You Can Do It: 6 Easy Steps to Creating a Perfect Reading Unit with ANY Text
Every class is suited to different reading material.
As your students progress in their English language skills, the readings you give them should be more authentic, more difficult and have vocabulary that is more complex. Beginning students, on the other hand, need readings that are structurally simple and not weighed down with vocabulary complexity. With such variety in ESL materials, how does the teacher present reading material in a way that reaches all of her students? Simply follow these steps no matter what your material is, and your students will have a successful learning experience in your next reading class.
How to Create a Perfect Reading Unit with ANY Text: 6 Easy Steps
To make sure your students understand everything the text has to offer, get them thinking about the topic before you even open the reading text. The easiest way to do this is by giving small groups of students discussion questions that touch on the topic they will be reading about. The point is to get students thinking about what they already know about the topic, also known as activating theschemata. If this previous knowledge is brought to the forefront before the students read, they will be able to retain the new information in the text with greater ease since they will be connecting it with information they already possess.
Your students need to learn the skills that native speakers employ without even noticing: guessing the meaning of words from their context. If your students will encounter new vocabulary in the reading selection you are using in class, give them a chance to preview the vocabulary in their isolated sentences, taken directly from the text. Simply type out the sentence or two which includes each new vocabulary word, and give your students a chance to guess the meaning with a partner. There is no need to use bilingual dictionaries for this. Just ask your class about each of the sentences, and your students will probably articulate a meaning close enough to the actual definition for the words to make sense in context.
Now has come the time to read the text. For the most part, reading aloud holds little linguistic value since it is not a real life language skill, so have your students read the text at home. If you must cover the material in class, make the experience as communicative as possible. Have different students read different pieces of the text and then share those pieces with their classmates. This is known as a jigsaw. Then assign your students to read the entire text at home on their own time rather than during valuable class time.
You will need to check that your students have understood what they have read, and there are many ways to do this. You may decide to use written methods. Have your students write a summary of what they read or answer questions, even write out their own questions. You can also use a more artistic and interactive approach. Have students act out the story, retell it to you or in small discussion groups, or draw pictures that explain what they read. You can also have your students quiz one another or present what they read to the class. Remember, people learn more when they teach material than just read it, so get your students in front of the classroom whenever you can. For more ideas, check out Busy Teacher’s article They Already Read It but Did They Get It which gives several options for assessing reading comprehension.
Now that your students have read and understood your selected text, use that text as an example as you teach language skills. You should point out specific grammatical structures that the author uses. For beginning level students, you can point out things like verb tenses or prioritizing adjectives. Even the most simple of texts will have grammar skills you can stress. For more advanced readings along with their students, you may show your students how the author uses relative clauses, dependent clauses or literary elements. If you teach grammar to this same group of students, you will know the structures they are studying in that class. If another teacher has them for grammar, however, it may be good to have a quick word with that teacher so you have a clear understanding of what the students are learning. Even if you cannot coordinate reading class and grammar class, reviewing grammar is helpful for your students.
Extend the Activity
What next step can you and your students take when it comes to the subject matter they have read? Can they reenact what happened in the story? Can they give a value judgment on that about which they read? Can they connect with native speakers and see if they agree on a theme the reading presented? Close out your reading unit with some activity that applies the information in the reading to a broader situation. Discussion questions are an easy go to, but surveys, debates, and additional research are among the many ways to creatively extend the reading activity.
Now you have the tools to turn any reading text into a seamless lesson for your ESL students, so open up the textbook, the newspaper or a website and dive in!
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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