A year has already passed since I began using the book “Lessons in Kindness” both in senior Grades of my gymnasium and with the students of ACCESS school. Now I can say this book is one of the best teaching textbooks which have been published recently. Thanks to the English Language off ice of the American Embassy in Moscow, and namely to the author of the project Mr. David Fay and his assistants Natalya Fomenko and Elena Lubnina the fulfillment and implementation of this tremendous project became possible. Additional thanks to a wonderful American woman Mrs. Myurtis Mixon who supervised and coordinated the fulfillment of the project. Before this book was introduced we dealt only with the textbooks the authors of which tried to influence upon the children and make them take the material studied in the way they saw it. The children had to believe them for granted. But here is quite another pair of shoes. Created by the students of one and the same age, representing different cultures, religion, nationalities these stories have become a good motivating factor of Learning English. Children are curious about the events described in the stories which happened to their coevals and they read the stories with great interest. Besides the learn about the problems not from grown ups but from the students who are of their age and have mostly the same problems. The world is large but the problems are the same. And reading these stories, analyzing the actions of the heroes, thinking about their own reaction if they were in the place of the heroes and discussing their own deeds they learn to respond properly to such situations. The stories teach the students to be kind and benevolent to people. I have participated in 6 teachers professional development seminars and distributed more than two hundred books between the teachers of the schools in the city and republic and they use them successfully at the lessons of home reading and extracurricular activity.
Introducing the book to the Foreign Teachers at the workshop at Hawaii Summer Institute in Honolulu.
Sandra Lee Mckay
Professor Emeritus, San Francisco State University,
Visiting Professor of Applied Linguistics and
Project Manager, U. S. Department of State ELT Grant
Sandra McKay supervised our seminar in Hawaii Pacific University in 2009. The teachers from our International group and she were the first to whom I introduced the book. Today I got the following letter from her:
Attached is a review of the book written by three experienced ACCESS teachers from Uruguay. They were extremely impressed with the book.
Here is their evaluation letter:
Report on Accessing English through Students’ Stories
After looking at Accessing English through Students’ Stories, we believe that the book is suitable for ACCESS students in different parts of the world.
In our opinion, this book is the result of an excellent combination of several factors: an engaging program, the positive and natural energy of adolescents, and committed teachers and materials developers. Only this perfect combination could have presented this book as a result.
Stories written by real students are usually appealing to them; in this case, the 51 stories provide examples of how students can progress in their learning of the language.
The topics proposed promote general cultural values and foster understanding as the author states in the introduction. These features help students become more tolerant and respectful citizens.
The activities that accompany the stories provide good opportunities for learning new vocabulary, practicing reading and creating starting points for writing. The sequencing and grading of the activities seem appropriate for the target audience; these activities progress from less to more difficult, and they take into account personalization.
As we were reading the stories, we felt it would be a good idea to start compiling stories from our own region. These stories could be examined by specialists who could develop activities for the publication of a second book. Eventually, there could be publications integrating stories from different cultures, which would give this project an even more global perspective.
Clara De la Rosa, a teacher of English from Mexico.
First of all congratulants!! I think the ACCESS student from Russia have made a great job. The stories show not only the linguistic and communicative competence, but the values and attitudes the adolescents need to comprehend in order to make them feel included into the society. On the other hand, the idea to prepare exercises taking the stories as a text is a big step not just to teach the language, but to motivate your students and also the ones who read and take them as a lesson. The formers can look for something else, and the latter can see that learning English is possible. In short, you are teaching not only the language, you are forming adolescents" I hope my comment can be useful. Once again Congrtulations to the authors of the project!
Mr. Michael Bailey, the teacher of the World Geograhpy and English from Belfast Area High School, Maine, U.S.A., author of the Globall Classroom program.
Dear Myrtis, David and Natalia,
I have worked closely with Mikhail Nokhov from Khasyvurt, Dagestan since we first met at Cambridge University on a summer study program in 2005 and he made the amazing effort to meet me again when I had the opportunity to participate in a study tour to Vladimir in 2007.
Since that time we have been in contact nearly daily as we have developed a web based classroom experience for our students to share lessons and opinions and through regular contact develop friendly relationships with each other. Mikhail and I have also become good friends during this time.
I teach Geography and English at Belfast Area High School in Belfast, Maine.
He has now introduced me to your collaborative work with him and his
students on the topic of kindness. I'm writing today to let you know how much I have enjoyed reading and watching the videos on your "Lessons in Kindness" website. I hope you don't mind if I include a link to the site on our "Global Classroom" website and encourage our incoming students to read and view the stories also. Our Global Classroom includes not only Mikhail's class but also students and teachers from Vladimir, Selty and Dylym in Russia, and also India, Morocco, France, Azerbaijan, Japan, Palestine, Mali, Algeria and Taiwan.
I believe the stories will resonate with all our students. Each year they marvel at their similarities despite some remarkable cultural differences.
The student's own voices are really apparent in the stories and it makes them so much more authentic. I'm a real believer in the power of the short story and we use short stories as an integral part of our study of world Geography each year.
This is a great project,
Here is Myrtis Mixon's reply to Mike's letter:
Thank you so much for writing to me. I love your letter and how you are
using the stories. So many people have told me what a great project this is, and I want to spread the idea wherever possible.
David Fay, the RELO in Moscow (and now moving to Lima, Peru) is the person
who initiated this project, and since I have worked extensively in
materials development, writing stories (both historical and writing down folktales), he thought
of me. I am also a seasoned storyteller.
My textbooks include the first three where I wrote original historical fiction stories about significant events in American history; then books using folktales from different countries where I have spent a period in from 4 months to 18 months) I wrote folktale books in Albania and Peru;
then in Turkey, it is a collection of 10 Turkish and 10 American folktales; now a book of
Kazakh folktales is in press.
But the Russian book is my favorite for the reasons that you mention: the
stories from the teenagers... and our being able to keep their authentic voice.
Mikhail is a wonder ... and I saw him only for a few days in Elista in
I have heard that this concept is being developed in Ukraine, and now I
just got a request to do it in Oman...we'll see. There are many places, maybe all places, where this would be a great project... and so wonderful for so many young people to get
Any ideas? Why don't you have your students write stories with this
Speaking at the worhshop at the Institute of the Teacher's Professional Development in Makhachkala.
Representing the book to the teachers at the annual teachers' conference.
Introducing the book to the teachers and students in Gymnasiun # 1 in the village of Dylim.
Here are some of the teacher’s evaluations:
Kadachieva Haibat Magomedtagirovna
Head of the English Philology Department of Dagestan State University
In tense atmosphere of ethnic conflicts, political clashes, universal indifference and aggressiveness the book "Lessons in Kindness. Assessing English through Students' Stories" can be recommended for bringing up tolerance, mercifulness and mutual respect. Stories written in a very intimate, confidential manner inspire interest and involvement of the reader. It's very interesting to observe young authors demonstrate wisdom and deep insight into human nature. Their observations and meditations are notable for their simplicity, transparency, originality and comprehensiveness. It seems pedagogically valuable to teach pupils to life and to English through their contemporaries' vision of life.
Rationally and homogeneously structurized book contains original texts followed by various tasks. These exercises are aimed at developing reading, writing and communicative skills. Grammar as an important constituent of foreign language mastering is backed up by vocabulary exercises. New words and phraseological units are given bold to attract the reader's attention and memorize them. Role-play tasks if acted provoke imaginative and creative abilities of pupils. Through acting they can vividly reflect the author's implicit and explicit intentions, express their own opinion and standing. In this respect it is important to mention an accompanying visual device.
Validating children's good command of English obtained through this first literary experience one cannot but underestimate its significance for their future life and career
Mamontova Zinaida Nikolayevna - the senior teacher of the English Chair at the Republican Institute of The Teacher's Professional Development.
I was given a copy of the book “Lessons in Kindness” by Mikhail Nokhov while he was giving a workshop presenting this book to the teachers of English from different schools of our republic. All of them were also given copies. I started reading the book at once and the next day I asked the teachers to write a short story of a similar kind. To my great surprise many of them failed. Then I asked Mikhail to teach them how to do it and during two days he taught them. At the end of the seminar we held a competition for the best teachers’ story. Mind, that it was held under the impression the book produced on all of us.
We see that the children from many cities of Russia are being upraised in the sphere of positive stereotypes in communication. They deal with each other on the principles of mutual cooperation, equality, respect to a human being, his opinion, culture, and traditions no matter what nationality he or she can be. Such kind of upbringing let the students value any racial, ethnical, and national differences. These stories are oriented on liberty and justice, they teach students appreciate the values common to all mankind.
This book can be recommended not only as an excellent source for studying English but a very useful remedy for upraising students who can value the good and oppose negative factors in relations with people of different nations.
Bella Nasrullayevana Magomedova, a Teacher of English From School 13 With Advanced Learning of English, Makhachkala.
The book “Lessons in Kindness” is valuable both in the process of teaching English and bringing up a young generation of students. The idea of bringing up the children in the traditions of doing good to people is a leitmotif of every children’s story. The book widens the students’ notions of means of communication, motivates them to talk and to discuss problems raised in the stories.
It would be in a good taste to stress that the language of the stories is very nice and not difficult for comprehension of the students of different knowledge levels. The texts are interesting and various, and not difficult for understanding. The main idea is that they fully correspond with our chief task – to master the process of teaching English.
More than that, the students are provided with the material which is similar to the problems they meet in their everyday life. They get the information from their coevals, who are of different cultures, nationalities and religion.
The exercises following the stories make them think, digest the material read , analyze and start speaking or writing their own stories.
Such approach helps creating the atmosphere of trust, friendship and mutual understanding at the lessons when the students are involved into creative process of learning, experiencing and expressing their own thoughts in English.
Idikova Daisis Gamidovna - a teacher of English in gymnasiunm # 1, Khasavyurt.
When I got the book for the first time I was pleased to see that there were my students among the authors of the stories. I knew that they had spent a week in a summer camp in the city of Elista where an American teacher (now know her name – Myrtis Mixon) taught them how to write stories about tolerance. I was really eager to find out what their stories were about. They were awesome, and it was very interesting to read stories written by other Access students from different cities in Russia.
I was asked to use the book at the lessons of home reading. So before the first lesson I asked the students to choose and read any story from the book and to comment on it in order to see their attitude to the problems raised in the book. . To my great surprise all the students read the stories and started speaking and analyzing the fact described in the stories from their own point of view. Some answers were good, some not but the fact was that the students got interested in the book and were eager to work with it. They told me that the stories were interesting to them because they were not written by professional writers but by the boys and girls of their age. We also started writing our own stories and made a gymnasium book of stories.
I want to thank the editors and the writers and say that this is one of the most interesting books for children to read.
Batyrbieva Elmira Abdulmazhidovna- a Teacher of English in Gymnasium # 1, Khasavyurt
I have been using the book “Lessons in Kindness” at the lessons of home reading once a week for a year already. When I got the book I was very curios what kind of stories the students of our Gymnasium had written. I was surprised at our students and students from other cities being so creative and read the book with great interest. It is a real children’s masterpiece! My students read the stories, do exercises, make dialogues with greater interest than they do at the ordinary lessons working with the textbook. I suppose their interest in the book is great because the stories were written by the boys and girls of their age. I try not to influence upon their point of view while discussing the plot. to my great surprise my students who mostly don't like writing started composing stories of their own. Now we are preparing a book of school stories.
In conclusion I want to thank the authors of the project, young writers and all those who made this project possible.
Botasheva Amina Vazirovna - a teacher of English in Gymnasium # 1, Khasavyurt.
Just as you read the title of the book it makes you start thinking of such notions as kindness, good attitude, and benevolence. First I read the book by myself, because one author of the stories is my student. I read it with great pleasure because it contains a lot of useful information for the students of different nationalities.
I use the book at the lessons of home reading. Special motivating exercises, tasks and vocabulary composed for every story make students not only speak English but analyze the facts; express their attitude to the facts discussed. The students like the stories because they are not fictitious but are taken from real life situations with which any of the students can meet any time. We write our thoughts and try to write the same kind of stories too. Recently we had a competition for the best story about tolerance. Thanks a lot to the authors and to the English Language office of the American Embassy for this nice book.
Adzhieva Maya Khanvutzayevana - a teacher of English in Khasavyurt Lyseum.
I would say that reading these stories is a good source for motivating children to learn English. The stories are very interesting for the students because they promote tolerance, good attitude and benevolence to other people irrespective their culture, religion and nationality. I am very glad that this book of children’s stories was published. I am especially glad that two of the girls in Access school are my students from Lyceum. They have become a little bit proud but the rest of the students are proud for them too. They read the stories willingly, do exercises and speak how they would behave if they found themselves in similar situations. We like to watch the video and see the pictures. Besides I teach them how to write stories. I suppose that the real purpose of the book to teach the students English and to be tolerant. That’s what I try to do. I want to thank the authors of the project and the young writer to a great job they have done.
Sergeyeva Irina Nikolayevana - a Teacher of English in Khasavyurt Lyseum.
I use this book with the group of the pupils at the optional course. This books helps them understand and speak English better. I can ay that this is the best book which can be used at optional course published lately. The children read the stories with great interest, do exercises, learn the vocabulary and make dialogues. They also discuss the stories. They are interested in the book and I think it motivates them in studying and improving their English. We try to finish reading each story with our written evaluation. We are going to have a contest in story writing next year.
Kachalayeva Natalia - a Teacher of English from Gymnasiun # 1, Kazbek Region, Dagestan.
I think the book is great I am lucky to know Mikhail and to work with him. My students like the stories very much. They also like the activities after the texts, especially role-playing. The situations in the texts are similar to everyday situations and it is easy for hem to pretend that they are the main heroes. Mikhail and the students made a presentation of the book for the students of my Gymnasium so the pupils had an opportunity to get acquainted with the authors of some stories personally. I guess the project should go on collecting more stories and teaching our children to be kind and tolerant. The book encourages my students to express their thoughts and feelings in English and it makes me happy. I am, very thankful to the authors of the project for providing the teachers with such a wonderful book.