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Extensive reading for engaging learners beyond the textbook

Scott Roy Douglas has worked with high school, university, and adult English language learners around the world.  He is a co-author of Q: Skills for Success Second Edition, and the author of Academic Inquiry: Writing for Post-secondary Success.  He is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education on the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. 

 

Today Scott joins us on the blog to explain how extensive reading could be beneficial to your students.

Supporting Classroom English Language Teaching and Learning with Extensive Reading

A program of extensive reading can be a powerful complement to English language teaching and learning.  This blog post explores what extensive reading is, how it can benefit students, what challenges there may be, and how it supports and enhances courses like Q: Skills for Success Second Edition.

What is extensive reading?

Rather than closely reading a single challenging text in class, extensive reading involves students engaging in large amounts of reading at levels that match what they are able to understand easily without using a dictionary or extra help.  Typically, students read at least one or two books a week from a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction choices.  Students read these books on their own either in their free time or during class, usually at a pace that might be a bit faster than usual for the classroom.  The goal is to go beyond thinking of reading as a task, towards developing a habit of reading for pleasure.  The key is to remember that extensive reading materials shouldn’t be too difficult or challenging for students.  As a rule of thumb, students should choose books with less than four or five new vocabulary words on a page.

What are the benefits of extensive reading?

A lot of research has been done examining the benefits of extensive reading.  It seems that the more students read, the better readers they become.  In fact, students who engage in a program of extensive reading often increase their reading rates and their overall reading fluency.  They can also improve their reading comprehension.  It appears that part of this improvement might be down to the development of new vocabulary knowledge.  Students can learn new vocabulary incidentally through the extensive reading process as well as deepen the vocabulary knowledge they already have by seeing the words they know in a wide variety of contexts.  However, the benefits are not just limited to reading and vocabulary.  There even seems to be a positive effect on students’ grammar and writing skills, performance on standardized tests, motivation, and attitude towards reading.

The challenges of extensive reading

While extensive reading programs can provide a rich source of comprehensible input that supports students’ English language learning goals, it can also present a number of challenges.  Students who have not taken part in extensive reading programs before might not be used to reading easier texts outside of class and may not immediately see the value in reading interesting and accessible books as homework.  In fact, because some students may equate learning English with challenging reading texts, intensive teacher support, and dictionary work, they might choose texts that are too difficult.  Poor reading choices can lead to a less than enjoyable experience, thus defeating the purpose of extensive reading.  In addition, extensive reading programs don’t always align with what is being covered in class, and students might not see the connections between what is happening in class and what they are reading in their free time.  Thus, in order to be successful, the extensive reading process needs to be thoughtfully supported in class, with students having access to level-appropriate reading choices and guidance from the teacher.

How can teachers enrich the extensive reading process?

Teachers can facilitate the extensive reading process by engaging in a wide variety of activities to support and enrich the experience.  For example, you might help students find appropriate books, check in on what they think about the readings, explore how they feel about the characters, and keep track of what is being read.  Examples and resources to support these types of activities can be found on the Oxford Graded Readers Teaching Resources page.

One activity your students can do is keep an extensive reading journal.  As a framework for their journal entries, you can ask students to write three short paragraphs for each book they read.  In the first paragraph, students can ask themselves what the book is about and write a quick summary in their own words.  In the second paragraph, they can connect what they read to the topic of the textbook unit they are currently studying, or as in Q: Skills for Success Second Edition, the corresponding unit question.  Students can explore the information in the book that helps them answer the unit question, and possibly include a quote that connects to the unit question as well.  Finally, students can write what they think about the book in their third paragraph.  In this paragraph, they can record their opinions, their favourite parts, and whether the book relates to their own experiences.  Thus, students will have a personal and meaningful account of each book they read.  You can read students’ journals from time to time to see how they are doing, and the journal entries can also be used as a strong basis for classroom discussions related to the books students are reading.

How can extensive reading complement Q: Skills for Success?

Each unit of Q: Skills for Success Second Edition has now been aligned to an Oxford Graded Reader based on the appropriate topic and level of language proficiency.  Starting in August 2017, the first chapters of the recommended graded readers can downloaded for free from iQ Online.  These graded readers come from a wide range of genres, all drawn from the Oxford Bookworms Library.

In the Q: Skills for Success series, each unit is centred on an essential question such as “Why is global cooperation important?” or “What happens when a language disappears?”  These questions touch on universal themes, encourage curiosity and discussion, and prepare students to engage with learning. All of the activities and skills presented in each unit support students finding answers to the unit questions.  The graded readers now provide another avenue of support for students answering the unit questions, while the unit questions prime students to fully engage with the aligned extensive reading choices.

To find out more about the new timesaving and practical resources being added to iQ Online, including Graded Reader chapters and new video content, visit https://elt.oup.com/feature/global/beyond-four-walls.

 

Further Reading on Extensive Reading

Beglar, D., Hunt, A., & Kite, Y. (2012). The effect of pleasure reading on Japanese University EFL learners’ reading rates. Language Learning, 62, 665–703.

Day, R. & Bamford, J. (2002). Top ten principles for teaching extensive reading. Reading in a foreign language, 14(2), 136-141.

Horst, M. (2005). Learning L2 vocabulary through extensive reading: A measurement study. Canadian Modern Language Review, 61(3), 355-382.

Jeon, E.Y. & Day, R.R. (2016). The effectiveness of ER on reading proficiency: A meta-analysis. Reading in a Foreign Language, 28(2), 246-265.

Krashen, S. (2007). Extensive reading in English as a foreign language by adolescents and young adults: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 3(2), 23-29.

Mikami, A. (2016). Students’ attitudes toward extensive reading in the Japanese EFL context. TESOL Journal, 0(0), 1-18.

Nation, P. (2015). Principles guiding vocabulary learning through extensive reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 27(1), 136-145.

Robb, T. N., & Kano, M. (2013). Effective extensive reading outside the classroom: A large scale experiment. Reading in a Foreign Language, 25, 234–247.

Storey, C, Gibson, K., & Williamson, R. (2006). Can extensive reading boost TOEIC scores? In K. Bradford-Watts, C. Ikeguchi, & M. Swanson (Eds.), JALT 2005 conference proceedings, 1004-1018. Tokyo, Japan: JALT.

Waring, R. & Takaki, M. (2003). At what rate do learners learn and retain new vocabulary from reading a graded reader? Reading in a Foreign language, 15, 130-163.


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#WorldBookDay – 5 steps to becoming an effective storyteller

shutterstock_357633884Gareth Davies is a writer, teacher, teacher trainer, and storyteller. He has been in the ELT industry for 21 years teaching in Portugal, the UK, Spain and the Czech Republic. Since 2005 he has worked closely with Oxford University Press, delivering teacher training and developing materials. Today, to celebrate World Book Day, he joins us to discuss why being an effective storyteller matters in the EFL classroom, and how you can employ tactics to become a better storyteller yourself.

Extensive reading, the idea of reading for pleasure and not just as a school subject is believed to have wide ranging benefits. Professor Richard Day claims that Extensive Reading not only improves students reading skills but it also improves their vocabulary skills, their grammar skills, their listening and speaking skills. But how do we get our students interested in reading for pleasure. It’s the teacher’s job to motivate and facilitate reading. What we do in class can influence the students. That’s where storytelling comes in. Storytelling can be students first exposure to literature, and effective storytelling can capture the students’ imagination and help them fall in love with stories.  This blog looks at how you can become an effective storyteller in the English language classroom.

  1. The better you know a story the more you can improvise and the more you can involve the students. Read it to yourself two or three times and then practise telling it in front of a mirror. It is much better if you can tell the story rather than reading it, but don’t feel you have to completely memorise it; I often have the book in my hand as a crutch and look at it when I need to.
  2. The work you do before you tell the story can be as important as the story itself. For example, I was telling Rumpelstiltskin from Classic Tales recently. In this story there is a spinning wheel. This might not be a concept your students have come across. So using the pictures from the book, actions, and explanations is crucial to your students understanding. You can also use the pictures in the book to elicit different emotions. In the same book the girl is worried, then upset, then happy. Ask the students why she feels that way.
  3. Your voice is your most valuable tool. Change the tone or pitch to reflect happy and sad moments, whisper and shout if you need to. Also, try to have different voices for different characters. If you can’t do this then, change your position when you change characters. For example, when the main hero is speaking, I will stand in the middle of the room but when it’s the villain’s turn, I will move to the left or right.
  4. If your students are involved in the story, they will feel like they own it. We can involve the students in many ways. For example;
    • ask students to do actions throughout the story. For example, if it is raining in the story, they can pat their legs to show the rain. If someone is crying in the story, the students can rub their eyes. If someone is brushing their hair, etc. This total physical response story telling will help students to understand and remember the words in the story.
    • are there lines in the story that are often repeated? If so, get your students to say the lines each time they come up.
    • are there animals in the story? If so, ask your students to do the animal noises.
    • ask questions. Ask how the students would feel in the character’s shoes, ask what the weather is like, ask them to describe the animals, ask them what happens next.
  5. Enjoy yourself! If you don’t look like you are having a good time, then your students won’t enjoy it. Put energy and wonder into your voice. Look surprised how the story progresses, look happy when the main character is happy and worried when the main character is in trouble. Remember it might be the twelfth time you’ve read the story, but it is the first time for your students.

The last piece of advice I’ll offer is to be patient with yourself. No one is a faultless storyteller the first time they try. Practise makes perfect, so don’t worry, have a go. Each time you do it you will see new ways to include the students or change your voice or bring humour to the story. And remember, you don’t have to tell the story exactly how it is in the book. In fact, this can be useful, the students can then read the text later and try to spot the differences. Happy storytelling.


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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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Chinese New Year Activities for your EFL Classroom

shutterstock_222402865In recognition of the lunar new year on January 28th and to celebrate the Year of the Rooster, we’ve created some resources for your language learning classroom. Former contributors Vanessa Esteves, Julietta Schoenmann, and Christopher Graham have come up with a range of activities and tasks for young learners and secondary level learners through to adult learners that we hope you’ll enjoy. Happy New Year!

Young Learner Resources:

Lesson plan

Handout

Secondary Resources: 

Lesson plan

Handout

Adult Resources:

Lesson plan

Handout


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Back to School EFL Teaching resources and lesson plans

shutterstock_275971190The 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