Skills: longer reads
Students who do a lot of extensive reading in English seem to make substantial progress. It’s great for taking in new vocabulary, noticing grammatical structures and for generally “getting the feel” of the language. Yet, sadly, many students’ only experience of reading in English is short coursebook texts. Here are some general ideas for starting to use longer texts. Next month we’ll focus on exploitation ideas:
- Provide enticing materials
Fill a box with items that make you want to pick them up. Take it to class and let students browse and select items to borrow. Every time you find something interesting in English add it to the box: when you come across a funny internet article, print it off; when you find a marketing brochure in English, put it in; when you’ve finished with a magazine, donate it; send off and request tourism leaflets from interesting locations…
- … and buy graded readers
These are a fantastic investment. You don’t need very many books to provide an exciting small library – 8 or 10 may be enough to start with. Add them to the box. Encourage students to borrow them – and don’t be too tough on the return deadlines. Allow classroom time for discussion of what students have read. Don’t let it become a test. Emphasize reading for pleasure.
- Start a book club
In the UK book clubs (or book groups) have become very popular over the last few years. The idea is simple and easily adaptable for schools. A group of people agree to read the same book and then meet in an informal atmosphere to discuss it. In school this can be done within one form or as an extracurricular activity, possibly bringing together people from different classes. Encourage students to lead the discussion and make a point of not dominating it with your own leading questions. If students need support you could offer a printed list of possible questions and discussion topics. Where possible involve students in choosing books.
- Switch-off time
The advent of the electronic dictionary has been a mixed blessing. While it is now incredibly quick and simple to get definitions, it also seems to be encouraging learners to check every unknown word in a text. This slows reading to a crawl in which any overall meaning is lost amidst the constant typing of new words. Obviously, for reading at home, you can’t control this very much. But it’s worth taking classroom time to discuss these issues with students. And include “quiet reading” parts of your course when you ban the use of these machines.
- Work on the skills students need
Students often believe that it is essential to understand every word when they read. This probably derives from classroom approaches that have overemphasized comprehension of every small detail. Make sure classroom reading work involves not only reading for detail but also work on skim reading with short time limits. Use longer than usual texts and force students to get comfortable with reading fast.