The Know-Nothings Talk Turkey

Digital Comprehension Journal
Paper Comprehension Journal

One of my biggest struggles in teaching older low proficiency English language learners is finding books for them to read. The books that contain vocabulary and sentence structures they are able to comprehend are made for very young learners. I do have two go-to series though that never fail to become favorites of my older learners: ​Amelia Bedelia and The Know Nothings

The biggest reason my students and I like these books is the main characters are adults. So many other great books, (such as Cam Jansen, a series I talked about in my Spooky Synonyms and Halloween Literature posts), have characters that are in early elementary school. While the books are well written, and the stories engaging, my students are unable to relate to the characters. It is also a little discouraging because they are having to read a children’s book. Conversely, Amelia Bedelia and The Know Nothings feature main characters that are adults and, while still obviously being written for children, it’s a little easier for my students to relate to them.

Another reason we like these books so much is that they are funny! Amelia Bedelia and all of her comprehension mistakes is very relatable for English language learners. The Know Nothings’ lack of understanding is not quite as relatable, but they are happy and they don’t let their difficulties deter them from their goals. My students like the positive attitudes and easy comradery of the four friends.

When I was searching for Thanksgiving lessons beyond my stand-by readings and vocabulary from The ESL Teacher’s Holiday Activities Kit, I decided to focus on The Know Nothings Talk Turkey for our reading comprehension work. In this book the four friends realize it is time for Thanksgiving, talk briefly about why we celebrate it, and then set out to have a true American Thanksgiving experience. They have a lot of adventures as they try to find and serve a turkey, but in the end are thankful to be together as friends.

In order to facilitate our reading, I developed a tri-fold brochure with questions for each chapter and a very short final comprehension check. Once printed and folded, the comprehension journal/brochure served as a bookmark, as well as a place to track their learning. Since so much of our lives has gone online this year, I created a digital comprehension journal for my online friends to use. The digital version includes all the same questions in a single slide deck with hyperlinked buttons for each chapter and the table of contents (first slide) for easy navigation. This lesson also provided yet another chance for my students to practice using the steps to comprehension (see previous blog post) that I’d taught them, though instead of underlining the sentences in the text I had them mark them with sticky-notes instead.

The book is rather short, so we were able to read the entire thing, and complete our journal, in less than a week. The students really enjoyed the story and it was a great way to introduce them to some American Thanksgiving history and traditions. Happy teaching, everyone!