Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog

Reading for pleasure – Activities to get students involved

15 Comments

Teenage Girl ReadingContinuing the Reading for Pleasure series, Verissimo Toste, an Oxford teacher trainer, looks at ways of involving students in the reading process.

So, we’ve started our class library. Students have the books and many have begun reading them. In an ideal world, my students would now go on to read a variety of stories, sharing their experience with their friends, while effortlessly improving their English. Like I said, in an ideal world. In the real world of my classroom, most of my students are looking at me with a look that says, “Okay, we’re reading. Now what?” There is the expectation to do something with the reading. And I need to meet that expectation to keep them involved and motivated.

In my classes, I use the first lesson of each month to introduce an activity they can do based on their reading. The main aim of the activity is to keep them involved and share their reading experience with their friends and family. You can find 10 of these activities on the Oxford Big Read website, so I won’t explain how to do them here. However, there are some important underlying features in these activities that are crucial for the reading experience to also become a learning experience.

Let’s take the first 2 activities from the Oxford Big Read as examples of this. The first is based on the whole class and the second is based on students working individually.

Bingo

“Why are we playing Bingo?” they ask me. It’s a good question. As I am a firm believer that teaching should not be a secret, we discuss why we are playing Bingo.

First, playing Bingo involves all the students in the class, even those who have not yet started reading their book. Everyone can participate, some by saying words from their stories, others by simply writing them in their Bingo card. Without preaching to them about the value of reading, I am saying to all my students, “If you want to, you can do this!”.

Second, each student reads and understands based on their own ability and interest. There are no wrong answers. Maria may decide to say “love” in relation to Tom Sawyer because that is the part she liked, or simply because that is the last part she read. One student in my class said “adventure” simply because it was on the cover. I wrote the word on the board, the students wrote it on their Bingo card and the activity continued.

Third, playing Bingo creates a certain curiosity about the different stories.

Students become curious about what others are reading based on just words. A word like “dragon” or “murder” will raise a few eyebrows. This may lead students to talk to each other about the stories outside of the classroom. In this context, playing Bingo is just a means to another end.

Finally, playing Bingo reinforces the positive reading environment I want to create around the class library. The activity associates reading with fun and enjoyment, going against their original perceptions. As the first activity in our class library, Bingo encourages the more hesitant and sceptical students to start reading, showing them how they can participate.

Discussing this with them helps them to see that there is more to Bingo than simply playing a game.

Posters               

The first individual activity I ask my students to do is to make a poster for the story they are reading. Making posters reinforces the features I have mentioned in playing Bingo, but it goes further.

First, the language for the posters is in their stories. There is little need for the teacher to intervene. Whether based on a sentence or around 10 words, students refer back to their stories to find the language they will include in their posters.

Second, displaying posters reinforces that their work is for their friends to see, not simply for the teacher to correct. This will emphasise that they are sharing their reading experience with others. Becoming fully aware of this will lead them to be more careful about spelling and grammar mistakes. They will browse through their books to help them get it right and thus reinforce language learning.

Third, displaying their posters will add to the sense of achievement they already feel in understanding and enjoying a story in a foreign language. Seeing their poster amongst everyone else’s will strengthen their involvement in learning English, regardless of whether they are weak or strong students. After all, there is their work being looked at and read by others.

Finally, their posters have a communicative purpose. They are not meant simply for the teacher to correct, but primarily to encourage their friends to read the story. And this encouragement is based on what they liked about the story. There is real student-to-student communication, making the English they use more memorable to them.

The features of these 2 activities will become part of the class library as the activities change. As students’ confidence and self-esteem increase, so will their learning.

Verri will be running a workshop on setting up a class library at IATEFL Liverpool on Tuesday 9th April.

Author: Verissimo Toste

Veríssimo Toste is a teacher trainer working in the Professional Development Department at Oxford University Press in Oxford. He has taught English as a Foreign Language (EFL) for over 25 years, having taught students from 3 to 93 years of age. He has completed a Master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the University of Edinburgh.

Veríssimo’s interests include using readers to learn English, and how students learn a language naturally. Although he enjoys teaching young learners, he finds teaching adults challenging – and he loves a good challenge.

15 thoughts on “Reading for pleasure – Activities to get students involved

  1. Highly truthful and practical extensive reading activities…

  2. Hello from Portugal! Loved the ideas to get students involved in reading, which is always a difficult thing, especially with teenage students… I’m definitely going to try the Bingo activity. Thank you

    • Well Hello to Portugal! Thanks for the feedback and I agree that it is difficult to get teenage students reading. But, it’s awesome when you succeed! By the way, I worked in Portgual (Porto) for many years and many of the ideas come from my time there. Hope you and your students enjoy the Bingo.

  3. Pingback: Reading for pleasure – Activities to get students involved | Merit Teacher's Digest | Scoop.it

  4. Pingback: Reading for Pleasure – Students make their own word games | Oxford University Press

  5. Hello from Turkey, I want to thank to your all ideas for the teenagers.it may sometimes be very difficult to get them involved.I’ve loved the ideasvery much and I will trythe posters activit in my class, I’m sure it will be so enjoyable.last week I’ve joined yoeur workshop at University of Yaşarin izmir.it was great to see you here..please continue sharing your ideas with us..

  6. Hello Verissimo,I’m a teacher from a private institute in Uruguay.In April we started implementing the use of guided readers for teenagers.We’re using some of your ideas which are excellent! The thing is that I was asked to create a project on the use of readers to have as a resource for future teachers.I’d really appreciate some suggesttions since I don’t know exactly how to start.Probably observing classes and collecting data…Thanks in advance for your ideas and for sharing your expertise with us!

  7. Hi from Turkey.. I applied your activities in my classes and we liked them so much.one of my students has prepared them as a term work .I want to send you its photos if is it possible.?? Your comments will be very useful for me and my students…

    • Hello Serap,
      thank you very much for your message. It’s always great to receive feedback and I am very pleased that a student has done them as a term work. I would love to see the photos. I would also love to read some of your students’ opinions about reading and the activities, if they have time to write to me. My email address is verissimo.toste@oup.com I will also write back to you and them with my comments.

      Thank you again and I look forward to hearing from you.

  8. Sure, they will write to you as soon as possible.thank you so much for your help…

  9. Hi,will you please give some details for the game bingo?

  10. Pingback: Unit 1: “¿Para qué leo?” – ingles602p6

Leave a Reply