April 24

Getting The Most Out Of Texts

Unfortunately, a lot of the texts in coursebooks aren’t particularly stimulating – not through the fault of the author of the book, but rather due to the fact that every student is an individual. Whilst some students may think a text on space exploration is about as boring as reading the Financial Times (apologies to any avid readers), others will enjoy the opportunity to learn more about a topic they find interesting.

Some teachers argue that if you know your students won’t enjoy the way an activity is presented in a book, that you should find your own resources to teach the grammar or function necessary. However, this can be time-consuming and, in some schools, an unacceptable practice as it is argued that if parents pay for the books, they want to see their children using them. So, assuming that we have no option but to work through a tough text, how can we encourage our students to enjoy reading?

1. Introduce the topic

Give the students an opportunity to share what they know about the topic before they even open their books and, if possible, link the topic of the text to something in their own culture. Alternatively, explain the general situation and invite them to speculate on what happens, thinking about not only the events, but the emotions of the people involved and encourage them to put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist.

2. Make the vocabulary accessible

When faced with a tougher reading text, I find some of the key vocabulary in the article and put it on the board in L1. Working in teams, the students have to find the correct translation from the text. This encourages them to read the text and guess words from the context and yet at this point they don’t have to worry about understanding the meaning of the text as a whole. It’s a good idea to split the vocabulary into the different paragraphs it fits into, and write the words on the board in the order they appear in the text.

3. Read through the text as a class

Invite students to read passages from the text and explain the meaning of each section. Wherever possible, make your explanation dramatic and visual – perhaps with diagrams on the board. You can also ask students to give a summary of each paragraph to ensure they understand. It is also an opportunity to check any other vocabulary problems.

4. Give easy comprehension questions

When faced with a difficult activity related to a difficult text, a lot of students will lose interest. If you think the comprehension questions given in the book are a little tough, either tell students specifically where to look in the text to find the answer or give them your own questions. You may also like to do this activity as a competition, as it encourages the students to do the exercise well, rather than just guessing.

5. Discuss the topic further

Having already had a pre-text discussion and having worked through the ideas and specific vocabulary, your students should now have a better idea about the topic. Encourage further discussion, perhaps with a role-play or debate.

Posted April 24, 2009 by Teresa Bestwick in category Reading

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