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Easter resources for your EFL classroom

shutterstock_377717329Spring has arrived here in Oxford, and Easter is on the horizon – it’s a perfect time of year to bring some seasonal activities and worksheets into your language learning classroom. Our former contributors Vanessa Esteves, Julietta Schoenmann, and Christopher Graham have come up with a range of Easter-themed lessons for young learners and secondary level learners through to adult learners that we hope you’ll enjoy.

Young Learner Resources:

Lesson plan

Easter Card Template

Secondary Resources:

Lesson plan

Handout

Adult Resources:

Lesson plan

Text

Handout


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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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Extensive Reading and Language Learning

oup_54206Dr. Richard R. Day is a Professor at the Department of Second Language Studies, University of Hawaii. He has authored numerous publications, particularly on second language reading, including Bringing Extensive Reading into the Classroom (co-author).

Extensive reading is based on the well-established premise that we learn to read by reading. This is true for learning to read our first language as well as foreign languages. In teaching foreign language reading, an extensive reading approach allows students to read, read, and read some more.

When EFL students read extensively, they become fluent readers. But there is more. Studies have established that EFL students increase their vocabulary, and become better writers. We also know that reading extensively helps increase oral fluency—listening and speaking abilities. Finally, students who read a lot develop positive attitudes toward reading and increased motivation to study English. So there are some excellent reasons for having EFL students reading extensively.

Let’s now look at what extensive reading is by looking at four of its key principles*:

1. The reading material is easy.

For extensive reading to be possible and for it to have the desired results, students must read books and other materials that are well within their reading competence—their reading comfort zone. In helping beginning readers select texts, I believe that more than one or two unknown words per page might make the text too difficult for overall understanding. For intermediate learners, appropriate texts have no more than three or four unknown or difficult words per page.

I recognize that not everyone agrees with using easy materials. Many teachers believe that learners must read difficult texts; they also believe that students need to be challenged when learning to read. Perhaps they think that reading difficult texts somehow gets them used to reading materials written for first-language reading.

This is a mistake. Of course, our goal in teaching students to read is to have them read literature that is written for native readers. But we should not start with that goal! We need to start with books and material that have been especially written for beginning and intermediate levels of reading ability. They have to read texts they find easy and enjoyable as they learn to read.

2. A variety of reading material on a wide range of topics must be available.

For an extensive reading program to succeed, students have to read. So it is critical to have a large number of books on a wide variety of topics to appeal to all students. Such a library will include books (both fiction and non-fiction), magazines, and newspapers. There should be materials that are informative, and materials that are entertaining.

3. Learners choose what they want to read.

Allowing students to select what they want to read is key. Again, this is related to the basis of extensive reading: we learn to read by reading. Students are more likely to read material in which they are interested. So it makes sense for them to choose what (and where and when) to read.

In addition, students should also be free, indeed encouraged, to stop reading anything that isn’t interesting or which they find too difficult.

4. Learners read as much as possible.

The most crucial element in learning to read is the amount of time spent actually reading. We have to make sure that our students are given the opportunities to read, read, and read some more. This is the “extensive” of extensive reading, made possible by the first three principles.

How much should we ask our students to read?  The quick and short answer is, As much as possible! I usually set reading targets for my students. For example, for beginning EFL readers, the minimum is one book a week. This is realistic, as language learner literature for beginners (for example, graded readers) is short. Some teachers set their reading targets in terms of time. For example, students must read for 60 minutes each week.

To finish, let me repeat this important fact: we learn to read by reading. There is no other way. Extensive reading helps students become readers.

 

 

References:
Day, R. R. and J. Bamford. (2002). Top ten principles for teaching extensive reading.  Reading in a Foreign Language 14/2.  http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/rfl/October2002/


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Reading Skills for the Selfie Generation

teenagers-tablets-learningThomas Healy is an Assistant Professor in the Intensive English Program at the Pratt Institute, New York City. A full time instructor, he presents regularly on how to adapt traditional classroom materials to meet the needs of the Selfie Generation, and how to use widely available and easy-to-use digital tools in language learning. 

Today, he previews his upcoming webinar ‘Reading Skills for the Selfie Generation’ with a short vlog outlining his approach.

The “Selfie Generation” interacts with reading materials in profoundly different ways compared to previous generations. Learners are now challenged by both print and interactive, digital text. How can we build their traditional reading skills while improving their digital literacy?

– Learn how to make your materials and classroom activities more interactive using easy-to-use an affordable computer applications

– Even non technologically minded instructors will come away with ideas that are easy to implement

In this free-to-attend webinar, you can expect to –

  • Learn how to harness technology in a productive way to support literacy and language learning for students with dyslexia at all levels
  • Gain ideas for formative assessment using appropriate apps to monitor progress
  • Embrace learning technology in simple, easy ways – no matter your budget

If you’d like to attend the webinar or receive a recording of one of the sessions, simply register at the link below.

webinar_register3


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Four Secrets for Reading in the ELT classroom 

IMG_3569_lowres

Andrea Sarto is the author of Football Forever, a NEW Dominoes graded reader available now. He was born in the UK but has lived and worked in several different countries as an English-language teacher, trainer and editor. By his own confession, he probably reads too much.

I have this habit when I start a book.

Maybe ‘habit’ is the wrong word. It’s more of a strategy. First, I have a really good look at it – judge it by its cover. Next I’ll read the first line, word by word. Then I’ll read the first chapter, twice. Sometimes I’ll read it more than twice.

Why? Basically, it’s because I enjoy it. I want to savour it. It’s such a treat to tune yourself into a new story – the style, the sense of place and character that the author is creating. That’s why I take it slowly. It’s all about anticipation. You never quite know what’s going to happen.

In this respect a graded reader is no different, especially when it’s an original story. Encouraging students to read in English can provide massive benefits to their language learning. There are so many academic studies which prove just that … but how exactly do we do it? What’s the secret?

Secret # 1

First, and most importantly, it’s about the topic. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in everything under the sun. Some things I sort of like, but other things I’m really passionate about. If you can find out what your students are passionate about – be it football or music or vampires or time travel – then that’s half the secret. Because there’s bound to be a book or text in English about it.  And that book or text is going to tell you something else about your passion – something you didn’t know before. In that sense, English is just a conduit for students to find out more stuff about what they like (and the world it’s part of).

Secret # 2

The second secret is getting the level right. Who wants to read with a book/device in one hand and a dictionary in the other? OK, fine if we encounter the odd word we don’t understand – it still happens to me and I’ve been learning English for over forty years! But students want to lose themselves in the experience, and they can’t do it if they keep tripping over words they don’t know. So the book needs to be of a slightly lower level than the students’ own language level. It’s not rocket science. (There are books about rocket science, too, though.)

Secret # 3

Thirdly, it’s about taking it slowly, or rather in stages. We need to help students to find a way in … or a way out if it comes to that. Only the bravest can plunge in without any preliminaries; the rest of us like to take our time. And here’s where my ‘habit’ comes in. I’m about to spell out one tried-and-tested approach for using graded readers inspired by it …

So you’ve assembled your library of graded readers. (Incidentally, most publishers do a deal where you can get a collection of topics and levels for a discount instead of buying them one by one.) Here’s what you do next:

  1. Spread them out face-up on a large table (or do the equivalent digitally with thumbnails.) Ask students to choose a reader based on the title and picture on the front cover alone.
  2. Tell students to read the back cover blurb for homework. They can use a bilingual dictionary if necessary – who cares as long as they’re reading! Ask them to make a note of where the story takes place (setting); who the main person is (character); and what happens (plot).
  3. Get students to read the first line of Chapter 1 three times and Chapter 1 itself twice.
  4. At this point, if they didn’t enjoy it, they can STOP. But they must promise to do two things if they do decide to give up. The first is to tell you why (in English). The second is to take a different graded reader from the library. They can also stop this one after stage 3, to be replaced by another book, but this third one they must read through from start to finish, i.e. stick at it!
  5. Tell students to write a short summary (in the past or present tense) of what happens in Chapter 1. You can do all sorts of things with these summaries: error correction; peer dictation; gapfill, etc.
  6. Repeat the process with the next few chapters. If students start to copy each others’ summaries, do some comparison work in class and talk about the importance of original work vs plagiarism!
  7. Before students read the final chapter, get them to predict what’s going to happen (in the future) and how the story will end in terms of setting, character, and plot. They then read to confirm their prediction – even changing what they wrote to reflect what they read.
  8. After students finish the book, get them to give it a ‘star rating’ from 1–5. Decide as a class what the star ratings stand for, e.g. 1 = Don’t waste your time! 2 = Probably not for you; 3 = Give it a go; 4 = Definitely recommended; 5 = Out of this world! (If they want to write a review or give a mini-presentation about it, don’t stand in their way!)
  9. At the end of the term or year, do some project work. Tell students to calculate the most/least popular titles (and do a basic graph to show it), to interview each other about their favourites, to write follow-up chapters as a story chain, look for common ground between stories in order to draw up a list of If you liked this, then try … etc.
  10. Go back to stage 1 and start over. After all, the funny thing about reading a good book is that it makes you want to read another. And then another. That’s Secret # 4, by the way!