On a recent holiday through outback Queensland and Northern Territory, I was surprised at the number of small towns whose economies are based today on gold-history tourism. I suppose that should not have surprised me as Dorothy CourtGold! which deals with the history of the precious metal in Australia: Bathurst, Ballarat and Bendigo, Eureka, the anti-Chinese riots, poverty and riches, social disruption, population explosion, environmental degradation, nineteenth century mining techniques on to the huge modern mines and I had just published our latest set of low level reading material.
This set of materials follows the same general format as our previous reading materials. The readers are written at three successively more difficult levels within the same volume, ranging from approximately ISLPR 0+, through 1- to 1+ (very beginner to basic survival competence). This helps teachers to encourage students to move from their comfort zone to a slightly more challenging level, with the scaffolding of familiar illustrations, which support the text. (Dorothy, the illustrator, is a talented and experienced ESL teacher.) The parallel subject matter at each level also creates a non-threatening reading environment for timid students. The inclusion of the three texts in the one volume also assists teachers with the dreaded multi-level classes by providing one book which can be used by a whole class.
The accompanying workbook has suggestions to teachers on using the materials, stimulus pictures and additional background notes on the history of the goldrush period and on modern mining and processing techniques as well as on environmental issues. There is also a gold song in simple English to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. Lastly there are 40 pages of photocopiable exercises, plus suggested answers. The exercises, like the reading texts, are at three levels and include: vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling, punctuation, syllabification, comprehension and sequencing, grammar, writing and detailed listening.
A sound CD completes the package. The reading texts are read slowly and clearly by Lyndal Reid, who is a very experienced ESL teacher. The Gold Song is sung at an unhurried pace by Keith Davidson with simple guitar accompaniment.
We have found that this format suits our own low level students as it gives them information about Australia which they can understand, it reinforces skills from other parts of their English courses and it builds their confidence and encourages them to push the boundaries of their skills. Many students have expressed great enthusiasm for this approach and show absolute delight when they manage to read a text which they would not normally have even attempted. From a teacher's point of view, such a package greatly reduces preparation time and provides a coherent base for work over a substantial number of teaching hours.