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Reading! It doesn't have to be pulling teeth... 
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
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Location: Nagano, Japan
Post Reading! It doesn't have to be pulling teeth...
Here are some ways I spice up reading practice.

You can read and read a word wrong. Then see who is the first student to hear/find the mistake. Once played several times, you can ask students to play the part of the teacher in small groups as a game.

Read as fast as you can to the class and stop abruptly. Have the students tell you the next word. (This is more of a listening and reading exercise for the students not really speaking.)

Have a reading race. Students read the exerpt 2 times and you the teacher read the same thing 5 times. I have everyone stand up and then sit down when finished. It's easier to see the winners. (The game finishes when the teacher finishes. This eliminates the problem of slow readers and their anxiety and pride.) The teacher can also read the exerpt backwards instead of more times. That's my prefered method as it's more interesting for me.

Award winners appropriately: stickers, points, a song from the losers...

What do you do to make reading fun?

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Mon Jan 16, 2006 8:03 pm
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I didn't quite understand.., I assume you're talking about "silent reading", not students reading aloud. :? Or, teacher's reading combined with some sort of listening task.


Sat Feb 18, 2006 6:18 pm
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I should have been clearer. I am talking about reading out loud. It's a rather unfortunate thing but reading out loud in chorus over and over again is a common thing in Japan. These ideas apply to that sort of activity.

The readings in Japan are not for fun and don't really promote healthy reading habbits. The readings are usually very difficult, riddled with new grammar pints and extensive new vocabulary. Each one is a mountain for the students to climb and Japanese teachers working in public schools have them read these over and over and sometimes force them to memorize and recite them by heart.

Most of the students have little overall understanding of the passages and they often loath reading for this reason.

Native English teachers are often asked to participate or lead this and students are graded by how well they can "read" the text out loud.

I have a couple of chapters in my head about this topic but I might stop here. So, in short this isn't really something I promote but if you have to do it, make it fun and hope the students don't come to loath reading in English.

I think I'll try to make another post on what I do believe is healthy reading and what makes for possitive readers but I'm not sure that it's new information to anyone.

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Sat Feb 18, 2006 10:18 pm
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Yes, I realise this is a gigantic email. :shock:

That's all very interesting and that explains a lot of things... I've heard some things about education in Japan but that's a really fresh piece of news!
I have a couple of chapters in my head about this topic but I might stop here.
I wouldn't mind at all as your "chapters" are very interesting. Reading out loud and reciting (parrot learning, as we call it) used to be a part of the greek educational system as well but as far as I'm concerned, it stopped a long time ago. I don't know whether there are teachers insisting on "parrot learning" (in fact, I'm sure there are...) but most young teachers are quite liberated from all those unacceptable ideas.
I remember Sally Olsen's message in an ESL cafe forum asking about the use of reading out loud in the classroom. This started an interesting thread(or caused it to continue) and that was the 1st time I asked myself, Why am I asking students to "read" the lesson?
I wrote an extensive answer to your question yesterday but as I wasn't sure whether it was silent reading or not, I deleted it; I thought, He cannot mean "reading out loud", that's seen as an ancient relic...
OK, now I'll try to reconstruct my answer :smt017 .
I don't ask individual students to read out loud. This is very common in their greek language lessons and there's nothing really wrong with it as the teacher cannot check whether all 30 students can actually read. Of course, as you said, it doesn't have to be pulling teeth. The difference is that over here children do not read in chorus and reading passages are usually simple and clear. They are given as homework so that the students will study the new words and structures they learnt at school. There are always exercises based on these reading passages, comprehension questions, vocab + grammar. I guess I'm telling you familiar things so I'd better stop here...
I don't ask (or better, demand) students to read because I teach classes of 30 with an unbelievable variety of learning difficulties, most of which concentrate on spelling and reading (writing is out of the question...) I prefer to read the text or dialogue myself and explain things they don't understand (there's a flood of questions usually at higher levels). And yes, I use L1. I try to be as dramatic (or hypnotising) as possible and I think children like my reading :oops: .
I recently started recording the coursebook texts (not the dialogues) on audio tapes because I've seen that listening makes stop murmuring and mumbling. There are always children who wish to listen and they shout at the lazy ones to "shut up". I play the "normal" text and then a version with mistakes. So far it has worked fine, especially the correction part. What's really interesting is that even some weak students find the mistakes while listening to the tape; whereas if I read the text, they do not concentrate.
They love reading and they scream when I ask: would anybody like to read? The problem is that they don't have the chance to practice reading and speaking as much as they would have to and they make gross mistakes. I cannot imagine them reading in chorus! :mrgreen: There's also the problem of self-consciousness with older students. Anyway, I figured out a kind of answer to that problem. I either ask them to read with me while the others are doing sth else (a quiet activity preferably...) or tell them to stay after school to have a mini lesson at the staff room. I was amazed to see one of my A 6th-grade students not being able to read properly and was shocked to hear her saying she hadn't understood the text at all! (that was the St Valentine text I mentioned in a previous message) And that was after 2 lessons of reading, analysing and explaining the text. I then decided to practice reading and speaking with individual students, at least with the ones whose learning difficulties allow some sort of improvement from my part.
I think it should be above all listening, listening and again listening and then speaking, speaking and again speaking. And when it comes to reading, it should have some purpose. Are we reading words to see how they're pronounced? Are we reading what is written on the board to summarise the new vocab? Are we reading a dialogue because reading dialogues is fun? Are we reading our poems or our projects? Also, who is reading? our beginners classes? the hopeless 6th-graders?
I don't know much about reading because until recently I was extremely traditional in my teaching and couldn't really see how stressful it could be for a child to read out loud in front of all his/her classmates and be ridiculed afterwards for reading all words wrong. That's one rule we have in class now. Make as many mistakes as you wish. I'm here to correct them.
I was thinking of putting a desk in front of the board so that all children can see it and call it a reading desk. Children who wish to read will have to sit at that desk and... go on with it. In large classes there are students who read perfectly and yet they cannot be heard and get some satisfaction from reading because there's always someone talking... So I may tell the crowd "Be prepared to read these sentences tomorrow" and when tomorrow comes, I'll ask the usual: who would like to read? but this time at the reading desk.
When I have the time and after we have finished analysing a text, I write each sentence of a text on a separate slip of paper. I distribute them and they reconstruct the whole thing. Then they can all actually read their sentence before putting it on the board. You can do that with a new text as well provided it doesn't have 500 unknown words.
Also I write sentences on the board and ask them to read them. These sentences usually include difficult or new words or a complex structure or a spelling difficulty. They like that and almost everyone participates. Let's not forget the ones with eyesight problems... In this kind of reading activity you can play a lot of tricks; make mistakes (grammar, vocab, spelling, even write a letter in a wrong way), change the order, etc.

I never ask students to read lengthy passages. I keep it short. So it sounds like this kind of race with 4 runners in each team (sorry, I'm too lazy to look it up in the dictionary..) and I try to take part in that race too. I think they like it because they're sort of alert as they're waiting to see who is next.
I also do sth which sounds naive to other teachers but children enjoy it and it's a good chance to see who did their h/w. I ask them to read their homework exercises (after they've done them, of course...). As exercises for grades 3,4,5 include structures which are repeated over and over, most students are quite successful in their reading. I ask the top ones to start and by the time they finish, the weaker ones have grasped the basic things. With a little help from the teacher, everything goes fine. And in fact, they are quite happy to read their worksheets before handing them over. It's also a good opportunity to correct mistakes on the spot...

I think I haven't answered your question about making reading fun because none of the above sounds fun. It's just my first steps towards changing "OK, open your books on p. 35 and Nick, read the first paragraph". I was even thinking of introducing "reading days" especially to 3rd graders (beginners, that is) but then again I have to do some serious reading and thinking myself about what I want to achieve. One thing I have seen though is that when children are not forced to do sth like that, they happily participate in reading activities and the like, even if they face great difficulties. It's all about making reading look like a game.


Sun Feb 19, 2006 7:10 am
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As for reading out loud, I think it does have its merrits and it's not all bad. I think it helps students with pronounciation and gives them a chance to model correct form. In Japan, reading and understand, but not being able to actually say the words is a big problem with older generations. So, the pendulum has really swung the other way and now kids can say the words but can't understand :roll:

I also tell students if they are going to read (on their own) they should try to read aloud. It's good practice for just getting the words out. I did that with Japanese and it was really helpful for me to read the same thing over and over again out loud and just get used to making the sounds.

So, I believe reading out loud does have its place BUT I think its use really needs to be limited.

I don't generally have students read one by one for the reasons Liana said. It's too much of a spotlight and isn't really helping the class as a whole and strikes panic in the class just before I pick the next person. I have them read all together and that gives some the noise level necessary to help them speak up without standing out. I generally model and have the students read each sentence 2 times and then go back and read everything once. 3 times total.

To make reading for content and understanding fun, I sometimes make worksheets with various questions or some times a summary of the reading. I then make a word search that has all the answers in the puzzle. My students enjoy doing the word seach so answering the questions to find the words hidden in the puzzle becomes more of a game. If it's a summary of the reading, I just leave blanks to represent the words in the puzzle.

The same can be done with crosswords and hidden messages but those worksheets don't go over as well and are much more time consuming to make.

My favorite new favorite game/activity is to have one student read a short article or paragraph and then summarize the main points and relay the information to their partner. Their partner can ask questions and discuss the topic but is not allowed to see the text. The partner then is questioned by another group (questions are prepared by me) and s/he gets points for correct answers.

I've heard of people making short reading that end up being like scavenger hunts or hints to the next clue, but I've never done that. It seems like a lot of fun, but it also seems like a lot of work.

At my private English school, with young children, I generally use passages or make readings that I know they will be able to understand overall. I always tell them they don't need to translate every sentence and they don't need to understand everything. As long as they understand the meaning and can get the nec. information to complete the task, they have done GREAT!

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Mon Feb 20, 2006 12:43 pm
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