This week a colleague at the British Council gave me FIVE different activities for my young learner classes. That means I have to share 5 ideas to even things out! There’s a theme to the ideas below – 5 ways to make textbook reading activities come alive!
- Word stress practice
This is one of the best ideas in The Book of Pronunciation (Marks and Bowen). Draw various stress patterns on the board, like this:
Elicit a word that fits each pattern – possibly one from the reading passage in the textbook. Then tell students to look at the reading passage again and find any other words that have these stress patterns. You could set a time limit for this activity and make it a competition (points for the team that finds the most words). Students could even write words on the board under each pattern, making it a writing race. Anyhow, this is a nice way to integrate phonology.
- Word order practice (intermediate and above)
Designate pairs/groups of students certain parts of a reading passage (e.g. group 1 look at paragraph 1, group two… etc). Ask them to find a sentence with between 15-20 words in it – smaller if you want, but it does make things a lot easier.
Give students 20 small slips of paper. Get students to write one word from the sentence on each slip. They then shuffle up all the words and leave them in the middle of their desk (face up is fine).
Have the groups rotate, so they move to another table. Give them 2 minutes to try and arrange the words into the correct order, making the sentence from the text. Award points if they get it right/nearly right, then get them to mix up the sentences again and move to the next table. They repeat the task with a different set of words.
I think students learn a lot from this task about word order, and often notice how flexible some clauses can be.
- Reading relay
If the textbook activities for a give reading passage involve scanning for information, you could make this a reading relay.
Students don’t look at the text in their books. Instead, photocopy it and display it outside the classroom. Put students in pairs, one writer and one runner. Give the pair a question from the text. The runner finds the text on the wall outside the classroom, scans for the answer and then reports back to the writer, who jots it down. Then students swap roles. You reveal the next question and they repeat the task.
You can easily make this a competition, and add different challenges to make it harder. I was recently using a text from ‘Interactive 2’ (Cambridge University Press), about two people who had travelled around the world. Rather than simply answer each question as I revealed it, the students first had to order each question correctly, adding a further challenge…
Similar to a reading relay, doing a running dictation activity with part of the text can also jazz things up a bit.
- Quick fire quiz
Young learners love this, especially if the text is a bit dry. Just read through the text beforehand and think of some simple questions – not detailed comprehension ones, just things like simple facts, what’s the missing word? Etc… Give students a mini whiteboard in groups (laminated paper with tissue as a rubber is a good substitute). Read the question, and the first team to write the answer on their board and show you get a point. Make sure students pass the boards around the group after each question so they all stay involved.
This sounds like such a simple thing, but as I’ve got in the habit of doing it, I find younger students focus more on the reading as they want to win points!
Getting students to make questions about the text for other groups is also a classic activity. I haven’t done that for a while actually…
- Summarising the text
Summarising helps students to establish the key information, message or purpose of a text. One of the best activities I’ve used for this is with newspaper articles. I get students to summarise an article in 50 or so words, then pass their summary to another pair who reduce the word count to 25. They then pass it on and the next pair cut the word count further. Eventually you often end up with a 5 or 6 word sentence that is pretty much the same as the headline of the story.
Anyway, if you’ve got a text from a student book, you could summarise it in other ways. How about getting the students to sum up the article in a tweet (140 characters)? Or, they could write a 50 word review of the text and give it a ‘star’ rating – that’s a good way to see how interested there were in it!
Ok, that’s this week’s tips. Try one of the ideas out, and if you like it you could share an idea in return… If 5 people do that, then next week’s post is done!