I teach English as a Second Language. I love international people, I love learning about other cultures, I love words and grammar (yes this is true!), and I love to teach. Ergo, the ESL education realm is my happy place. But my other (and even bigger) passion is Jesus Christ - I love studying the Bible, learning more about Him, and sharing the beauty and hope of the gospel with others. The great question I have struggled with for the past 8 years is, how can I most effectively combine my passions to love and serve other people?
About three years ago, I was complaining to my roommate that I could not find an ESL curriculum anywhere that was the perfect resource for what I wanted to accomplish in ministry. In response, she said something incredibly wise and challenging: "Then why don't you write it yourself?" That sparked an idea, which grew into a huge project for me, which I have invested much brain- and heart-power in for the past two years.
As a word-nerd, I find myself studying the word choices and the structures of the phrases in the Bible. What words are most often repeated? What verb tenses are used? Why is a certain phrase passive or active? What is the purpose behind the prepositions? The more I study these details of language in the Bible, the more rich the stories become for me... so why not use those details to teach English language learners? Instead of trying to separate the English lesson from the Bible lesson, I wanted to combine them and actually use the Bible as the primary English learning resource.
As a tutor and teacher, I have found it very difficult to find a one-size-fits-all curriculum... textbooks tend to be divided into Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels, but what if you want to teach a multi-level group of students? And what if a student is a great speaker, but struggles to write a paragraph? And what if you have one-on-one sessions with several different students who are at different proficiency levels? And what if a textbook works great for one class, but the very next class cannot relate to the content? I knew if I wrote a curriculum, I wanted it to be flexible enough to be used with one or twenty students, on any and all levels of proficiency.
As a Bible student, I couldn't find a Bible lesson series that really covered stories in a chronological way that connected events and characters to each other. Most series I looked at would jump from creation, to Noah, to Abraham and Isaac, to Moses, to David... and it made me sad that they were missing so many precious details in between - things that reveal the gospel of grace and mercy and justice and redemption! So when I decided to write a Bible series, I was committed to making the gospel the primary focus.
So the first volume is 30 lessons on the major events of the book of Genesis. (I have five other volumes outlined, to cover the rest of the Bible.) For each lesson, there are seven pages:
1. Teacher Planning - Instead of making a separate teacher manual, I've made a page of suggested materials and activities that the teacher can use to aid in learning and understanding the English concepts and gospel truths.
2. Illustration - Original black-and-white artwork by myself and my friend, Josh Malchuk, each one depicting a major event in the story, and contains images of new vocabulary
3. Vocabulary - New and review words, character names, and pre-reading questions
4. Story - Simplified interpretation of the story, with the Bible reference - 15-25 sentences
5. Verbs - Chart of all the verbs in the story and their tenses, and mini-lesson with practice
6. Sentence Structures - Mini-lesson on some aspect of the grammar in the story, with writing practice
7. Comprehension - Cloze (fill-in-the-blank) version of the story, and thought/application discussion questions
The pages are designed to appeal to different proficiency levels... If your student has no English background, only use the Illustration page with them, pointing to objects and giving single-word vocabulary and acting it out to tell the story. If your student is more Intermediate, add the Vocab, Story, and Verbs pages. If your student is Advanced, add the Sentence Structure and Comprehension pages. Or adjust the amount of work to cater to the unique proficiency and learning style of your student!
So here it is, available for $30 on Amazon.com! If you are interested in teaching English and the Bible at the same time, please order one today and try it out. I would love to see churches offer Bible studies or Sunday school classes with this, or even have tutors use it in homes for one-on-one or small group instruction. International students who are Christians might enjoy going through familiar stories in a new language, and students who are not Christians might find this an interesting and academic way to learn more about the Bible. I hope students will gain confidence in their English skills and be encouraged by the good news of the Lord through these lessons.