fascinated her. Even today people do not know quite how they were made. Painting, religion interested her, partly because she lived in communist Poland, where everything was grey.

First, she went to Hurgada with a Polish group, and from there by bus to Answan and from Aswan to Cairo. She took a a cruise on the Nile. The ship was big and equipped with a swimming pool and other amenities. She visited monuments, including the Valley of the Kings.

Anna says she cannot explain her impressions as well as she would like in English (though the teacher found her speech lucid), but she would recommend the trip to everyone. The best view, in her opinion, was of the pyramids. When she saw them, she cried. Details of contemporary life in Egypt surprised her. For example, many people don't finish building heir houses because as long as the structures remained incomplete they are not assessed taxes. As a result, a lot of citizens live in permanently incomplete houses.

“It was last year,” Pannarai said. “Five years ago my sister and I bought tickets at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street to go to Niagara Falls. When they arrived in Buffalo, they went to customs. The customs officers took their passports to check the visas, but at that time Pannarai’s visa, recently renewed by her boss, was not indicated on her visa. Pannarai was taken by police car to an office where staff checked the computer and found that her visa was, in fact, current. Everything was all right. The customs people then took Pannarai back to the Buffalo bus station. However, her sister was no longer there. She had already gone ahead alone to Niagara Falls. When Pannarai finally reached her destination, it was eleven p.m., too late even to see the colorfully illuminated water fall.

Pannarai was able to join her sister at the hotel where they'd made reservations, but in the morning she had only forty-five minutes to look at Niagara Falls. She had to hurry to go to the bus before it left. She went back to New York, not happy about that trip, because it was terrible. However, the experience made an exciting story. At the time, Pannarai didn’t know what would happen. She thought she might be sent back to her country. Her classmates and teacher are fortunate she could stay and tell us about this experience and others.

Everyone in class has traveled here and has adventures to tell. Among the common themes that emerge, learning English ranks high.

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