In 1992, I had my first formal opportunity to teach English through my denomination's church-based program in Japan. I learned from the missionaries how to use language classes to build authentic relationships and create a platform to share our lives and faith. We partnered with our Japanese sister churches to provide opportunities for non-Christians to attend English classes, which were typically followed by a five or ten minute "chapel message" given by a pastor or evangelist.
I taught 10-14 classes a week, with students from 5 to 70 years of age. In that year, I grew to love this amazing opportunity to use my native language to share God's love. I became burdened for my new friends to know the God who loves each of us and calls us to follow Him.
How did Eyes to See come about?
After I returned to NY in 1997, I began teaching at the Christian Embassy and was encouraged to pursue my Master's degree in TESOL. About that time, another curriculum using clips from the Jesus Film was produced which I tried with my students.
As I reflected on each lesson, I saw there was so much more potential for spiritual discussions with my students than the exercises included because these lessons were focused on beginners.
The idea to create another program, more in line with current language teaching methodologies that I could use with multilevel classes of well-educated adults, began to germinate.
When I first saw "The Story of Jesus through the Eyes of Children" video, I was drawn to the video and felt that it would be better to create a curriculum based on this version of the film because of how vocabulary and cultural understanding are woven into the plot line.
In 2003, I returned to Japan for three months to partner once again with the Sendai churches and work intensely on developing Eyes to See, Ears to Hear. It was an exciting time. As the Lord gave me ideas, I wrote and then tested pieces with my friends. Over the years, I've used it in classes of diplomat wives and have been encouraged by how the women have responded.
When I showed it to Janice G T Penner, a teacher educator and published author of ESL materials, she helped me make it more user-friendly for new teachers and strongly encouraged me to pursue publication so it could be used by other faith based programs.
How is Eyes to See, Ears to Hear different from other "ESL" materials?
There are several unique characteristics that distinguish Eyes to See, Ears to Hear from both secular and other Christian "ESL" materials. Being based on an entire film about the life of Jesus, it seeks to create a "question-friendly" environment for students. In addition to participating in communicative exercises common in secular texts, classes will have opportunities to explore the meaning of the various scenes they watch about Jesus.
Each five-minute segment is watched multiple times: the first time students watch to understand what is happening, after which vocabulary is reviewed; the second time, there is a specific listening task; the third time, students are assigned to groups to discuss a specific scene. Out of these discussions come great ideas and questions! In each unit, the reading section, taken from the New International Reader's Version of the Bible, is followed by questions which require students to apply the grammar concept studied; this creates a more comfortable environment for those who are not familiar with the Bible because it does not prematurely ask them to apply it to their lives.
Finally, each unit offers a "Taking it Home" exercise, encouraging students to share a specific story from the film with friends and elicit answers to specific questions. These exercises provide natural opportunities for students to practice their language skills while exploring the meaning of the Biblical story in the context of other important relationships.
What are some of the success stories you've experienced or heard from teaching this curriculum?
Each time I've taught a class using the Eyes to See, Ears to Hear curriculum, I've been amazed by the discussions and laughter. The students, volunteers, and I had so much fun discussing the various exercises! We learned from each other and got to know one another's cultures and interests on a deeper level. Christians in the class were encouraged because they were given tools (e.g. vocabulary and grammar) to talk about the most important thing in their lives. One lady from Southeast Asia learned that Jesus had come to save us from our sins; she believed that message and returned to her country with a joy and peace that overflowed!
Early in the process of trying to get "Eyes" published, I gave a copy to a foundation's leader who "accidentally" left it in his limousine when he got out at the airport. When the limo driver found it, he picked it up and started reading it. He was reminded of the Bible stories he had learned as a child and determined to return to church. A few months later, this man and his family were active members of their church!
As the writer of this curriculum, I was thrilled to see how my volunteers were able to use the curriculum when I was away. Although neither had experience teaching ESL beyond volunteering with my classes, they found it easy to use and were excited by the spiritual discussions that took place. Their enthusiasm was such an encouragement to me!
I pray that many other ministries will find Eyes to See, Ears to Hear Conversational English Curriculum to be a useful tool for introducing their non-native English speaking friends to Jesus.
(For more information on, to Look Inside, or to order the Eyes to See, Ears to Hear Conversational English Curriculum click here.)
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