Planning reading tasks is crucial to ensure its success and avoid blank faces. Pre-teaching the vocabulary that our students will come across is necessary apart if your objective is to have them to elicit this vocabulary. There are many ways to pre-teach vocabulary. I usually write the new vocabulary on board with a definition drawing or synonyms, I also sometimes write words they need on the board and ask students in groups or in pairs to sort them out according to the meaning they believe they have or according to their role in a sentence- verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs etc. Once they have brainstormed in pairs we do a whole class feedback and see if we can find some kind of common agreement.

Planning reading tasks is crucial to ensure its success and avoid blank faces.

When it comes to understanding a passage questions are very useful. A good idea is to ask your students to read the questions before they start the reading, as it will guide their reading. I would generally have questions following the order of the text or a comprehension grid or easier questions at the beginning then more complex ones at the end to challenge the whole class. You need to put students out of their comfort zone as much as possible, that is why having a mere True/False activity following a text doesn’t ensure all of your students have understood the text. If you really want to use a True/ False activity after a reading make sure you ask your students to quote the text or justify their answers. You need to keep in mind that a comprehension task for intensive reading has to be challenging and understandable. You will notice that your students have understood a piece of text when they are able to reformulate main ideas of the text with their own words. If they can reproduce the key information of the text, then you know they got the main idea and that your reading task was successful.

35 Reading skills planning V

An alternative to questions is the summary. You may want to ask your students to write a summary about a short story, a novel or an article they read. This type of activity is more challenging as most of the time students don’t know where to start. An idea here that I use is to give them a grid with main points that you are expecting of them (for example when talking about a book: characters, relationships, plot, conflict, climax, resolution of the conflict etc.) This type of activity being a bit more tricky to handle with beginners I would suggest you use it with more advanced students who already possess the language to express themselves more fluently.

Another technique is what I call the teacher-drama reading. Instead of asking your students to read silently, be the one in charge and have them to follow you while you are reading. Insist on the punctuation. Exaggerate emotions felt by characters. Mime while you are reading. Pause. Vary your intonation. You need to imagine yourself as a storyteller; you could even bring some accessories for the setting, as it will help your learners visualize the story. Don’t forget to stop sometimes to make some comments about what you have just read and try to involve your audience.

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