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Teaching Tips 56

Grade the reader 2
Getting personal

Grade the reader 2

A few weeks ago we looked at some ideas for using one graded reader in class.

This week we're looking at ideas when the students are all reading different graded readers. You do need to be lucky enough to have a range of readers at your school & clearly some of the previous ideas can apply here too. Here are a few ideas:

1. Story sharing - the main advantage of all the students reading different books is in the sharing of the different stories. Storytelling & narrative techniques can be looked at naturally through this. Every so often the students get together with their designated 'reading buddy' & tell what they have read since the last telling.

2. Summary writing - can be incorporated into the above. Every week or two the students write a summary & then swap with their reading buddy. Some work on summary writing beforehand & during. The summaries could go into the school newsletter.

3. Personalised teacher choice - this is a chance for you to personalise exposure by allocating books to individuals. This could be through the content that you think will appeal to different students or through the language difficulties that the books present. Especially useful for the mixed level group.

4. Personalised student choice - the students choose from a range of readers at their level, promoting individual choice & autonomy.

5. Students as teachers - every so often the students choose a language area from the book they are reading & discuss it with a partner, who does the same with an area from their book. Worth checking out beforehand the areas the students have chosen so you can be prepared with extra help.

6. Dialogue writing - students write dialogues, or choose one from the book, & they become the director with two or three other students, explaining the situation, the roles & rehearsing the dialogue before the public class performance.

7. Reader records - on completion of a reader, each student fills in a form that gives the title, author, publisher & a summary of the book. These are kept in a folder for other students to consult when choosing another reader.

8. Reader posters - the younger learner students make a poster around the book they have just read.

9. Selling - the students mingle & persuade each other to read their books.

10. Discussions - when a reader has been finished, before going on to the next, the students discuss their books & decide on the most/least interesting etc. a way of helping them decide which to read next.

Reading outside of class in English is an essential aspect of language development for our students & the graded readers are there to be used for just that. Graded readers have been criticised a lot but there are more & more interesting & ones to use.

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SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review. It is a procedure to help with tackling books & sections of books & applies as much to the native as non-native speaker of English.

The procedure:

You've got the book & here you take a good look at the whole book so you can decide what you need from it.
Look at:
- the title & the covers
- the index
- the introduction - usually written last & might prove a good summary of what is to come.
- the conclusion
- the diagrams
- the appendices

You might find now that the book doesn't provide you with any more information than you already know & you can save time by getting on to another book.

Here you write down as many questions that you want answered from the text in front of you. Look at the index & see if you might find the answers in the book.
Alternatively, you could look at each chapter in turn & the headings in it & write down all the questions you can think of that it might answer.

Read & write the answers to your questions as they arise. If you actively look for the answers, you will be reading much faster. Mark the text to allow easy reference for notetaking later on. You might also be writing new questions along the way.

At the end of each chapter/section look at your questions & recall the answers. This will aid retention. You might want to put the new ideas into a mind map at this point.

At the end go through what you have learned, ticking off the answered questions and summarise your ideas & notes in a mind map.

A sensible approach for any form of study. Pass it on to your students & colleagues.

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Getting personal
Thumbs up

If we were to be asked what approach we took to our teaching I suppose the nearest we could get to it is a 'learner-based approach'. That is to say that the learner takes a central role in the process. The course would try to take into account all aspects of the learner from previous learning experiences to the way the learner likes to learn, & centred around the learner's needs & interests. Rather than trying to fit the learner into the way you teach, it should be you adapting to the learner. This might mean, at times, teaching in ways that you might not necessarily be too comfortable with.

No matter which approach one takes, there is always room for 'personalisation'. This is an attempt to make the language & the lesson content relevant & meaningful to the learner's life & experiences & as a result the language should be better retained. You are very probably involving the learner in many ways & here are a couple of reminders for personalising aspects of your lessons:

- language presentations can be personalised - see the following Tips:

Learner-based Language Presentations

Personal Graphs

- after presentations of new language, relate the language to the students. For example, you have just presented 'used to' for talking about discontinued past habits & states & the students have finished copying down the new language, you then ask the students what they used to do when they were younger. This will also act as a check on the language - 'I used to play football' from an avid player will tell you that the full concept has yet to be grasped.
The same applies to vocabulary. After presenting a group of items related to positive & negative personality traits, the students can discuss which apply to them & whether they know anyone with four or more of the negative ones.

- language practice activities can be personalised. Instead of talking about some invented characters or situations, get the the students to disclose about themselves. The present perfect simple to talk about past experiences clearly lends itself to the students sharing their experiences.
A fun mingle drill for the present simple for daily routines is to find out who is the laziest in the class by the students asking everyone in the class what time they get up & what time they go to bed. They then work out who spends the longest time in bed. Obviously done light-heartedly & containing lots of repetition practice.
The two Tips above provide ready student-made personalised practise.

- when using texts, choose interesting & relevant ones & at some point in the lesson get a personal response to the text from the students. A listening text about the homeless would lead on later to a discussion of what the group think about what was said & any further ideas about the problem.

- not only at the beginning of courses, activities to get to know each other are good for developing & maintaining a good group dynamic. Continue these type of activities in practice activities, warmers, coolers & games.

Don't forget that this includes you, the teacher. You can't expect lots of disclosure from your students if you're not prepared to do the same. Get personal & have fun!

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