Founder of ESL Reads
EAL Teacher and Curriculum Writer (Secondary)   

5 Inspirational Stories for your EAL Classroom in 2023

January 8, 2023 by Lauren Piovesan

The holidays are such an amazing time. After such an intense, challenging and burn-out-esque few years in education, it is a desperately needed reprieve from changing policies, demanding curriculums, complex students, scary parents and the ‘C’ word! As the holidays commence, a huge wave of relief washes over… phew! And I find that after a few weeks of sleeping, eating and socialising, I bounce back feeling more creative than ever. It is at this point in the holidays that watching TV, sightseeing, reading or having conversations with friends sparks the thought, “How could I could use this in the classroom?” In this blog, I would like to share 5 stories that have given me that exact thought this school holidays in the hope that they may be helpful for your classrooms too.

1. Anh Do

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For Christmas, I received, The Happiest Refugee memoir from a family member. Shocked that I hadn’t read it yet, I immediately dove in. In this text, I saw many parallels between what my students experienced and what Anh Do experiences. What I love most is his go-getter, positive attitude despite the adversity in his life, and I thought he could be a brilliant example for young adult students. His creative endeavours and TV success might also be used to expose students to less conventional career options that they may never have thought profitable or possible. Thankfully, Anh doesn’t just have this memoir, but he has a picture book, his Brush with Fame TV show on ABC and his comedy skits; there are so many formats and levels to choose from!

2. Afghan Women Protest Education Bans

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With the take over of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the recent ban of women from higher education settings there, my news feed has been flooded with numerous articles about courageous women protesting their rights. They are awe-inspiring reads, and I am sure some of your students will be watching this closely. This is very topical and shows immense strength from these women. I thought this could link well with any argument genre, as well as history or social justice themed units of work. 

3. Cristina Martinez

Image courtesy of Netflix

I first learnt about Cristina Martinez while deeply entranced (and dare I say addicted) to the Chef’s Table series on Netflix. Her story of seeking asylum was incredible and was reminiscent of many of my students’ experiences. As she tried to make a new life for herself in the US, she turned to her roots and to food from back home. It was always my preference to start a new school year around the theme of identity which is often well supported by Harmony Day in March.  I think parts of Cristina Martinez’ story would fit very nicely in a unit like this. 

4. Sampa the Great

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A colleague recently told me about Sampa the Great and before that I did not know a thing about her. I am now unashamedly obsessed and have played her rap album more times than I dare to admit! She is Zambian and has lived in Melbourne for about 5 years. She is a fantastic role model in terms of staying true to herself, her identity and her roots, and refuses to be labelled an Australian just because her career successes have fallen in the time she has lived there. Sampa speaks about identity and belonging through her music, interviews and articles, and would be perfect for more advanced EAL students in units around these themes. 

5. Lost For Words

Image courtesy of SBS

The second season of Lost For Words – the 3 part SBS documentary series about adult literacy – was released recently and after a complete break from thinking about anything education related, I decided it was time to check it out. I really like this series because it depicts so clearly the struggles, insecurities, shame and yet resilience of adult learners. The participant’s comments, snippets of the episodes, or watching an episode as a class, might help students feel less lonely or worried about their learning journey as they will see their feelings echoed by those in the show. I also got a few tips for how to set up certain activities or structure sessions (I especially liked the individual goal time where students had a goal and worked towards it daily for a structured amount of time). Lost For Words could be work well when setting up the learning environment and goal setting at the beginning of the year. 

I hope these 5 inspirational stories will be useful in some capacity; either as interesting reads, or plans for the classroom. I would love to know what has inspired you these holidays and what you have been thinking about. Please feel free to share in the comments section below. 

*Please note: This blog is based on my own research, recommendations from colleagues or classroom and is not endorsed/promoted by the individuals, institutions or organisations listed above.  

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