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Grade the reader 1
Get with the rhythm!
A grid, clues: down & across (9)

Grade the reader 1

This week we're taking a first look at Readers, reading material written with the language learner in mind. Each publisher has a series of graded readers, each level covering a numbered vocabulary. Some of these can seem childish & inappropriate for our adult learners but more & more appealing readers are being written. As they are graded, they are much more accessible for our learners than authentic literature.

Clearly the idea of readers is a good thing as the more our learners read the better. If the learners are in a non-English speaking country then this is an even more acute need.

So what to do with them? If the learners are motivated, then the readers will be borrowed, read & returned. Fine, but how do you go about motivating a group to start borrowing readers from the school library?

Choosing an interesting story that the group will be interested in is obviously essential. If you have enough copies of the same book here are a few ideas for collaborative reading:

- spend time on introducing the project, explaining the benefits & look together at the chosen book, discussing the cover & the back cover synopsis. Better still, if you have lots of different class sets, the group could decide which book to read.

- talk about how they might read the book. Discuss the disadvantages of reading word by word & the advantages of fast extensive reading.

- as a warmer, pair the students up to discuss their impressions of the chapter they all read for homework. (If they hadn't read it, they listen in to the activity & hopefully feel the pressure to do the homework for next time.) In the general feedback sort out any problems they might have had.

- you might give out a comprehension check that would help them to all understand the chapter, before ploughing on to the next chapter. Or instead of you writing out the check, get the students to do it - they bring it along to the class, swapping them around for all to answer someone else's comprehension check. Some readers have their own comprehension questions in the back of the book.

- an alternative check would be to ask the students to write a summary of each chapter, handing it into you as an on-going writing project. If the chapters are short they could summarise every two or three chapters. It could be included in their 'learner diaries'.

- read the chapter that they are to discuss in the next lesson yourself to see if you could exploit any of it. For example, is there is a dialogue that contains enough interesting language to be read aloud in class & then analysed? Does this language fit into the syllabus you are following? Is there a lexical set you could focus on? Or some functional exponents to pick out of the text?

- to continue motivating the learners, get them to predict the next chapter. If you do this often, get them to make notes & make a competition of it - who has guessed the nearest.

- encourage language notetaking at the end of each chapter. Show the different areas that they could take notes on; grammar, function, vocab, cohesive devices. If you take this seriously encourage them to come to you with questions they have about new language they find. You could incorporate this into the initial impression swapping task. And then sit back & watch them teaching each other!

In a future Tip, we'll look at ideas for when the students are all reading different graded readers.

There is a very good book on graded readers called 'Class Readers' by Jean Greenwood (OUP).

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Get with the


Have you got rhythm? Have your students? Although there is debate surrounding rhythm in natural English speech, an awareness for our students is still useful & it is a nice way to get to arrive at 'sounds in combination'. Here is a way of introducing the idea to your students:

Write on the board:

1   2   3   4

Get the students to say together the numbers - drill them, several times.

Then put the following on the board & get the students to say them together.

1 and 2 and 3 and 4

Then put the following on the board & get the students to say them together.

1 and then a 2 and then a 3 and then a 4

Then put the following on the board & get the students to say them together.

1 and then put a 2 and then put a 3 and then put a 4

Then interchange the words in between the numbers:

1 and 2 and put a 3 and then put a 4

Play around with combinations, getting the students to repeat together. It should be lots of fun.

The idea is that, in theory, each line takes the same time to say. We push the little bits together between the main stress & it is this that causes rhythm. To further exemplify this put the following on the board:

Take it home
(3 syllables - 2 stresses)

Watch it in the air
(5 syllables - 2 stresses)

Elicit the number of syllables for each & the number of main stresses. This should clarify how words are squashed between the main stresses.

Then on to some practice activities. It would be better, initially, to use obvious material for this. If you have cuisenaire rods handy, check out the page on 'Some nursery rhymes to illustrate rhythm using cuisenaire rods'.

There is also a similar idea using limericks in the Teaching Tip There once was an English teacher

Rap songs are also good for focussing on rhythm. Put up the lyrics, get the students to mark the tone units, the stresses & then chant them aloud as a group. To see an explanation of tone units & prominence.

Now that you have established the idea of rhythm, move on to what happens to the words when they get squashed between the main stresses with 'sounds in combination'.

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A grid, clues: down
& across (9)

Crosswords can be lots of fun at any time & there are many uses from them in the classroom. Here are a few:

- Collaborative Crossword: a normal crossword that reviews recently taught vocabulary or is leading into a theme, done collaboratively with the whole class - it's fun to do it together. Encourage them to give further clues rather than shout out the answers when they have them.

- Pairwork Crossword: give half of a completed crossword to each person in the pair. They have to make up the clues for their set of answers & then they tell each other until both have a completed crossword.

- Class Crossword: give out a crossword to each student but with a different answer filled in on each. The students think of the clue to their answer & then mingle telling each other their clues & listening to each other until all have completed the crossword. Good for revising vocab.

- Advanced Crossword: give out the crossword, with all of the clues about the vocabulary that is going to come up in the next two weeks. As the fortnight proceeds the students can do a bit more of their crosswords - the first to complete it gets a small prize. Then use the crossword to review the vocab covered.

- Invented Crossword: in pairs, get your students to make their own crosswords up based on the vocab recently covered. When finished, swap them around for each pair to do a new one. Lots of vocab reviewed in both parts of the activity.

- Coursebook Crossword: at the beginning of a course when you are showing the students what is involved in the coursebook, instead of a list of questions that asks them to look through the book for the answers, design a crossword to fill 3 across: the section near the back with lots of verbs (9, 4, 4) (Irregular Verb List).

- Comprehension Crossword: As in the above activity, when students are looking for information to answer comprehension or scan reading questions in a text, they can be presented in the form of a crossword.

- Picture Crosswords: for the younger learner, the clues are in picture form instead of definitions.

- Phonology Crosswords: design a crossword that reviews vocab but instead of putting in the letters for the words, the students put in the phonemes for the words. For word stress, choose the pattern you want to look at & for each clue give three words, the right answer being the one that fits the pattern.

Don't forget about the logistical language the students might need to do the above activities & deal with it beforehand to maximise the effectiveness of the tasks e.g.- have you got the clue for four across? - the language of dis/agreement - the language of negotiation

Most people find crosswords interesting & if integrated into classes, they can be motivating & fun for your students. And for the teacher in a non-English speaking country, normal newspaper crosswords are a great way of trying to keep your English vocabulary from diminishing.

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