May 2014 E-News from Elizabeth Claire
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Contents of this E-NEWS
Honoring our own and
our family's histories
When I was a kid, my grandmother was my caretaker, as my father had been
killed in World War II, and my mom was off at work and came home late
and tired. Many rainy afternoons, my grandmother told stories of her coming
to America, the poverty, the indignities of traveling in steerage, the
bedbugs and lice, the trials and fears at Ellis Island; the hard jobs
she had as a maid when she arrived in New York City at age 14.
Once she got started, she had to tell the story all the way through,
so I heard it many, many times. And as a kid, it was pretty boring to
hear the same thing over and over and over...until I had enough maturity
to make the connection: my grandmother is telling us our family history.
She's the only one who knows this part of it. This is first-hand, not
a dry text book with abstract facts. She's the real thing. She was a hero!
When this dawned on me, I realized what a treasure my grandmother's stories
were. I got out a tape recorder, put in a tape, and began to listen, really
to the story, to ask questions for details, to appreciate the trauma she
endured. Naturally, she was pleased, and more than pleased to be recognized
not as a repetitious old lady, but as a fountain of history. Our relationship
developed new bonds, and there were often tears of appreciation in her
eyes to have someone listening carefully, caring about the stories she
had told so often to deaf ears, her gift just disappearing in the wind
with no one really listening.
(This was long before the days of computers, or even copy machines.)
I typed up her stories, arranged them in sequence, made carbon copies
(does anyone remember carbon copies?) for each of her three sisters. I
mailed this history off to her sisters, all in their 80's now. They were
scattered around the country from New Jersey and New York City to Michigan.
They got excited! They made corrections, and they called and wrote to
tell of their own stories of immigration and early days in the United
Years later, when my own sons were off at college, I started to create
a novel from my grandmother's stories. I spent day after day in the library
researching for accurate data from 1904, and thus the "historical
1904, the Greenhorn Girl was born.
My grandmother was in a nursing home, but still with all her good senses
at age 95. She read the manuscript and wept. "How did you know what
we were saying?" she asked. "Because you told me, remember?"
I answered. She thought it was magic.
I put the novel on a back burner for another 20 years until I became
a publisher and knew that I had a market for it...for example, today's
immigrants who also go through traumas on their way to the United States.
Kristina's stories have proven cathartic for newcomers in ESL classes.
It opens up the ability to talk about the anguish of leaving home, the
difficulties of travel, and the surprises, delights, and disillusionments
All of which is the background for May's Page Six article: Your Family,
Write About It.
Our students may not yet have a conception of themselves as heroes, or
their parents as heroes in the grand life-changing experience of leaving
home and moving to another country. The decisions and changes and experiences
they've had are so very worth documenting for their own children and grandchildren.
With today's ease of getting things written, and copies made and sent
via email or posted, our students' stories should not be lost. Kids are
generally not focused too much on ancestry stuff, many don't listen when
their grandparents are still alive. It seems we don't get to wondering,
or caring much, until we are in our 50's, or so, and the ones who know
the family stories are gone.
So it's our privilege as teachers to awaken the historian in our students...take
notes, the stories are treasures! The names and places will one day be
forgotten if someone doesn't write them down. Ancestry.com
works well for American and Canadian roots, but the trails get vague when
searching in South American, Asian, European or African files. Ancestry.com gives a free trial when a person signs up for their services. However, they will ask for a credit card, and start to bill you for $19.95 per month after the free trial, until you cancel them. It is better
to get what one can, first hand.
of Easy English NEWS for May 2014
Front page: The Disappearance of Flight
Life in the U.S.A. What's Your Size:
Navigating the confusing and irrational systems for sizes on clothing.
Events in May covered
in Easy English NEWS:
About It! Helping students get started thinking
about their own family and its histories and ancestors.
- May Day
- Asian-American and Pacific-Island-American Heritage
- Cinco de Mayo
- The Kentucky Derby
- Mother's Day
- Teacher-Appreciation Day
- Armed Forces Day
- Memorial day
and History: Fred Korematsu: "Don't be afraid to speak
up." A Japanese American who resisted the government's internment
during World War II.
Ask a Speech Coach: The
sound /h/ and the letter h.
regular features: This Is Your Page (readers' stories), Funny
Stuff, Idioms, the Crossword Puzzle, Let's Talk About It, and Word Help.
PLUS PLUS: free at my website: 16 pages of self-correcting
tests for the current issue of Easy English NEWS.
If you didn't get your Teacher's Guide for May, its available at my website.
24-page generic "How To Use Easy English NEWS in Your ESL
Classroom" with 9 reproducible graphic organizers. .
Order form for Spring 2014 for Easy English
Books by Elizabeth Claire:
ESL Phonics for All Ages, Books 1 through 5
ESL Teacher's Activities Kit
ESL Teacher's Holiday Activities Kit
Easy English Crossword Puzzles
Classroom Teacher's ESL Survival Kit # 1 and Kit # 2
Kristina, 1904, the Greenhorn Girl
Just-A-Minute! Speaking Game
Help Your Buddy Learn English
Your Health by Dr. Majid Ali An E-Book of 31 reproducible
easy English articles with word help from past columns of Your Health by Dr. Ali, $10.
Treasure Chest 1, a potpourri of reproducible games, songs, and useful stuff is also $10. Check
The Constitution in Simple English
Safety in Simple English
Other free materials
Got a Kindle
reader? Elizabeth Claire's books on Kindle are available at Amazon.com,
which you can access through my website.
Don't have a kindle? No problem. Amazon will let
you download a free Kindle Reader for your computer or other device.
Prices range from free to 99 cents to $4.99.
here to go to the Amazon Kindle Store at my website
Carry on your good work!
© Elizabeth Claire 2014.