Using a historical document as a teaching tool
Monday, June 29, 2020
This article, featuring Elbert Hubbard’s “A Message to Garcia,” may be of interest for instructors teaching higher-level students who need some encouragement to stay on task.
It is a great lesson on ethics and loyalty set in a historical time frame over 100 years in the past. It is also a good example of journalistic writing of the period and appeals to a broad audience, not just history buffs.
“A Message to Garcia" was originally printed in 1899 in the newspaperThe Philistine, and it was soon reprinted over 40 million times in the world's major languages. The passage may be used as a reading or a listening comprehension exercise for ESL or as part of a sheltered ESL for history course. It can be used from high intermediate to advanced as well as in English for academic purposes.
Instructors may wish to add skill-building exercises such as vocabulary, synonym/antonym, and parts of speech exercises. Comprehension questions can be followed by opinion questions asking students what they would do in a similar situation or if they knew a similar story from their home country. Another possibility is to have students their own fictional account on a similar subject. They can also add their own ideas to the original.
The passage is a good example of content-area practice that exposes the learners to real world material that goes beyond textbook examples.
Please click here to read “A Message From Garcia.”
Teachers can add the suggested exercises as they see fit. Or they can just let the students read and discuss the account and comment on it. Topics can include broad topics such as “define loyalty.” Another idea would be “What does loyalty mean in business?”
Students can write about loyalty in their chosen profession or what loyalty means for them as students even before they go out into the workplace. One does not really need to overload it with too many exercises since the passage can stand alone as an inspirational message of loyalty. Perhaps students can think of a similar story from their own experience.
If the instructor uses this passage as a listening exercise, an outline would be helpful for the students. The instructor can read the passage and have the students just listen, and then he will hand out the outline, and students will fill in their own notes in the spaces provided. Students can then work in small groups and compare notes. Students can make oral reports about loyalty stories from their countries or from other countries that they may have heard or read about.
Teaching hint No. 2: Culture
This passage can be a look into culture. Culture lessons can provide students a perspective that goes beyond grammar and vocabulary. They can see the connections to other languages since English has borrowed words from many different languages.
Culture can also give students perspective to understand the evolution of the English language as well as etymology of words, which mayimprove vocabulary recognitionand enjoyment of learning.
Many students don’t realize that English has a lot of borrowed language, which makes pronunciation difficult at times. When they find words from their native language being used in English, they tend to pay greater attention to the lesson. Sometimes those same students will give the teacher a short lesson on the word based on the native language from which it’s borrowed (Lubin, M., 2018).
Culture and language study are connected.Cultural components add interest to L2 classes.
Provide a wide array of cultural information in different formats, including DVDs, music, readings, online programs, guest speakers, literature and newspapers. This helps ESL students learn about a culture from a variety of viewpoints and provides a broader perspective of this culture (Study International).
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