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25 Alternatives to Reading Aloud Around the Class

shutterstock_116955382Philip Haines is originally from London, England but lives in Mexico City, where he has been working as a teacher and teacher trainer since moving there in 1995. He is an author/co-author on several ELT series published in Mexico, in the primary, secondary and adult segments. Philip works as the Senior Academic Consultant for Oxford University Press Mexico.

In most ELT classrooms there are at least a few students who do not particularly like reading. There are many possible reasons for this, but one factor is that students often do not find the act of reading in the classroom very engaging, despite potentially interesting content. Teachers often capture students’ interest with pre-reading and post-reading activities, but when it comes to the actual process of reading some students are simply not engaged.

A common while-reading activity is to have one student read aloud while the rest of the students follow along in silence. While this way of working has some merits, it also has its drawbacks. It can be both stressful and boring at the same time. It can be stressful for the individual student who is reading aloud and it can be boring for all the other students who are listening and following along in silence.

Below are 25 while-reading activities that reduce the potential stress and boredom described above. These activities are designed for classes where all the students are working with the same text. It must be pointed out that these activities do not always lead to maximum comprehension, but we sometimes need to sacrifice this for the benefits of more engaged, participative and motivated students.

The activities are based on four principles:

  1. The activities can be done with practically any text
  2. All the students have something to do while reading
  3. The activities should be low-stress
  4. They can be done with little preparation

The activities have been categorized by how the students are grouped:

capture

The activities have also been categorized by the kind of response students need to give.

  • Perform actions
  • Underline
  • Say part of words
  • Say words
  • Say phrases
  • Say sentences / lines of text

1

Whole class

Perform actions

Stand up / sit down –
The teacher chooses six words from a chosen section of the
text and writes these on the board. Each student chooses
three of these words and makes a note of these in their
notebook. The teacher read the chosen section of the text
aloud and students read along in silence, but stand up and
then quickly sit down again every time they hear/read their
chosen words.

1

Whole class

Perform actions

Stand up / sit down –
The teacher chooses six words from a chosen section of the
text and writes these on the board. Each student chooses
three of these words and makes a note of these in their
notebook. The teacher read the chosen section of the text
aloud and students read along in silence, but stand up and
then quickly sit down again every time they hear/read their
chosen words.

2

Whole class

Perform actions

Perform the action –
The teacher chooses some important/common words from the
chosen section of the text. Students and the teacher decide
on a specific action to perform for each of the chosen
words. The teacher read the chosen section of the text
aloud and the students listen and read in silence, but
perform the appropriate action whenever they read/hear the
corresponding word.

3

Whole class

Perform actions

Click / clap –
The teacher reads the chosen section of the text aloud and
students read along in silence. Every time they teacher
gets to a full stop/period the students clap their hands
once. Every time the teacher gets to a comma the students
click their fingers once.

4

Whole class

Perform actions

Follow with finger –
The teacher reads the chosen section of the text aloud and
students read along in silence and follow along with a
finger. The teacher can check that every student is
following the text by seeing where their finger is on the
page.

5

Whole class

Underline

Fill in the blank –
The teacher chooses and circles several words in the chosen
section of the text. The teacher read the chosen section of
the text aloud, but says ‘blank’ in place of those
chosen words. Students listen and follow the text at the
same time and underline the words that were substituted
with the word ‘blank’. Students then compare with
each other and check with the teacher.

6

Whole class

Underline

Spot the missing words –
The teacher chooses and circles several words in the chosen
section of the text that can be omitted without the text
sounding strange. The teacher reads the chosen section of
the text aloud but misses out the circled words. The text
needs to be read in a natural way so that it flows and
sounds normal. Students listen, follow the text and
underline the words that were omitted. Students then
compare with each other and check with the teacher.

7

Whole class

Underline

Spot the mistakes –
The teacher chooses and changes several words in the chosen
section of the text. The teacher read the chosen section of
the text aloud and the students read along in silence and
underline the words they think the teacher has changed.
Students then compare with each other and check with the
teacher.

8

Whole class

Underline

Secret message

The teacher selects some words from
the chosen section of the text so that the first letter of each of these words spells out a
secret word or short phrase. The teacher reads the chosen section of the text aloud
and students listen and read along
in silence. However, every time the
teacher comes one of the previously selected words the
teacher substitutes the word with a funny noise. The
students need to underline each of these words. The
students then need work out the
secret message.

9

Whole class

Say parts of words

Finish off words –
The teacher reads a chosen section of the text aloud and
the students listen and read along in silence. However,
every now and then the teacher says only the first one or
two syllables of a word and then pauses. The students need
to say the missing parts of the word in chorus. The teacher
continues reading once the students have completed each
word.

10

Whole class

Underline and say parts of word

Say only that part of the word –
The teacher chooses a feature of word morphology that is
common in the chosen section of the text. This could be the
plural ‘s’, ing-endings, ed
-endings, –tion, etc. The students go through the
section of the text and underline all the examples of that
feature of language. The teacher then reads aloud and the
students need to call out in chorus only that part of the
word at the same time as the teacher reads it.

11

Whole class

Say words

Banana –
The teacher reads the chosen section of the text aloud and
the students listen and read along in silence. Every now
and then the teacher substitutes a word in the text with
the word ‘banana’. The students need to call out
the word from the text that was substituted . Special thanks to Quyen
Xuan Vuong for sharing this activity.

12

Whole class

Say words

Say only those words –
The teacher chooses and identifies about four or five words
that appear frequently in the chosen section of the text.
The teacher writes these words on the board. The teacher
reads the section of text aloud and students listen and
read in silence, but say only the chosen words in chorus as
the teacher reads them.

13

Whole class

Say words

Every third word
– The teacher starts to read the chosen section of the text
aloud and students listen and read along in silence.
However, the teacher reads only the first two words and the
student need to say the third word in chorus. The teacher
then reads the next two words and then the students say the
sixth word in chorus. This continues until the end of the
chosen section of the text.

14

Whole class

Say words

What’s the next word? –
The teacher reads the chosen section of the text aloud and
students listen and read along in silence. However, every
now and then the teacher stops reading aloud and the
students need to read the next word in the text in chorus.
Once the students have said the word, the teacher continues
reading but stops every now and then and the students need
to say the next word in chorus. This continues until the
end of the chosen section of the text.

15

Small groups

Say words

One word at a time –
Students take turns reading one word at a time around the
group until the end of the chosen section of the text.

16

Small groups

Underline and say words

Alphabet words –
The teacher assigns each member of the group different
letters of the alphabet; so that all the letters of the
alphabet are assigned and so that each student has several
letters. Each student needs to look through the chosen
section of the text and underline all the words that start
with their assigned letters. Then the group reads the
chosen section of the text aloud, but each student only
says his/her corresponding words.

17

Whole class

Say phrases

Listen, read and repeat –
The teacher selects a short section of the text. The
teacher read the section aloud one short phrase at a time.
After reading each phrase the whole class repeats in
chorus. This continues until the end of the chosen section
of the text.

18

Whole class

Say phrases

Finish off the sentences –
The teacher reads the chosen section of the text aloud to
the class. Before the end of some sentences the teacher
stops and the whole class has to read the rest of the
sentence aloud in chorus.

19

Pairs

Say phrases

Sentence tennis –
The teacher chooses a section of a text with two paragraphs
of similar length. One student is assigned the first
paragraph and the other student is assigned the second
paragraph. The first student reads part of the first
sentence aloud but stops part of the way through whenever
they want. The other student has to listen and read in
silence, but read the rest of the sentence aloud from where
the first student stopped. This is repeated for the rest of
the paragraph. For the second paragraph the students swap
so that the second student starts reading each sentence.

20

Whole class

Say sentences

Every third sentence

The teacher divides the whole class into three groups. The
groups are called 1, 2 and 3. Group 1 reads the first
sentence aloud in chorus, group 2 then does the same with
the second sentence, and group 3 does the same with the
third. Group 1 then reads the fourth sentence and this
continues until the end of the chosen section of the text.

21

Whole class

Say sentences

Dice sentences –
The teacher divides the whole class into six groups and
assigns the numbers 1-6 to the groups so that each group
has a different number. The teacher roles the dice and all
the students in the group with that number read out the
first sentence in chorus. The teacher roles the dice again
and the corresponding group reads the second sentence in
chorus. This continues until the end of the chosen section
of the text.

22

Whole class

Say lines of text

Secret lines –
The teacher chooses a section of the text with enough lines
of text for every student to have one or two lines each.
The teacher assigned one or two lines to each student in a
random order. The could be by handing out numbers at random
to each student or by cutting up a photocopy of the text
and giving out a line or two of text to each student. Each
student identifies their lines in the original text. The
whole text is read in the correct order by each student
reading their line(s) of the text aloud.

23

Small groups

Say sentences

Nominate next reader –
One student reads the first sentence aloud from the chosen
section of the text and the rest of the group listen and
read along in silence. When the student finishes the
sentence, he/she nominates the next student to read aloud
by saying the name of that student. That student then reads
the second sentences aloud and then nominates the next
reader. This continues until the end of the chosen section
of the text.

24

Small groups

Say sentences

One sentence at a time
– Students take it in turns to read one sentence at a time
around the group until the end of the chosen section of the
text.

25

Pairs

Say sentences

Fizz / buzz / bang –
The teacher selects three words which appear frequently in
the chosen section of the text. The teacher writes these
three words on the board and next to the 1st
word write ‘fizz’, next to the 2nd
words writes ‘buzz’, and next to the 3 rd word writes ‘bang’. Students then
take it in turns to read one sentences at a time and
substitute the selected words with ‘fizz’, ‘ buzz’ or ‘bang’ as indicted on the board.


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Back to School EFL Teaching resources and lesson plans

Back to school EFL

Back to school EFL

The new academic year is upon us! Are you ready? If you’re struggling for lesson plan ideas, we’ve got you covered.

To welcome you and your students back to class, we asked three of our former contributors Vanessa Esteves, Christopher Graham, and Julietta Schoenmann to devise a series of lesson plans and activity worksheets for your EFL classrooms. From adult through to primary, we hope you can find these resources useful in the year ahead.

Have a great year, from all of us at the Oxford University Press.

 

Primary Level

Lesson Plan

Activity Worksheet

Secondary Level

Lesson Plan

Activity Worksheet

Tertiary/Adult Level

Lesson Plan

Activity Worksheet


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Using a social media project as a tool for motivating young adults learning English

Close up of smartphone with social media icons

Image courtesy of pixabay.

Stacey Hughes, former EFL teacher, is a teacher trainer in our Professional Development team. Here she uses course material from Network to explore how social media can be used in the classroom to motivate young adults learning English.

Want to get young adult learners really motivated? Then make the language they are learning meaningful by linking it to authentic English practice opportunities. One way to do this is to set up a social networking project in which students can apply the vocabulary, grammar and communication skills they have built up in class. In this blog I will first list some of the pedagogical benefits of using a social media project. I’ll then suggest a few ideas for projects before outlining how a social media project can be set up in class.

Why use a social media project?

A social media project provides English practice opportunities in an environment that is familiar. Many of our students frequently use social media already when they tweet, post questions or comments online, blog, share videos or links, and chat online. By linking this social media use to English learning, students feel that what they are learning is meaningful for authentic communication and they can personalise learning as they build a network of classmates and peers to communicate with. Social media also provides plenty of models for how language is actually used and endless opportunities to use critical thinking skills to evaluate sources of information. Finally, social media projects can show young adults how to apply social media skills to further their professional growth.

Examples of social media projects

Social media projects aim to get students to use social networks to perform authentic tasks or solve authentic problems. Smaller projects include creating a profile or uploading and sharing a photo with a comment. An example of a larger project might be researching to find a place to live or places to stay on holiday. The projects can be chosen to suit the language level of the student.

Below is a list of social media projects you can do with your students.

  1. Build a personal or professional profile
    Students decide how much information to share and the best image of themselves to project, where to post the profile and how to share it so others can see it.
  2. Post a blog or comment
    Students respond to another blog or set up their own personal or professional blog. They comment on and rate an article, product or event.
  3. Connect online
    Students find an old school friend or a new friend in another country, join a group online that shares their interests, or collaborate on a project.
  4. Investigate something local
    Students learn about a local problem, find out about local events, or contact an organisation in their community.
  5. Find out
    Students find places to stay when travelling, find a job or a place to live, find a suitable restaurant – the possibilities are endless.
  6. Evaluate a website
    Students decide whether the information on a website is credible or not, or if a site or posting adheres to accepted ‘netiquette’.
  7. Game
    This may seem an odd choice, but there is a lot of language involved in learning the rules of the game and playing it well. Many games also have online forums and opportunities to link up online with other gamers.

Lesson plan for setting up a social media project

The following example of a social media project could be done over several weeks.

Use social networking to find a job

Level: Elementary and above

Aim: Students will research job finding resources and present their findings to the rest of the class.

  1. Lead-in: use an image or anecdote to begin a discussion about finding a job. Ask students if they have experience looking for a job and what resources they used to find one. Find out if they use any social networks (friends, family connections or social networks online) to look for jobs. This discussion could bring up some interesting cultural differences.
  2. Put students into pairs or small groups to brainstorm resources they could use to find a job. They should list a variety of resources, not just online ones. Ask each group to share their list with the class. Example resources include a career centre at school, newspapers, websites, professional networks, company web pages, jobs fairs, and personal networks (friends and families).
  3. Write the following questions on the board:
    1. Where is it?
    2. Who can use it? How?
    3. What kind of information is available?
    4. Do you get personal attention?
    5. Can you set up interviews?
    6. What employers use this resource?
  4. Ask each group to research the job-finding resources they have brainstormed and answer the questions. You may ask each member of the group to research a different type of resource, or each student could research them all. The research can be assigned for homework.
  5. If you are doing the project over the course of several weeks, ask students to bring in examples of new vocabulary they have found. Use these new terms to create vocabulary walls or a class wiki.
  6. Bring the groups back together to share the information they found. Ask them to create a group presentation. The presentation could be on a poster or could use presentation software such as PowerPoint or Prezi. Encourage them to use tables, charts or bullet-points for a good visual effect.
  7. Each group can practice their presentation in front of another group. Ask the groups to give each other feedback by posing questions: Was there anything you didn’t understand? Do you have any questions about the information that the group didn’t answer?
  8. Ask each group to give their presentation. Encourage groups to listen to each other, take notes and ask questions.
  9. As a follow-up, ask the class to write a short blog listing ways to use social networking to find a job. Ask each group to list 1-2 ideas, then collate these into one document. Share the document online and invite other classes in the school to read it.

(This project plan was adapted from Network 1 Teacher’s book, page vii)

In conclusion

The plan above demonstrates how a social media project can bring the real world into the classroom and make language learning meaningful for authentic tasks. It brings in a range of related vocabulary and grammar, and practices all four skills, but keeps the focus on the task. This focus is motivating and completing the task can give students a sense of achievement, especially if they then have a live audience to share with.


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The whys and hows of syllabus writing

Mature woman working at her deskKaren Capel, an Academic Coordinator and teacher trainer, returns with another post for Coordinators and Directors of Study, sharing her tips for writing an effective syllabus.

More often than not teachers receive syllabi which are kept unread. I remember receiving mine at the beginning of the academic year and just archiving them after marking which pages of the Student’s Book to omit. Why? Because they were more of an outline of what to cover than a syllabus. Why is this a problem? Because as coordinators we cannot be present in every class and certainly cannot see each and every lesson plan our teachers produce and implement. As a result, syllabi are valuable tools that allow us to guide and support teachers in various ways.

First and foremost, a syllabus should inform of the teaching points needing to be covered in order for students to reach the objectives set for the course and therefore pass tests and exams. Secondly, it should instruct teachers which methodology to use and the type of lessons you expect, as well as the balance of interaction patterns, time devoted to the different skills, amount of TTT (teacher talking time), etc. A good syllabus will, as a consequence, be a benchmark that enables teaching staff to be aware of what is expected from their lessons.

How can we write a syllabus which serves such a purpose? Here are 4 tips:

1. Keep the target audience in mind

It is crucial to know the teachers on your staff and write accordingly. Syllabi for newly qualified teachers should not be the same as those for experienced ones. It is therefore essential for you to know the type of teacher in every level so as to include the necessary information and cater for every teacher’s needs. Undoubtedly, less experienced teachers will need more thorough explanations and step-by-step indications of how to work with every task in the book, as well as ideas on the kind of warm-ups they can use, ways of eliciting information from students, extra activities they can incorporate in their lessons, etc.

2. Think of the syllabus as an extended lesson plan

Explain how you would work with each unit, including links between the different activities, appropriate warm-ups and follow-ups, whether you would propose activities as pair-work, group-work or individual tasks. Think of plausible questions which may be asked to enrich the lesson and useful tips regarding the development of skills and strategies. This will help teachers save time when planning, help them embed new techniques or methods, and seek help in those areas where they are less confident. It would be expected for new teachers to stick to these plans more strictly and for experienced teachers to take bits and pieces they find helpful and use these guidelines more flexibly.

3. Use syllabi to adapt coursebooks to the target students

No matter how good a text is, it is impossible for it to cater to all students, learning styles and needs. As coordinators, it is our responsibility to make sure students feel comfortable in their classes and that the materials used are appropriate to their ages, levels and interests. Sometimes it is necessary to replace activities or texts, which may be either too childish or too complex for students, with alternative or complementary ways of presenting certain points. It may also happen that topics which are either too culture-specific or just not interesting for a particular group of students appear. Should this be the case, those activities should be replaced with more appropriate and engaging topics your students will find more relatable and enjoyable. Make sure you cover all these noteworthy elements properly.

4. Remember the final recipients

The people who will be impacted most by what you plan are the students; a vast majority of whom are likely to be ‘digital natives’. Students expect technology to be used in class, as it represents an instrinsic aspect of their lives and they see it as a natural context for learning. It is therefore of paramount importance to incorporate technology into the syllabi we produce in order for teachers to understand its relevance and utilise it in their lessons as well. Try to include links to websites that both teachers and students may find of interest, be it to read a good contextual piece or study tips, or to do some practice through interactive exercises or games.

What other aspects do you consider when writing a syllabus?


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8 Steps Towards a Successful Classroom

Verissimo Toste, an Oxford teacher trainer, discusses the ingredients of a successful lesson. Verissimo hosted a webinar on this topic on the 10th May. To view a recording of this webinar, click here.

What makes a lesson successful? Beyond the specific materials and activities, what can teachers focus on in order to deliver consistently successful lessons? These are not easy questions to answer, but there are some key points we, as teachers, can focus on in order to increase the probability of consistently successful lessons.

Consider the students. Too obvious a point, probably. But in the rush of a day’s lessons, it is easy to deliver content without focussing on the individual students we have in front of us. What are their abilities, their interests?  How do they feel that day and how could these considerations affect the lesson you are about to deliver? Sometimes it is important to take a deep breath before beginning a lesson and consider these questions. We might be able to make some slight adjustments that will help our lesson flow better.

Although easily taken for granted, it is important to begin and end the lesson well. A good beginning has impact, drawing the students’ attention and engaging them in what they are about to do. It is also clear as to what the students will be doing in the lesson. A clear idea of the outcome of the lesson will help students become more personally involved in the activities, helping them to learn better. A good ending will give students a sense of achievement, of having learned. Students can reflect on what they have learned and what skills they have developed. Equally important, they can also consider what might have been difficult during the lesson, leading them to focus on that aspect of their learning.

Of course, the material you use will greatly contribute to the success of your lesson. But it is important to look at it critically. How does it relate to your students? Is it relevant to them? Almost any topic can be made relevant, but it is important to focus on this in order to make it so. Students may find a topic boring or a language point too difficult to understand. However, making their feelings and opinions part of the lesson will help to involve them. Contributing to the lesson in this way helps them take responsibility for what happens in their lessons. They, too, contribute to the success of the lesson.

Students today learn as much outside the classroom as they do in class, maybe even more in some cases. Successful lessons take this into consideration and don’t end when the class ends. There are many ways to extend the lesson beyond the classroom. Students can find links between the topics in class, maybe from their coursebook, to their world. I discovered in a coursebook lesson based on parkour that the national champion of the sport was from the city where I was teaching. My students knew more about it than I did. Of course, this led to photos of where the sport was practised in the city and some of the people who practised it.

Technology is an integral part of our students’ lives, providing many opportunities for continuing language work outside of class. This could be based on language work integrated with the coursebook, or online work based on researching a topic. Teachers can also consider using students’ digital devices to bring their lives into the classroom. When working on the present simple for daily routine, students can be encouraged to take some photos of what they do every day. Sharing these in class will add a personal context to the language being learned.

My webinar further discussed some of the key points that bring success to the classroom. You can view a recording of the webinar here.