For ESL Students, Audio Books Make Reading a Pleasure


Teacher: Vania Gulston

Students: Grade 12 History, ages 17 – 18

Audio Content: Momma’s Baby Daddy’s Maybe by Jamise L. Dames

Location: Fairhill Community High School, Philadelphia, PA


Vania Gulston, a high school history teacher, wanted to offer her students something exceptional during their silent reading time. She turned to Audible, and students got to experiment with iPod shuffles to listen to a fast-paced urban novel filled with secrets, facades, lust, sadness, shame and love.

Use of Technology/ Classroom Lesson

Vania Gulston teaches high school at a charter school with primarily African-American and Latino students. One of her classes is Sustained Silent Reading, where students are encouraged to read quietly for half an hour. She wanted to find a novel to interest her students in reading, and a friend told her that some African American urban dramas were engaging to her daughter. She turned to Audible’s African American fiction section to find a high-interest book for her students. She downloaded Momma’s Baby Daddy’s Maybe by Jamise L. Dames and bought a hard copy of the book to photocopy sections for her students to read along.

Due to technical difficulties, Ms. Gulston was not able to hear an audio sample before downloading the book. When she bought the hard copy, she was surprised to find that the book contained some adult content and she was concerned that it was inappropriate for the classroom. She found a chapter in the book that was suitable and copied it for her students to read along as they listened. Another surprise awaited her in the classroom; the chapter headings in the audio book did not correspond with the chapter headings in the hard copy of the book.

The students were enthralled with the iPod shuffles they were handed, and asked many questions about how the iPod worked, how many songs fit on it, and what else they could do with it. They pushed buttons and searched through the chapters on the device, but could not find the correct entry point into the story that matched with the text they were given. Some students gave up and read their own books, while others listened intently to the audio book. But because Ms. Gulston was not sure which part of the book they were listening to and felt that certain parts of the book should not be part of a classroom experience, she asked them to put the iPods down and stop listening. In spite of the confusion, the students were enthusiastic about the possibilities of the iPod as a learning device and about listening to books in general. One student, Jairo Reyes, said, “For Spanish-speaking people like me, this makes it a lot easier to read English.” Another student, Luis Quevas, was eager to learn more about how to access audio books. “This totally makes sense for students,” he said. “Listening to it catches you up, more than reading or listening to a teacher read. The narrator was really good and dramatic.” A couple of the students were even imagining an audio device where the text would appear on the screen to read along! “It’s great because you can go at your own pace,” Quevas said.


Ms. Gulston was unable to listen to an audio sample in advance, and thus discovered the nature of the material only after having downloaded it. She felt that a coding or rating system would help teachers like her differentiate between materials that were age and subject appropriate. “I would also like there to be a greater selection for Latino and African American teens,” she said, as some of the available young adult material would not appeal to her students.

In spite of the problems Ms. Gulston faced with the content, she still saw the potential in using audio books in the classroom. “Usually I have to keep looking up and telling the kids to read,” she said. “When they were listening to the audio book, I could tell they were really into it, and I wouldn’t have to watch them as closely.” She was also excited about her students’ responses. “They were very mature about it,” she said, “and some of my students really understood the potential of learning from the iPod. One student said the narrator made it easy to listen to the story and understand words. And if they didn’t get the meaning the first time, they could rewind and listen again.”

Teacher Quote

“I think the students can get a lot out of using the audio book, and I was really impressed with their responses to it.”

Student Quotes

“For Spanish-speaking people like me, this makes it a lot easier to read English.”

“Listening to http://books catches you up, more than reading or listening to a teacher read… It’s great because you can go at your own pace.”


2 Responses to “For ESL Students, Audio Books Make Reading a Pleasure”

  1. Famous Inventors Says:

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    Famous Inventors

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