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Bonding over books


They traveled to America to study English, but they got something more. They also gained a memorable connection with a small group of sixth-grade students through a volunteer book club.

As a part of their practicum to become English teachers in their home country, Chilean exchange students Karolina Jara, Rocio Altamirano and Melisa Coloma spent the spring 2017 semester studying at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Applied Language Institute where, under the guidance of adjunct instructor Janine O’Shea, they partnered with Banneker Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo., to conduct a book club in order to advance their English-speaking skills.

O’Shea, who previously incorporated book clubs into the curriculum for an English as a Second Language speaking class, said she often looks for authentic experiences for Institute students to interact with native English speakers.

“I attended a TESOL (teachers of English to speakers of other languages) conference where presenters shared the value of community service as an authentic speaking experience as well as a cultural experience,” said O’Shea. During the previous three semesters, as part of their class grade, Institute students participated in a book club at Banneker; but the Institute did not offer that class during the spring 2017 semester.

Nevertheless, Jara, Altamirano and Coloma enthusiastically volunteered to conduct the yearly book club with sixth grade students Earl, Christopher, Da’koda, Cortea’, Jaiden, Robert, Mariyia, Widnor and Ra’Mya.

As the book club reviewed the Newberry Honor Award-winning book Rules, “a heartwarming first novel” by Cynthia Lord, both groups of students were able to draw applicable life lessons from its central themes, as well as cultivate a bond and awareness of one another’s cultures.

“I’ve witnessed that through the exposure to one another, both groups have expanded their knowledge and understanding of each other’s cultures and countries,” said O’Shea. “At our first meeting, we got out the globe and the international UMKC students pointed to the country they are from.”

“We learned a lot about Chilean culture and how they speak Spanish and their football is not the same as ours,” said Widnor, adding that he and his classmates also learned a lot from the book. “I didn’t know about Autism before.”

Read the full story in UMKC Today

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About this Story

Campus: UMKC
Key words: KC Campus, Teaching,
County: Jackson

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