Sunday, December 27, 2009

Authentic Easy-to-Read Stories Online at the Toronto Star

I was recently introduced to the "Acts of Kindness" series published weekly by the Toronto Star by a multilevel instructor who teaches in Canada. She noted that these true stories, submitted by readers of the newspaper, are very suitable for multilevel classes since they are short and often written in "easy" English. She has the students work in cross-ability groups with the stories in a variety of ways. For example, students may be assigned to explain a story to a student at a different ability level, or rewrite the story in their own words. After a quick search, I found that the more than 2000(!) stories are archived at the Toronto Star online edition at and they are not only suitable for multilevel ESL situations, they are a wonderful resource for any ESL class.

The stories cover a wide variety of topics and everyday situations, so there are many opportunities to work with vocabulary and associate stories with topics being covered in class already. For example, I saw several stories related to getting stuck without money and someone helping, others related to losing things on buses and recovering them, and still others related to being helped by a stranger when a crime is about to occur. Most newer ESL textbooks have chapters related to finances, public transportation, and public safety. It would be very easy to choose selections from the stories and introduce them as supplemental activities to particular units during the semester.

There is also a link to submit one's own story! Students at all levels could work in groups or individually to submit an "act of kindness" story and see it published online!