Cultivating book reading in young learners

I recently had a teacher meeting at my school. However, before I begin with that, I really should say that I run a small language school situated on Lesvos island targeting young learners and some adults. Most of our classes are general English and we do have some EAP small group work or privates too. The most difficult part of having the school is CPD for myself and my staff. The distance between our island and mainland Athens is really translated into a cost which makes it difficult to travel often, without appending the cost of leaving the school and your family.

Getting back to the today’s teacher meeting, I can say that it was really interesting because the focus was on what and how we are going to tackle this school year. I started the meeting off today using Plickers. Plickers is a survey tool which uses the whiteboard to project the questions, some cards for each survey participant to lift up which shows their answer to the question and your mobile phone which scans the answer from a distance at the front of the class; a lot like Kahoot but without the use of having X number of tablets at hand. All I did was print the answer cards on stock-card and write up some questions which got my teachers thinking about the school year and our methodology of teaching our classes. It was actually quite interesting how it worked. For one thing, the teaching time needed to get them to understand the use of the cards was quite short and the result was ok. By Ok, I mean that there was some delay in completing the questions more than I originally predicted and the gameplay wasn’t the same as Kahoot’s. Kahoot has really lifted the quality of class surveys due to the way it uses sounds and animation in the whole survey process. Overall though, I could honestly say that if you need to do a quick class survey and you don’t have access to some tablets, start using Plickers, it’s free and it works really well.

So after the class survey warm-up, we talked about incorporating guided reading circles into our classes. My teachers and I believe that if we can get our learners to read books for pleasure we have accomplished in getting them to become autonomous learners of English. Many a time we have seen the amazing transformative results of extensive reading in ESL students but getting today’s young to read is not an easy task. It’s not easy because Generation X prefers to be on their mobile phones than to sit down and take in the pleasures of holding a book in their hand. What we agreed on is to incorporate guided reading of graded readers in this year’s classes. By guided reading, we said that depending on the level of the class i.e. Young learner A1-A2, we should get the teacher to read the book in front of the class at the start of each class and then slowly get the students interacting with what was read or seen in the pictures of the books. Why not to gradually get them to read for themselves in class. For older classes, we’ll use the same graded readers for all students and we’ll be getting them to read either aloud or for themselves in class and eventually allocate reading of the book and discussion in class for homework.

Our goal is to eventually get them to read books and to discuss it in class or even carry out presentations about them to their peers. I’ve had thoughts with other teachers around the world about getting our students to present or discuss their reading with other students elsewhere via Skype as a book reading club which we want to look at in the future. This isn’t the first time we are toying with reading books. Last year we took time out with our students to take our students as a group to the library section of our school to mingle and to choose books which created a process of choosing books, going to the secretary and taking out the books on loan. We gave them a two-week loaning period and then got them to talk about the books which were read. At the start of this procedure for most of our team did quite well, and we did get some students to start reading books. Yet, most of the children stopped reading after a while and most teachers (including myself) did not insist on carrying out this process for the whole year and it eventually died out. However, for one teacher who insisted on doing the library procedure as a class, standing them up taking them to the library for most of the school year, actually got the learners to continually discuss and write short passages about the books they read. The students truly read the books and were willing to talk about them. Reflecting on this with the teacher, we concluded that the overall motivation of the teacher to get them to read and then the cultivated competitiveness of getting the students to present their reading to their peers is what motivated the children to continue to read books. In comparison to our other teachers whose motivation dropped adding the student motivation levels which were not cultivated in the class led to the class to stop the process of loaning and reading book readers.

This is what is motivating us all for this year. The fact that if we as teachers first believe in insisting on students reading books, eventually they will follow step. New school year, new start and hopefully this will be the year we train our students to love reading books.

 

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TRUTH OR DARE (EltCation)

I’m a sucker for new activities, especially for activities which are engaging for students but do have learner outcomes. Truth or Dare is another one of those activities I would like to try in my new classes for this school year. Truth or Dare was a game we played at teenage parties, so I do have fond memories of this activity. I like to repost articles which interest me because there are many I read but few that I end up trying. Experience has shown that If I repost the activity I do end up trying it in class and eventually reflecting upon it.

ELT-CATION

Truth, dare, double dare, love, kiss, promise…You may have played and enjoyed this game as a teen. I sure did.

I stumbled upon this version of Truth or Dare shared by from Yulia in her Discover English Teaching  group the other day, and I loved the idea of using it in the classroom.

I am sure this fun game will work really well with teens.

Yulia kindly agreed to share it here.

How to Play

🗣 The players are grouped together sitting or standing in a circle.

🗣 One player (or the teacher) at a time has a turn to ask another player the question ‘Truth or Dare?’

🗣 The player should choose between Truth or Dare. Choosing neither or both options is not allowed.

🗣 If they choose Truth, they will have to answer any question relating to their life, hobbies, habits, past or any other question. The player must answer the question honestly…

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Journal Topics for Writing Class

Just what I was looking for, journal topics for writing in my ESL classes. I will try to implement getting students to write in their journal in class.

WordTraveler

As a writing teacher, I love having my students write in a journal for the first 5 minutes of class. It establishes a routine of how we will begin class each time and also gets them in the habit of writing. I find that the only time most students write is for formal assignments. Journal writing can help them experience writing their feelings and thoughts on papers, knowing there is no right or wrong answer and knowing that their grammar won’t be corrected. I have my students buy a composition notebook and only use it for journaling. I collect it every Wednesday (for a Monday, Wednesday, Friday class) and give 2 points for every journal entry completed. They can not make up journals once I have collected them for the week. (This saves me from grading 30 journal entries for each student at the end of the semester!) This is…

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3-2-1 Bridge: A creative warm-up and follow-up routine

This activity was reposted on FB by Onthesamepage.elt . I believe Chrysa Papalazarou has explained this warm-up and follow-up routine in detail and believe this will motivate my students to creatively and critically think about the topic at hand in our lesson. What attracted me to this activity was stage 3 where they repeated the 3-2-1 activity again after further investigating the topic at hand with a reading activity. I really believe this will be an interesting activity to try with my class. Have to let you know how it went!

Art Least

In this post I will talk about the 3-2-1 Bridge thinking routine. The word Bridge is used to indicate the routine has two related stages. I have found it an interesting and effective activity in prompting students’ creative thinking. This applies to a) activating their prior knowledge on a topic, b) fostering their readiness in generating ideas c) extending their thinking to new directions and d) facilitating reflection on this shift in their thinking. The routine works well as warm-up at the beginning and as a follow-up at the end of a topic.

Step 1
At the beginning of the topic ask students to generate
3 words
2 questions
1 simile

that quickly come to mind when they think of this topic. Students can work individually, in pairs or in groups. Explain that similes are connections we make, comparing one thing to another because they are alike in some way…

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16 ways to improve your whiteboard work

Great ideas for use of the whiteboard. Even though, I definitely need to improve my board work, I mostly use an interactive whiteboard. Idea! I will try to adapt this article to an interactive whiteboard multi-page template.

ELT planning

I had my first lesson observation at the British Council Bangkok the other day. I still have a job, woohoo!

I got some very surprising feedback from my line manager: ‘your board work was a real strength’. Boardwork? Strength?! I did NOT expect that! However, I do think my whiteboard work has improved a bit over the last year for a few reasons.

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