Number one for English language teachers

Teenagers: Reading 3: Vary the tasks

Type: Reference material

Course books tend to set very similar tasks for reading. This gets very boring for students and some students may just not be very good at that task type but still be good readers. Here are some ideas to help you vary the tasks for your students.


Drawing

Some texts, like this one, lend themselves to a drawing task:

Inpector Lewis pushed open the door and took in the scene before him. It was a large room with many expensive looking paintings on the walls. There was a huge French window opposite him with the curtains partly drawn. In front of the window was a large, wooden desk. Papers and files were scattered all over it. Some had even fallen on the floor. Behind the desk a chair had been knocked over. To his right Lewis noticed a dark stain on the carpet and to his left what looked like a long silk scarf had been thrown down carelessly. In the centre of the room lay a gun. There was no-one in the room. “Now where could the Prince be?” wondered the Inspector.

Students read the text and draw a picture of the scene described. They could work together and discuss the position of objects in the room. You could have lots more detail in the description.


Deduction

You could use the text above (or one similar) and ask the students to read it and in small groups to try to work out what they think happened in the room.


Jumbled reading

This is a nice challenging activity that encourages students to think about the logic of a text in terms of the meaning and the grammar – which they discover is inextricably linked.

Take a text like a short story and break it up into chunks. These could be sentences or broken in the middle of sentences. Students work in groups to put the story back into the correct order.

Here’s an example with a version of one of Aesop’s fables.

A wolf, however, did really come one day
any attention to his cries
destroyed the whole flock and then ate the boy
A shepherd-boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village
The shepherd-boy, now really frightened, shouted
he laughed at them because there was no wolf.
He just enjoyed playing a trick on them
panic three or four times by crying out, "Wolf! Wolf!"
Moral – You cannot believe a liar, even when he tells the truth
made the villagers run out of the village in a
"Help, the wolf is killing the sheep"; but no one paid
The wolf, having no reason to worry, attacked and
and when his neighbours came to help him

The original story
A shepherd-boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, made the villagers run out of the village in a panic three or four times by crying out, "Wolf! Wolf!" and when his neighbours came to help him, he laughed at them because there was no wolf. He just enjoyed playing a trick on them.
A wolf, however, did really come one day. The shepherd-boy, now really frightened, shouted: "Help, the wolf is killing the sheep"; but no one paid any attention to his cries. The wolf, having no reason to worry, attacked and destroyed the whole flock and then ate the boy.

Moral – You cannot believe a liar, even when he tells the truth.

Make up a title

After reading a story like the one above, encourage students to think up an appropriate title. This involves understanding the aim of the story and using key vocabulary.

The original title is ‘The boy who cried wolf’.


Skim and scan

It’s good to develop different reading skills:

Skimming is reading quickly to get the main idea of a text
You could give out an article from a newspaper or magazine and give students 30 seconds to tell you the main topic(s) of the article or to find out whether the writer of the article agrees or disagrees with the ideas she/he is describing.

Scanning is reading to locate particular information in a text
This can be practised in a game-like way with any text that has a lot of information in it. I might make copies of the TV page from an English language newspaper – something like the TV page you can download from the bottom of this page - and ask questions like these:

These questions expect the children to recognise key words in the text:

  • How many times is the news shown on television tonight?
  • If you like spy film which channel will you watch?
  • At what time can you see a programme about Einstein?
  • Which channel shows most films?
  • You are a Ben Moore fan, which channel will you watch tonight?
  • In what year was the spy film made?

These questions expect some inference skills and wider knowledge of vocabulary:

  • If you like sport, which channel will you watch?
  • How many comedy programmes are there on Channel 2 tonight?
  • Which channel is suitable for more serious people?
  • On which channel can you watch documentaries?
  • On which channel can you watch science fiction?

Students are encouraged to do this quickly. You can ask questions orally and give points to the students who find the information first or you can hand out 10 – 20 questions and allow students to read the questions and scan the text for the answers, setting a time limit to encourage them not to read the whole text but to look out for key words. The idea is to get students finding their way around a text and answering such questions quickly and correctly.

Both skimming and scanning are real-life skills and also very important reading skills that students Anchor Point:1need in exams.

Other ideas to help you encourage your students to read in class

Teenagers: Reading 1: Reading in class

Teenagers: Reading 2: The reading task

Teenagers: Reading 4: Extensive reading

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