For the last two weeks, I’ve been reading aloud an adaptation of the book Marley & Me to my intermediate-level students. I’m using the Pearson Reader version, which you can find here on their website. (You can also buy the book on Amazon for $12, but it’s cheaper from the publisher—the price currently listed in the Pearson Reader catalog is $8.99.) This book is an adaption of the original Marley & Me book by John Grogan. There’s also a version for younger readers, Marley, which might be suitable for advanced ESL students.
The Pearson Reader version of Marley & Me is a graded reader for ESL students. It’s a Level 2 (“High-Beginning”) in the Pearson Reader series, which means it has about 600 headwords. My intermediate-level students could certainly handle a more difficult book, but we are nearing the end of our term and I don’t have a lot of available time in each class period, so I decided to do a quick and easy book.
I chose the book because it’s a fun and enjoyable story that I think appeals to almost everyone. It’s a story about a family with a big dog, Marley, who they call “the world’s worst dog” because of all the trouble he causes. It’s mostly a funny book, though there are also some sad parts.
My students have said that they like the book, and I can tell that they are enjoying it when I read it in class. They laugh at the silly things that Marley does, and I think many of them have been touched by other aspects of the book. I noticed one student’s eyes tearing up during the part in which the main couple in the story has a miscarriage.
I’ve just been reading the book aloud to my students—about one chapter a day—and they just sit and listen. When I come to a word that I think they probably don’t know, I pause, write the word on the board, and explain it or show a picture of it from Google Images. Some of the students also occasionally interrupt me as I’m reading if there’s something they don’t understand. Every once in a while, I pause while I’m reading for us to discuss something. And I occasionally stop to ask comprehension questions if I’m worried that maybe they don’t understand something. However, I try to avoid doing too many comprehension checks because I think the focus should be on the story itself. I want my students to be able to relax and enjoy the story without being constantly interrupted and bombarded with questions.
There is a movie version of the story, also called Marley & Me. I have shown my students a few clips from the movie. We’re not watching the entire movie because, even for my intermediate-level students, there is a lot of language that they don’t understand. For the clips that I did show during class, I introduced a few of the words or expressions that I knew would probably be unfamiliar to them before we watched the scene. I also played the movie with English subtitles on, which helps them to understand more, as they can listen and read at the same time. But even with these accommodations, the language is still pretty difficult for many of the students in my class. If I had more class time to spend on the movie, it would be probably be doable, but I didn’t have much time to spend on it. In the future, I might use the Marley & Me book/movie combination again and allow myself more time with it so that we can watch the entire movie, and I can go slowly enough so that my students can understand more of the language. Maybe I will make some embedded readings to preview each scene of the movie or use it as a MovieTalk.
Feel free to comment below if you have questions about how I used the read-aloud or if you have other ideas for good read-aloud books.