by Donna Hutchinson
London based TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara
Reading skills. A tricky one. Reading for gist; skim reading; scan reading; reading for detail. Trying to get students to read how you want them to can be fruitless task. On the CELTA we’re told to set students a time limit in order to encourage them to read in whichever way you desired but I have found that students will read however they please. There are those who stop at every unknown word, scrutinising every little thing; those who don’t really take anything in; those who read aloud… You know how it is.
Recently I have started a new tactic. Inspired by other teachers, I have created my own approach which still gives students some level of independence. My idea isn’t revolutionary and I doubt that I am the first to come up with it but I want to share it.
You will need:
• An IWB
• Negotiation skills.
When confronted with an extended reading text, ask the students how much time they think they need to read the text. They will usually ask for quite a long period of time but this is when the negotiation skills come in. Recently my upper intermediate class requested 10 minutes after I had suggested 5 minutes. I tried my best to convince them that they only needed 5 minutes but they were having none of it so we finally came to agree on 7 minutes.
Use your smartboard
The Smartboard software includes a stopwatch but I usually go for an online version which I display on the screen. I set the time and off they go. In this particular class, after about 5 minutes, I had deduced that they were all finished reading and urged them to start the true/false task which they did very diligently, and then as we started the feedback, the alarm from the stopwatch rung loudly, giving all of us a little start. I was then quick to point out that within the designated seven minutes they had managed to read the text, do the first task, compare the answers with their partner and start feedback. This meant that next time, they were not going to be allowed the luxury of seven minutes. They’re far too advanced for that!
Idea catching on!
I mentioned this in the staff room and it seems that the stopwatch idea has spread and other teachers are using it for different tasks. I think it works in a way that lets students address the task in the way they want to within that time but they are aware that it must be done and they are all in it together. It works for me because it can highlight to the students that perhaps their reading skills are stronger than they had expected. Also, it can depend on the time of day, if it’s early in the morning or straight after lunch, perhaps students do need a bit of extra time to read. It allows human understanding without losing that teacher control.
Use at will.
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