Power in the Pen: How to Use Reading Selections in Speaking Class
Though many ESL curriculums make distinctions between areas of language instruction, speaking, reading, writing, listening, grammar, they are really all different facets of one gem.
Therefore, the ESL teacher has both the privilege and the frustration of using the same materials across the curriculum, no matter what class or classes she teaches. For most students blurring curriculum lines like using reading material, for example, in the speaking class creates a positive learning experience. Here are some ways you can trade reading material for the speaking classroom in your holistic ESL instruction.
How to Use Reading Selections in Speaking Class
Some of the most interesting literature is that which is heavy on dialogue, and dialogue is a key facet of fiction. If you have read or will be reading a fictional piece heavy on dialogue, use it in speaking class, too, as a play of sorts. You can read the narrative pieces yourself but allow your students to read the dialogue as if it were text from a play. They will have the benefit of hearing the content again as well as getting in practice with diction and sentence fluency.
What Happened to the Theater?
Another theatrical use for reading material is creating a classroom theater. Give your students a chance to practice reading a selection aloud. You can either do this as a class or in pairs or small discussion groups. Then have your students take turns reading parts of the selection aloud in front of the class while other students act out the story as if in a theatrical presentation. While some of your students get practice with their fluency and pronunciation, others will be entertained by the creative antics of their classmates. A bonus – you can check the comprehension of the students who are acting the piece out.
Listening to yourself read can be an insightful experience, especially when English is not your native language. Have individual students read a story aloud and record them reading. Then play it back for them, giving students a chance to hear their pronunciation and fluency. This will make them more aware of how they sound when they read and motivate them to improve their fluency. If you like, set up a tape recorder in a corner of the room as an independent learning station that your students can use when they have free time or during free study periods.
Kids love to see their own creativity come to life, and you can use this to your advantage in speaking class. Give your class a chance to create illustrated versions of their favorite stories. These could be picture books you have used in class, their original stories or any of the material you have covered. Then have story time and allow kids to read their books to the rest of the class. Make sure you give up the teacher’s chair to the student who is reading. During this time, you may want to do assessments of your students’ pronunciation and general speaking abilities, too.
Talk about it
After reading material that includes interesting characters, bring them into your classroom with character role plays. Choose two or more characters from a piece or multiple pieces your class has read, and simulate circumstances under which they might meet. It could be in line at a store, playing together at the park, taking a class together…any situation can work. Then have your students play the part of each of the characters in the role play. As they interact, encourage students to use the words or expressions each individual character used in the original piece. This will also help to cement that character specific vocabulary in their minds.
Because speakers of different native languages tend to have different pronunciation problems, pairing students with different native languages can help them help each other with pronunciation. By having pairs of students police each other’s pronunciation, they can help each other improve overall speaking skills since each will hear problems that the other does not. Once you have established these pronunciation pairs, give students a chance to read aloud to one another while students offer suggestions or corrections on pronunciation.
Tell it again, Sam
For general speaking practice as well as a reading comprehension check, have pairs of students relate a summary of a reading text to one another. Allow them to use the text as reference, but make it clear that they cannot read from it. This will challenge your students’ to increase their elicit vocabulary banks and give them practice with expository speaking.
Change it up
Take the story retelling a step further and challenge your students to use their imagination as they do. Instead of sharing the actual ending of a piece of literature, have pairs of students tell each other alternative endings for a given reading selection. Challenge your students to make a sad ending into a happy one or vice versa. You can let your class get as creative as they can. Likely, you will hear laughter around the classroom, but you will also see your students using the language they have read in a conversation with their classmates.
Being able to use material from one class in the curriculum in another is really a valuable asset ESL teachers have.
Your students will get further experience with the material they use in class, and you will have a way to improve multiple skills at one time. Cross-curricular activities also give you a good opportunity for assessment. So don’t be shy about bringing the material from one class into another. It may make your teaching planning easier and will cement the knowledge in the minds and the mouths of your students!
How do you employ materials across the curriculum?
Susan likes to enjoy every day to its fullest whether she is freelance writing, teaching homeschoolers, or developing her special talent of instigation. When she is not imagining sand castles or catching others off balance, she cooks, sings, reads and takes walks in the sunshine. She earned an M.A. from the University of Delaware in Linguistics and an M.A. from Trinity School for Ministry in Youth Ministry. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and her three cheepy cockatiels.
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