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Encouraging students to read extensively

If, as we said at the beginning of this chapter, we want students to read extensively, using simplified readers at pre-advanced levels, then we need to have systems in place to help them do this. There are four factors which contribute to the success of this kind of extensive reading:


Students need to have access to a collection of readers, both at their own level and above and below it. Sometimes the library will be in a fixed place in a school, but we can also carry collections of books around to different classes. The library should have a range of different genres (factual, novels, adaptations of films, etc).


A major aspect of joyful reading (see page 99) is that students should be able to choose what they read - both in terms of genre but also, crucially, level. They are much more likely to read with enthusiasm if they have made the decision about what they read.


Students should have an opportunity to give feedback on what they have read, either verbally or in written form. This does not mean formal reports, however, since that might take the pleasure away from reading. Instead, there might be a quick comment form on the inside cover of a book, or a folder with different forms for different titles. Students can then record their reactions to a book they have read. Other students looking for a new book to read can use those comments to help them make their choice.


We need to give students time for reading in addition to those occasions when they read on their own. It is a good idea to leave a ten-minute reading period at various times during a course just to get students comfortable with the activity. It is vitally important that when we do this, we should be reading ourselves in order to underline the attractiveness of the activity.

Not all students become active readers. While some are highly motivated and consume books avidly, others don't have the same appetite. We can't force students to read, of course, but we should do everything we can to encourage them to do so.



22.Different kinds of listening

A distinction can be drawn between intensive and extensive listening. As with reading, the latter refers to listening which the students often do away from the classroom, for pleasure or some other reason. The audio material they consume in this way - often on CDs in their cars, on MP3 players, DVDs, videos or on the Internet - should consist of texts that they can enjoy listening to because they more or less understand them without the intervention of a teacher or course materials to help them. It is true that there is not at present a body of material developed for extensive listening as there is for extensive reading, but this looks set to change in the foreseeable future. Already, many simplified readers (see page 100) come with accompanying CDs on which the books are read or dramatised. Students can also use tapes and CDs to listen to their coursebook dialogues again after they have studied them in class. There is a growing number of podcast sites from where students can download free materials. And another way of getting students involved in a form of extensive listening is to encourage them to go to English language films with subtitles; as they hear the English dialogue, the subtitles help them understand; as they understand, they will, to some extent, absorb the language they hear.

Intensive listening is different from extensive listening in that students listen specifically in order to work on listening skills, and in order to study the way in which English is spoken. It usually takes place in classrooms or language laboratories, and typically occurs when teachers are present to guide students through any listening difficulties, and point them to areas of interest.



26. Explain the 3 parts of a reading lesson: pre-reading, reading, post-reading. What is the theory behind each part and how do they together help students comprehend more?



3) Building the writing habit Many students either think or say that they cannot, or do not want to write. We need to engage them, from early levels, with activities which are easy and enjoyable to take part in, so that writing activities not only become a normal part of classroom life but also present opportunities for students to achieve almost instant success. It is when students have acquired this writing habit that they are able to look at written genres and involve themselves in the writing process with enthusiasm.




27. You are teaching a class with 30 students that meets once a week. The
students in the class are all at different levels. How do you keep all the students interested and learning?


What if students are all at different levels?

One of the biggest problems teachers face is classes where the students are at different levels - some with quite competent English, some whose English isn't very good, and some whose English is only just getting started. Even if things are not quite so extreme, teachers of English - along with teachers of other curriculum subjects - regularly face mixed-ability groups where different individuals are at different levels and have different abilities. What then are the possible ways of dealing with the situation?

Use different materials/technology

When teachers know who the good and less good students are, they can form different groups. While one group is working on a piece oflanguage study (e.g. the past continuous)the other group might be reading a story or doing Internet-based research. Later, while the better group or groups are discussing a topic, the weaker group or groups might be doing a parallel writing exercise, or sitting round a CD player listening to an audio track. This is an example of differentiation - in other words, treating some students differently from others.

In schools where there are self-study facilities (a study centre or separate rooms), the teacher can send one group of students off to work there in order to concentrate on another. Provided the self-study task is purposeful, the students who go out of the classroom will not feel cheated.

If the self-study area is big enough, of course, it is an ideal place for different-level learning. While one group is working on a grammar activity in one corner, two other students can be watching a DVD; another group again can be consulting an encyclopedia while a different set of students is working at a computer screen.

Do different tasks with the same material/technology

Where teachers use the same material with the whole class, differentiation can still take place. We can encourage students to do different tasks depending on their abilities. A reading text can have sets of questions at three different levels, for example. The teacher tells the students to see how far they can get: the better ones will quickly finish the first two sets and have to work hard on the third. The weakest students may not get past the first set.

In a language study exercise, the teacher can ask for simple repetition from some students, but ask others to use the new language in more complex sentences. If the teacher is getting students to give answers or opinions, she can make it clear that one word will do for some students whereas longer and more complex contributions are expected from others. In role-plays and other speaking or group activities, she can ensure that students have roles or functions which are appropriate to their level.

Ignore the problem

It is perfectly feasible to hold the belief that, within a heterogeneous group, students will find their own level. In speaking and writing activities, for example, the better students will probably be more daring; in reading and listening, they will understand more completely and more quickly. However, the danger of this position is that students may either bebored by the slowness of their colleagues or frustrated by their inability to keep up.

Use the students

Some teachers adopt a strategy of peer help and teaching so that better students can help weaker ones. They can work with them in pairs or groups, explaining things or providing good models of language performance in speaking and writing. Thus, when teachers put students in groups, they can ensure that weak and strong students are put together. However, this has to be done with great sensitivity so that students don't feel alienated by their over-knowledgeable peers or oppressed by their obligatory teaching role.

Many teachers, faced with students at different levels, adopt a mixture of solutions such as the ones we have suggested here. However, it is vitally important that this is done in a supportive and non-judgmental manner. Students should not be made to feel in any way inferior, but rather should have the benefits of different treatment explained to them. Furthermore, we should be sensitive to their wishes so that if they do not want to be treated differently, we should work either to persuade them of its benefits or, perhaps, accede to their wishes.

What if the class is very big?

In big classes, it is difficult for the teacher to make contact with the students at the back and it is difficult for the students to ask for and receive individual attention. It may seem impossible to organise dynamic and creative teaching and learning sessions. Frequently, big classes mean that it is not easy to have students walking around or changing pairs, etc. Most importantly, big classes can be quite intimidating for inexperienced teachers.

Despite the problems of big classes, there are things which teachers can do.

Use worksheets

One solution is for teachers to hand out worksheets for many of the tasks whichthey would normally do with the whole class, if the class was smaller. When the feedback stageis reached, teachers can go through the worksheets with the whole group - and all students will get the benefit.

Date: 2015-12-17; view: 1324

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