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12 Student-Pleasing Activities Using Graded Readers

children reading graded readersReading can be a challenge for students learning English. Therefore, starting with graded readers for extensive reading lessons can be a very good option. This way, the student will learn new vocabulary in a meaningful context and improve their language skills. Having an extensive reading program can also help students become independent readers.

A reading program may consist of three stages: pre-reading, while reading and post-reading. Here are some activities that you may find helpful in implementing graded readers in your lesson plans.

Pre-reading

1. Word Detective

Before you begin reading any of the graded readers with your class, choose a sentence that can be a message for your students. This can be as simple as ‘Reading Is Fun.’ Find these words inside the books and note down the name of the book and the page that the word is on. Show students the sentence without the words, using only lines.

For example, _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _.

Ask students to check their book(s), depending on how many graded readers you are going to read in class, and to try to find the words. You can help them by saying that ‘The second word is an auxiliary verb’, or ‘The first one starts with ‘R’.’ They can work in pairs, which will help them to work on their communication and collaboration skills. The students can also gain a general understanding of the book they are going to read. It will be even more fun when they come up with their own sentences.

2. Find the characters

Before you start reading your book, in order to generate curiosity, ask students to go through the pages of the book and search for proper names. How many can they find? Ask them to guess who these people might be. Ask them to take notes of the answers they give. When they finish reading the book, they can then see if they can guess who these characters are.

 3. Guess the title

Show the cover of the book to the students but hide the title. Ask them to guess the title of the book. Talk about the various answers they give and why they gave that answer.

 4. Match the title

Ask students how many types of book genres they know. If they are not ready to answer you can elicit. You can also ask them to search for different literary genres online before your lesson. You can say that Sherlock Holmes Short Stories belongs in the crime and mystery genre, Dracula is a horror story, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a classic fantasy story. They can add more to these examples. Talk about each genre to understand if each of them means the same to all. Write some examples of different genres on the board then write the titles of the graded readers that you are going to read and ask them to match with the genres. They need to try to guess the genre of the book just by looking at the title. After reading, you can discuss if they are right.

While reading

5. Take a selfie

When your students start reading their books, ask them to take a selfie while they are reading. They can get as creative as they want. Then, create a class, or even a school, exhibition and share the photos for everyone to see. Seeing other people’s photos in which they enjoy reading may be inspiring for those who do not find reading ‘cool enough’. You can also share these photos on a classroom blog or school website. If you are teaching online, every student can use the photo they take as their profile picture.

6. Word Clouds

Choose some words from the next chapter and add them to a word cloud tool online (there are many free online options, here is one example). Add some words that they will encounter in the next chapter and make a word cloud. Ask them to guess what might happen next. After they finish reading the chapter, they can see if they are right about the story that they come up with by only looking at the words in the word cloud.

 7. Horoscopes

Before moving on with the next chapter, students can write horoscopes for each character in the book and predict what will happen next. Since the students may not be familiar with horoscopes, you may need to clarify what a horoscope is first. You can share some examples of horoscopes that you can easily find online. They can think about what sign these characters are. You can divide the classroom into teams and give each team one character to write horoscopes for. They can then compare their tasks and, after reading the chapter, you can have a class discussion on which team is the closest to the correct answer.

 8. Tell me what you see

This activity is for the books that have illustrations in them. Ask students to work in pairs. One student will explain what they can see in the illustration for the chapter you are about to read, and the other will try to draw a picture while listening. They then try to guess what that chapter is about.

Post-reading

9. Write a play

After students finish reading the reader, in groups they can write a playscript of the book and act it for their classmates. They can revise the grammar structures you have been working on and add new characters if they want.

10. Act a scene

After you finish reading the book as a class, you can discuss what the best part was for the students and why. Ask the students to work in pairs or groups and choose a scene from the chapters and act that scene. You can differentiate this activity by asking the students to act the scene without speaking. They will only use gestures.

11. Pose the scene

For this activity, you need to describe some important scenes very briefly from the book on small pieces of paper. Divide the classroom into as many teams as the number of scenes you have written. Put the papers in a bag and ask each group to choose one. The students should decide quickly how to organize for the scene and pose like it as if somebody is taking a photo of it. The others will guess which scene it is and what happened. When everybody finishes posing, they can decide the order of the different scenes.

12. Roleplay

Ask students to write a brief description of one of the characters. You can also nominate a character to each student. The description may include age, occupation, Zodiac sign, hometown and anything that you think is relevant. Students then work in pairs and ask and answer questions according to the role-play cards. You can turn this into a kind of a gala event where all the characters meet each other and talk. There may be 2 or 3 of the same characters, which may add more fun!

Bonus! – Your students are more likely to develop a habit of reading when they see you reading. Read along with your students, carry the book that you are currently reading, talk about it with your students and you will see this will have a positive impact on them.

 


Aysu Şimşek is a passionate advocate of continuing professional development. After graduating from Istanbul University with joint honours in American Culture and Literature with Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy, she embarked on her own teaching career. She has a distinctive experience with young learners, and now in her role with Oxford University Press, Aysu meets and supports teachers from across Turkey and is an active member of a global community of dedicated educationalists. She has delivered training sessions for different types of ELT events, and co-written articles for Modern English Teacher magazine and TEA Online Magazine.


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Take Online Lessons To The Next Level With Authentic Material

A student in online lessons

If we’re looking for positives from this year’s enforced move to online lessons, then surely one is that authentic material is easier to incorporate!

Unlike coursebooks which, as good as they are, often employ language graded to the level of the students, authentic materials give students the chance to experience language through natural means and with a real-world purpose. Additionally, they can provide an insight into the target language culture and if introduced well, can be motivational.

Working online opens up a wealth of material that can easily be shared with our students. If we are teaching synchronously then it can be shown through screen sharing and posting the link in the chatbox. Asynchronously we can either share the link or embed the materials directly into our site. If you’re not sure of the difference, linking means when students click on the link they are taken away to a different website, while something that has been embedded can be viewed directly within your site. The advantage of embedding is that it keeps students on your site and stops them from getting distracted.

Considerations for choosing

When choosing authentic material, think about how accessible the material is in terms of language, relevance and overall content. With online materials you should also consider:

  • Distraction – When showing students something online, be wary of other factors such as the type of advertising and appropriateness of other links that might appear on a website.
  • Copyright – It is one thing to show the site, it is another to download or take things off websites without permission. This is a useful area to discuss with students to raise their digital literacy.
  • Be authentic – Try and use the material in a real-life way.

Using authentic texts

A simple way to share an online text is to copy the link and share it in the chatbox. However, bear in mind:

  • Online reading tends to make use of strategies such as skimming and scanning.
  • Reading in detail would be a waste of time if we find out the web page is not relevant.
  • Online texts are often nonlinear. Unlike a printed text, you don’t start at the top and read to the bottom. You’re often presented with additional video, audio, reader comments, along with texts full of hyperlinks that drag you off to other websites.
  • When using online texts get the students to read it authentically, to both practise these skills and build their confidence in independent learning. For example, one digital literacy task is to get the students to consider the impact of the hyperlinks in the text. Get them to click on each hyperlink and discuss where it takes them. This does not stop you exploiting the material later for focus on language work.

Using authentic video

An obvious goldmine of authentic material is online video. YouTube, for example, has everything from songs, stories, and videos to contextualise most coursebook situations.

One of my favourite activities is based on the Facebook idea of the watch party, where people watch and interact with video content at the same time. Incorporating this idea into your online lessons means you’re using the video in a more authentic way, as opposed to creating a worksheet to accompany the students’ viewing.

  1. Before the lesson, open a browser and find the video you want to use.
  2. In online lessons, ‘share your screen’ and show the browser so everyone can see the video.
  3. Before pressing play ask the students to type into the chat box ideas about what they’re going to watch based on the still image.
  4. As you play, encourage the students to react in the chatbox. The first time you do this you might need to prompt them with questions i.e. ‘What do you think of…?’
  5. After viewing use the chatbox entries to prompt post-watching discussion. Depending on video type, exploit further by putting students into breakout rooms and get them to work together to retell what they watched.

This concept can be used for most video types. For example, if you choose a video of someone being interviewed, then get the students to react to what is being said. If you’ve chosen a song, get the student to type lyrics they hear. After they’ve done this you can then go to a site like lyrics.com and show the lyrics on the screen.

Other types of authentic material

Not all the texts online are stories. There are restaurant menus, advice sites, and blogs! So, in a year when travel has become difficult, then we can bring the world into our online lessons.

  • Plan a group trip or holiday. Using break out rooms each group plans their trips and collects information. Students put it together to share with the class using collaborative tools such as Jamboard, Padlet, or Google Docs.
  • Encourage students to use free image and sound sites such as pixabay.com or freesfx.co.uk for enhancing storytelling activities.
  • Employ the same sites to create guessing games to practise language i.e. practising modals by showing an image or playing a sound and eliciting language such as “it might be a car engine, it could be a cat.”

Student engagement with authentic material

In the online classroom, everyone has the same access to materials. Don’t ignore the fact that students could choose the materials for online lessons! Instead of you choosing the YouTube video, why don’t they?

  • Build motivation and improve class dynamics by letting each student show the class one of their favourite websites/videos. Additionally, this provides a neat brain break between all the online learning the students have to do during your lesson.

Finally, remember that not all authentic material in our online classrooms needs to be online. At home, students have access to plenty of authentic materials that can be exploited. Over the course of lockdown, I’ve had students creating Lego models, showing their favourite possessions and even cooking and showing their favourite food.  So, to go back to where we started, while the online classroom is seen by many as a poor substitute for the bricks and mortar one, there is a certain irony in that it many ways it can lead us to more authentic language learning.

 

Are you ready to explore digital tools for teaching and learning?

Do you need help getting started with the digital tools in your Oxford course?

Or are you looking for tips and ideas for using digital in your teaching?

Get into your stride with digital teaching

 


Shaun Wilden is the Academic Head of training and development for the International House World Organisation and a freelance teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer. He currently specialises in technology and language teaching, especially in the area of mobile learning. His latest book “Mobile Learning” was published in 2017 by OUP. He is a trustee of IATEFL and also on the committee of the Learning technologies special interest group. He makes the TEFL commute podcast for teachers.


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Collaborative Learning Online And In The Socially Distanced Classroom

Cut-out paper-chain of children holding handsWhat is collaborative language learning?

One of the most satisfying experiences that I have as an instructor is when I have my class make pairs or groups and then, after a few moments, I hear lively chatter. Moving around the classroom, I hear students using the vocabulary and structures that we studied in class. Yet they are doing more than just reciting what they learned in this lesson; they are combining the learning goals of the lesson with the language that they already know in a personalized and creative manner. A casual observer might think that this was break-time or an opportunity for the class to relax. But while I hope they are having fun, I know that they are actually hard at work. This is the culminating activity that we have worked towards together as a class. It is collaborative learning in action.

The key principles of collaborative learning

Having students work in pairs and groups of three or four are key strategies in the collaborative learning approach. Together, they practice the target language and to establish meaning, in a carefully sequenced set of achievable, unintimidating, activities. From our own experience, we know the value of learning by doing. This is even more critical in language learning, where the production of new sounds, new words and new structures is so vital. To be a successful language user, it is not enough to know; students have to adapt their knowledge to create meaning and communicate with someone else. Increasing our students’ opportunities to do something meaningful in class is one of the main aims of collaborative learning.

So, what is the role of the teacher in all of this?

At the start of a sequence of activities, for example, when presenting the target language of the lesson, the method of instruction can look quite traditional; often the teacher speaks and the students listen. After the presentation phase, however, the class transitions in a way that makes the learners, and not the teacher, the focus of the class. The first step often focuses on accuracy. In pairs or groups, the students manipulate the language mechanically. They learn from each other. Crucially, the teacher moves from group to group, evaluating the progress, and correcting the learners as necessary. The subsequent activities in the sequence encourage the learners step-by-step to use the target language in more creative and open-ended ways, with activities that encourage students to combine what they have just learned with the language that they already know.

The collaborative approach is highly motivating because it allows students to communicate about things that matter to them, to be more active, and indeed, more successful learners.

Collaborative learning in the COVID-19 era

Only a few short months ago, the notion that teleconferencing technology would become an essential tool in our professional lives would have been unimaginable. Along with my colleagues, I have struggled to adjust to this new reality. What, now, are the most effective classroom management techniques? Does the collaborative language learning approach even make any sense?

When we went into lockdown in New York City, where I teach, my classroom practice probably resembled a traditional, lecture approach. Eventually, however, I was able to adapt what I typically did in a physical classroom to the virtual classroom.

4 key ways to conduct collaborative language learning in cyberspace:

  1. At the start of the lesson, I present the goals of the class and the target language. I could share my screen, where I could have a PowerPoint presentation, but instead I send my presentation materials to the students earlier. Since unconscious lip reading is such an important part of listening comprehension, I want my students to be able to see my face full size. Instead of sending a file of slides, I use the screen capture feature of QuickTime to record my computer screen and voice at the same time. (I am a low-tech person, but I have found it easy to use). Students, therefore, get a video of my presentation, which they can watch before or after class, multiple times.
  2. Most teleconferencing tools allow the host to make breakout groups. I set these up before class. It is a simple thing to conduct pair work and group work using this feature, and as in a physical classroom, I can monitor them as they work. One added advantage is that my students can video their work, (using any screen capture tool) which we can use later for student self-analysis or peer-reviewing.
  3. Many of the activities that my students do in the physical classroom involve completing charts, matching, and checking items, together. Now, I have students take a photo of their work using their smartphone, and then share it with me and their classmates using email, social media, or our school Learning Management System (LMS). We do collaborative writing activities in a similar way.
  4. In a physical classroom, I can’t imagine teaching in a room without a whiteboard. Almost all teleconferencing tools have a whiteboard feature. I find this feature cumbersome. It takes me a lot of time to write and then erase the digital whiteboard. When teaching online, I find it much more effective to use the chat function when I want my students to see something in writing. For more extended notes or hand-drawn charts, I much prefer to use a small, handheld physical whiteboard, which I hold up to my laptop screen. Some students take photos of this with their smartphone, just like they do in my regular classroom, while others take screenshots.

The Hybrid Classroom

What will happen when we move to a hybrid classroom model, where we combine socially distanced in-class learning and distance learning? Can we have collaborative learning when students must be apart from each other?

Before the pandemic, I frequently had students take photos of their work with their phones, which they posted on a social media platform, and I then projected to the class. Now, I will have them share with each other, in socially distanced pairs and groups.

What activities to do online or in the socially distanced classroom will be an important decision. Right now, I am planning to present new language (vocabulary and grammar) online, in the manner that I described earlier. Writing activities, including collaborative ones, can be successfully conducted online, as can listening activities – my students can access the content on their mobile devices. But since speaking is by its very nature performative, I will prioritize the physical class time for open-ended pair work, group discussions, and role-playing. But at a distance.

 

For more practical tips, and two free activities for running pair work and group work with adult learners, visit our collaborative learning page!

Get Expert Advice On Collaborative Learning


Thomas Healy is one of the authors of Smart Choice as well as an Assistant Professor in the Intensive English Program at the Pratt Institute, New York City. He has given several webinars for Oxford University Press on how to use smart devices and social media to encourage collaborative learning including The potential of smart devices, How to use mobile technology in class and How learners can use mobile technology outside of classFind these recordings in our webinar library.


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5 ways to Engage with Students Online (and Face-to-Face, too!)

young girl on laptopRemote teaching is new to many of us, teachers, as well as being new to many students. Even when we are teaching in class sometimes it gets difficult to keep the students on task for various reasons. With schools closing down in many countries, it can be very challenging to engage students for entire online lessons.

Embracing new digital tools to deliver lessons, shortening the hours of teaching and blending lessons with EdTech can be very beneficial for both teachers and students. There are also a few more tricks we can use to keep students focused.  Here are some ideas to spice up your online lessons with primary students. Many of these can also can be implemented in your face-to-face lessons.

1) Find Something Blue in Your House in 45 Seconds

Since all your students are at home, you can begin your lesson with a warm-up which takes advantage of the fact that your students are at home.  Ask your students to find something blue in the house and share it with the rest of the class via their camera. Set a time limit for this activity, or some students will wander around in the house for hours. You can begin with 45 seconds, and reduce the time span each lesson. Try changing the colour, or you can ask the students to come to the lesson with their favourite toy, book, or anything related to the topic of your lesson. You can also revise some grammar by asking your students to go to the kitchen and find 3 countable and three uncountable items. Ask the students to share why they have chosen those particular items. In class, you can apply this activity with the items in the classroom.

2) Today’s Word

Choose a word either related to the topic or not. Tell students that today’s word is ‘butterfly’, for instance. Tell your students to act like a butterfly as soon as they hear the word. If, during the lesson,  you feel that the students are starting to lose attention, out of the blue say the word out loud. You will see some students paying attention and being a butterfly, while some others trying to catch up with them. This activity may help students with lower attention spans to be more focused.

3) Add Movement

During online lessons, students sit in front of the screen and generally they do not move until the lesson is over. It is a good idea to add some movement in your virtual lessons. If you are doing an activity with multiple choice answers, for example, ask you, students, to stand up and give the answer with their body. Ask the students to raise their arms, and if they think the answer is A, they should lean to their right. If the answer is B for them, they should lean to their left. And if they think the answer is C, they can shake their shoulders. With every type of close-ended questions, for every right answer they give, they can stand up and turn around once. Adding movement in your lessons will help your students to focus more easily. You can try this in your face to face classrooms, as well. All learners benefit from being allowed to move around at regular intervals’

4) Mind Map of The Week

Before starting your lesson, especially a new unit or topic, ask your students to think of, or write, what comes to their mind when they think about the previous lesson This may be a word, a game you have played, or even a joke somebody made. Even giving the name of a character from a story you have read is a good answer. This way, with the help of each student you can create a mind map in which everybody has added something. While teaching online, you can either use a web tool like Padlet, or a big piece of paper on which you write using coloured pencils. In a classroom, you can use the board, or again a big piece of paper or cardboard.

5) Choose the Song

In both real and virtual classrooms, it is always a good idea to start or end the lesson with a song, especially with primary students. You can ask a student to choose the song they like, you can play it either at the beginning, or the end, or both. To make sure that every student takes part in this, you can nominate each student to choose the next song in alphabetical order or use a web tool like Wheel of names. Deciding the class song will give the student a sense of being part of the class. There should be a rule, and that is that the song should be in English!

Bonus

You can use an activity like attention grabbers to give the message that the task is over and you need their focus on you and the lesson. With an attention grabber, you give a cue, and the whole class respond chorally. For example, once a task is over, simply call out ‘Hocus Pocus’, and have your students respond with ‘Everybody Focus’.  Attention grabbers are always helpful in class and help you improve your classroom management. If you have not tried them for your virtual lessons, I highly recommend you add some. To add even more fun, you can whisper it, say it in an angry manner, change your voice in any way you would like. Here are some examples, and you can find more online.

Teacher

1-2-3

Holy Moly

All set

Ready to listen?

Student

Eyes on you

Guacamole

You bet!

Ready to learn

Joining a lesson and trying to focus can be very challenging for both teachers and students in this virtual learning period. Adding some activities that do not need preparation will help your students engage more in your lessons. Once you go back to the classroom, you can still try these activities to have your students engage face-to-face, too.

 

Please visit our Learn at Home page for more resources and activities to help teachers, parents and students get the most out of learning at home.

Learn at Home

 


Aysu Şimşek is a passionate advocate of continuing professional development. After graduating from Istanbul University with joint honours in American Culture and Literature with Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy, she embarked on her own teaching career. As a teacher, Aysu had the fortune to work in supportive teaching teams and personally benefited from the valuable guidance of mentors. Now in her role with Oxford University Press, Aysu meets and supports teachers from across Turkey and is proud to be an active member of a global community of dedicated educationalists. She is a holder of a CELTA qualification, has co-written articles for Modern English Teacher magazine and TEA Online Magazine.


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Step by Step: Using your Dictionary to Expand Topic Vocabulary

Topic vocabulary view on Oxford Learner's DictionariesThese days, there might only be one topic of conversation in the news, on social media, and in our own chats to friends and family. Along with new ways of working, teaching and learning, we are even adopting a new lexicon to help us talk about it. My own personal “Health” topic vocabulary has grown to include such words and phrases as self-isolation, social distancing and herd immunity.

Using topic vocabulary to enhance learning

Collecting words together in topics has long been seen as a good way to help students learn vocabulary. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to access word lists where vocabulary is collected together in this way, with words levelled according to CEFR levels, and linked up to dictionary entries showing pronunciation, meanings and examples all at the click of a mouse or a single tap?
Well, on the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries website we have done just that, and we hope that you and your students will find our new Topics pages useful. They are all completely free to access at oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com!

Using Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries Topics pages

Large topic areas are subdivided into smaller ones, and once you open a word list you can filter on CEFR level. For example, here are the words in our Health > Health and Fitness > Good health topic at B1 and B2 level:Topic vocabulary: Health and fitness topics

Here are a few activities that you might like to try:

1) A topic a week

Choose your topic vocabulary and allocate words to learn each day by using the click-through feature to check meaning, pronunciation and usage in the dictionary. At the end of the week, review and quiz!
Here is an example topic, with three words to learn per day, and a few activities for reviewing:

Topic vocabulary: Cooking and eatingFood and drink > Cooking and eating > Taste and texture of food
https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/topic/category/food-and-drink

 

Example Words to learn

Monday: bitter, bland, chewy
Tuesday: creamy, crusty, delicious
Wednesday: greasy, juicy, mild
Thursday: moreish, salty, sour
Friday: spicy, stale, tender

 

Review/Quiz:

Divide the words into “positive”, “negative”, and “neutral” columns. Complete the sentences with a suitable adjective, using a different one each time:

  • Oranges are… (e.g. juicy)
  • Lemons are… (e.g. bitter)
  • Chili sauce is… (e.g. spicy)
  • Chocolate is… (e.g. moreish)
  • Fresh bread can be… (e.g. crusty)
  • Old bread is… (e.g. stale)
  • Food that is cooked in too much oil is… (e.g. greasy)
  • Meat that is overcooked can be… (e.g. chewy)

2) DIY quiz

Allocate a topic, and get students to create quiz questions for each other using the dictionary definitions and example sentences.
Definitions: one student gives the dictionary definition and their partner guesses the word.
Example sentences: one student picks an example sentence from the dictionary entry, and replaces the topic vocabulary with a gap.
Topic vocabulary: Appearance

Appearance > Appearance > Facial expressions

  • (Definition) Which word means to become red in the face because you are embarrassed or ashamed?
    (= blush)
  • (Example sentence) They ________ with delight when they heard our news.
    (= grinned)

 

 

Topic vocabulary: Sports

Sports > Sports: other sports > Cycling

  • (Definition) What do you call a bicycle for two riders, one behind the other?
    (= tandem)
  • (Example sentence) You’ll have to ________ hard up this hill.
    (= pedal)

 

 

 

 

Please have a look around, starting at https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/topic/. And let us know what you think!

Can you use these resources with your students?

 

 


 

Jennifer Bradbery is Digital Product Development Manager in the ELT Dictionaries department at Oxford University Press. Before joining OUP as an editor, she spent many years either teaching English, teacher training, or both in the UK, Taiwan, and Canada.