A web site for the developing language teacher

Developing Effective Reading in Exam Classes by Jeanette Corbett -
lesson plan 1


Main aim: To develop students understanding of a narrative text, focusing on the literacy use of words, allowing students to infer meaning (stage 5)

Subsidiary aims:
a) To develop student summary skills by writing one sentence summary of a character (stage 4)
b) To allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the text by completing an open cloze text (stage 6)

Timetable fit
This lesson is the sixth in a series for Unit 13 of Proficiency Masterclass, titled That's Entertainment. Previous lessons have focused on identifying reading problems, developing text genre, reader response and reading strategies (see timetable attached). All of which have been linked to the theme of the previous unit studied (Unit 9: Call of the Wild) and the current unit. Within the current unit we have focused on entertainment within different cultures, on TV and company perks of entertainment. Therefore I have chosen this lesson to develop their understanding of a narrative text by focusing on the reason for the words used, using an authentic text.
Following lessons will build on this lesson, using their knowledge acquired, as an introduction to further vocabulary in the unit and other forms of entertainment, also as an aid to descriptive writing.

Assumed knowledge
First that students are able to diagnose their problems with texts and suggest possible strategies/ solutions (stage 2).
That in stage 4, students will have sufficient knowledge to be able to summarise what is revealed about the characters, without becoming concerned about the meaning of individual words or phrases.
Equally in stage 5 that they will have developed the ability to assess the usage of words/phrases by looking at the surrounding context and evidence (using the clues listed) - the idea inferred rather than just a specific word.
By stage 6, they will be sufficiently confident to use the text to complete the open cloze and have the ability to reformulate words/ phrases without directly filling from the text.
Finally, that they will be sufficiently interested in the characters to take on roles in a speaking activity (stage 7).

Anticipated problems and solutions
I have assumed that students will be interested enough in the text to look at the writer's meaning through the words/phrases used. This may be a problem in that the text is neither amusing nor contains anything culturally specific to them - they may lack interest and motivation. This is solvable by the organisation of the lesson - the stages using the text are equally distributed: pre-reading activity (stage 2), reading activities (stages 3-6), which are well balanced and to be completed together and a post reading activity, which allows them to personalise the characters, through speaking.
As the text is very descriptive, the author uses descriptive language, style and punctuation to create meaning, students may feel unable to assess the usage of the words/ phrases (stage 5). They may feel lost in the text. This is solvable as they will complete this activity in pairs and therefore encourage each other. Also I have included clues in line number which is another representation of the words/ phrase and while monitoring I will offer assistance if required. I will stress the importance that the exact meaning is not required but a good general idea, which they should be able to obtain by using clues in the text.
Also should students find stage 5 problematic it will have a negative effect on the open cloze (stage 6). If they feel unconfident about the text they won't be able to transfer their understanding effectively from one text to another. I believe this is solvable by the students themselves; they will have developed sufficient understanding of the text. Should they feel unconfident we will complete the first gap together. Also when monitoring I will provide assistance and explanations if required.
The class itself may be a problem, as outlined in my class profile I have borrowed students from another class - though their level is advanced, it is slightly lower than that of my students. We have had one class together and there were no problems with dynamics however they may feel lost in the text and be unable to complete the work. To overcome this possible problem I will sit these students in pairs with those from my own class - each can support the other. Also the stages of the lesson are well balanced and provide the opportunity for students to interact and build their confidence in the text.

Finally I am aware that the text to be used has only a tangible link to the theme of the current unit, that it is slightly longer than a text in the Proficiency Reading exam and contains more characters than normal. I feel justified in my choice because the language used lends itself to the activities which do indeed develop student understanding of the text and awareness as to possible clues to look for in the future texts.

Extract page 437-8, A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe

Class profile
They are a general adult English class based at the school, studying on an extensive course. The course is designed as a two-year preparation course for the Proficiency exam; therefore the level of the group is defined as pre-proficiency.
The group grew rapidly, it began in October with 5 students and by November it had eleven students. However now it is the final term students had to leave the group due to work and study.
Students are attending the course for a variety of reasons. The majority have the CAE exam, those that have not already use English as part of their work or studies. Others are attending to supplement their academic learning. It is a young group, aged from 16 to mid 20's. An individual assessment of the students is as follows:

1.Jorge - the youngest member of the class. He was brought up in Argentina, where he attended an International school. He has also attended an English boarding school for a few years. He is a strong talkative student, who will occasionally dominate the class, if allowed. He passed CAE in June. He is still at school and often finds it difficult to manage the work from the academic and his school. His strength is his speaking and his natural ability to manipulate his knowledge of the language. His weakness is his lack of awareness of register and style in writing, which I believe is probably symptomatic of his learning history rather than lack of exposure. He is interested in taking the Proficiency exam in December and will be preparing with extra work during the summer. He reads in English when he has the time.

2. Javier- one of the younger members of the class. He also passed CAE in June and is in his first year at university. He has visited both the United States and England on study tours and appears to have developed a sense of both cultures. He finds it difficult to concentrate in class, with his mind full of studies. He is often unconfident about assessing activities citing lack of time to study as his excuse and his own inaccuracies. He cites his weaknesses as writing and grammar, though I feel his inaccuracy when speaking often hinders him more. He regularly borrows videos from the self-access centre to develop his listening skills and understanding. I don't believe he reads in English regularly outside class.

3. Maite - a very quiet student, who is working as a pharmacist. She has studied in Scotland as part of her degree. When she comes to class, she is very tired and often misses class due to her work. She admits she needs to study more at home. She has borrowed self-study books from self-access to develop her understanding. She reads regularly in English as part of her work and scientific journals though her comprehension is not as strong as others in the group. She works hard and should be pleased with her development.

4. Pilar - a talkative student, who has been learning at the school for some years. She willingly gives feedback in class about activities. She has no time to study outside class but admits the need to improve her listening. She reads regularly in English - novels and magazines when possible. Having recently finished her degree, she has just started a Masters in business, which includes a module in Business English. She has a good overall ability in English and has developed the ability to work with the knowledge that she has rather than panic.

As my class has only 4 students registered I have borrowed students from another class for this observation. The group are of CAE level but currently are not interested in doing the exam. As a group this year they wan to devote time to their skills work and improving their all round ability. I have chosen to include this group with my class for this reason - the lesson is focused on developing understanding of texts. I am aware that their teacher uses a lot of authentic material with them and this lesson will be useful for them and perhaps serve to encourage them to read more outside class. I was unable to combine with another Proficiency group due to timetable restrictions.
We had a lesson together on Monday 23rd, the class were enthusiastic and showed their pleasure in learning English. A summary of the students follows:

Joaquin - He has good writing skills and is creative. His overall comprehension is good also his reading. He uses different strategies effectively - guessing from context and associating known vocabulary.

Teresa - She is a good all rounder but is a little quieter than the others. Her speaking is accurate. She is an English primary school teacher.

Blanca - She is a strong student who has a good level of comprehension. In speaking she needs to focus on her pronunciation. I believe she doesn't read in English much outside class.

Jesus - He is a good all rounder, who tries hard in his writing though sometimes he is too ambitious. I understand he writes in English outside class.

Pedro - I believe is quite new to the class. He has wide vocabulary knowledge and has studied abroad. He works in the university and his analytical mind transfers to his English - he is good at extracting the main ideas from a text.

Pilar - She uses English a lot in her work but doesn't read for pleasure. Her global comprehension is good but is often impatient and reluctant to work out the meaning of words.

To the lesson rationale

To the article

Back to the articles index

Back to the top

Tips & Newsletter Sign up —  Current Tip —  Past Tips 
Train with us Online Development Courses    Lesson Plan Index
 Phonology — Articles Books  LinksContact
Advertising — Web Hosting — Front page

Copyright 2000-2016© Developing