Elizabeth Claire's E-News

May 2014 E-News from Elizabeth Claire

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Contents of this E-NEWS

Honoring our own and our family's histories

Contents of Easy English NEWS for May 2014

Available at website

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 States.

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 novel," Kristina, 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 after arriving.

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. works well for American and Canadian roots, but the trails get vague when searching in South American, Asian, European or African files. 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.

Contents of Easy English NEWS for May 2014

Front page: The Disappearance of Flight 370

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:
    • May Day
    • Asian-American and Pacific-Island-American Heritage Month
    • Cinco de Mayo
    • The Kentucky Derby
    • Mother's Day
    • Teacher-Appreciation Day
    • Armed Forces Day
    • Memorial day
Your Family--Write About It! Helping students get started thinking about their own family and its histories and ancestors.

Heroes 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.

Plus our 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.

FREE 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 NEWS.

Available at website

Books by Elizabeth Claire:

ESL Phonics for All Ages, Books 1 through 5 with CDs

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 them out.


The Constitution in Simple English

Hurricane Safety in Simple English

Other free materials

Got a Kindle reader? Elizabeth Claire's books on Kindle are available at, 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.

Click here to go to the Amazon Kindle Store at my website

Carry on your good work!

© Elizabeth Claire 2014.

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