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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 reads 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 reads 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 the 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 reads 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 to 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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Early Intervention: Why it’s a must for children with reading difficulties

Teacher helping young girl to readIn this article, Tanya Rivka Dy-Peque, an educational therapist who has worked closely with children with learning difficulties for several years, explores why early intervention in reading is so crucial to children’s future literacy.

If your child doesn’t learn to read, they are more likely to have social problems, develop a poor self-image, and earn less than their peers as adults.

Hearing this shouldn’t come as any great shock. After all, reading is central to daily life for most of us. Even if we don’t consider ourselves big “readers,” we still read bills, ads, emails, websites, and correspondence at work.

But for people who never learned to read, or who can only read a little, everyday life is a constant battle of faking their way through a literate world, hoping they don’t slip up. To combat this problem, a number of adult literacy programs have sprung up, but most research shows that it’s much more difficult – and time-consuming – for adults to become literate. In fact, even high school and middle school programs for slower learners seem to be a case of too little, too late.

Now, that’s not to say that older kids and adults can’t learn – quite the opposite. But the job does get tougher the more time passes and the more we struggle. This kind of failure – without proper help and guidance – makes us withdraw further and try less because we’d rather fake our way through than endure ridicule – real or perceived.

Luckily, the answer is right in front of us, because many students have shown marked improvement – so long as they have that proper help and guidance we mentioned, and provided they get it early enough.

How early?

By some estimates, students who find themselves struggling may begin to withdraw by as early as the middle of first grade! That’s why the most successful early intervention programs in schools tend to start before primary school and work to catch issues as they’re developing rather than discovering them after the fact and attempting to fix them.

So what are some common features of successful early intervention programs?

Everyday help

In the same way that going to a foreign country can help you to learn the language by immersing you in it, students having difficulties with reading and writing need to be receiving extra help as often as possible – preferably every school day. Moreover, these daily sessions should last at least 20 to 30 minutes, and at-risk kids need to be given an ample number of sessions to improve (several programs recommend around 100 extra sessions).

Small group and individual learning in combination with full classroom sessions

The tendency when dealing with at-risk students is to isolate them into smaller units and even one-on-one tutoring so that educators can give them their full focus. That kind of strategy is helpful in increasing literacy, but studies have shown that it should not replace full-classroom learning. Something about the communal power of learning to read and write together appears to enhance the process.

Meaning over memorization

With our increasing focus on test scores as a means of measuring aptitude, too many teachers expect students to learn from simple repetition, assuming that they either already know or will catch on to the meaning of the word over time. Unfortunately, this is not always true for at-risk students, so successful early prevention programs put a focus on making sure that the meaning of each word is clearly understood before moving on. This helps to create context and a real-world connection for many words.

A concentration on words

Too often, kids experiencing reading difficulties are asked to put words together into sentences before they understand the words themselves. Early prevention programs start from the bottom up, concentrating on words as the building blocks of sentences and slowly grouping them together to form simple phrases.

Writing as a means of word identification

To reinforce word recognition, successful early prevention programs often have students write out and spell words. Teacher assistance is provided, but only to the extent that students need it to spell words correctly.

Building confidence through re-reading

One of the best ways to increase reading confidence is to encourage students to read books over and over. This allows them to become comfortable with the words and meaning of the story, instead of forcing them to struggle through something new too quickly.

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Why don’t they understand what they read?

Woman with notepad looking confusedMichael Swan, co-author of the new three-level Oxford English Grammar Course, introduces his upcoming talk at IATEFL 2011 in Brighton, entitled ‘Where grammar and reading meet’, with this article about why written English can be so hard to understand.

Why do people have difficulty understanding written texts?
There are various possible reasons.

For example, they don’t know the language.

Agresti, kunsti sifnit, votrin khaleddanou kaltrop. Vjux snjor!

Or they do know the language, but it’s gibberish.

Garlic and sapphires in the mud
clot the bedded axle-tree.
The trilling wire in the blood
sings below inveterate scars
appeasing long-forgotten wars.
(Eliot, Four Quartets)

Or it may not be gibberish, but it’s outside their conceptual comfort zone.

The resulting structure will then be merged with a null declarative complementiser,
and BE will ultimately be spelled out as the third-person-plural present-tense form ‘are’.
As required, all uninterpretable features have been deleted, so only the interpretable
features are seen by the semantic component.

None of these problems, however, are really our concern as language teachers. What does concern us is another kind of difficulty. Written English can put quite special grammatical obstacles in the way of a foreign reader, so that sentences which are relatively unproblematic for us may be surprisingly hard for our students to decode.

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