Extensive reading in the language classroom. When and how?

You might wonder how and when you can integrate Extensive Reading sessions into your English syllabus. You already have to follow a curriculum, you probably have a course book to complete, and exams to get ready for. At the same time you are aware of the benefits of Extensive Reading and a reading-based syllabus, and you wish your students read more and had an experience of working with whole texts.

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One recurring sentence when we discuss Extensive Reading is ‘Great! But I don’t have enough time for it’.  The same complaint is very likely to be true in every aspect of our lives. We hardly have time to finish our course books, how can we concentrate on Extensive Reading? Our students struggle with the workload too – and let’s admit it – we dream about having time for our own reading, but we often need to content ourselves with keeping up-to-date with lesson plans and administrative tasks.

I am convinced that I am not alone feeling uninspired in having to follow course book units and work towards final tests. I am constantly looking for motivating and fun classroom practices that help with the overall objectives of the course but also give us the chance to read more.

Extensive reading tips for language classes

  • Start slow. Plan one 15-minute or 30-minute session a week at the beginning. Increase the time to a full lesson a week if possible. If you have classes with a higher number of lessons, you can dedicate at least one lesson to reading for pleasure a week.
  • Reward reading but do not grade it like tests.
  • Use reading timers to measure weekly reading.
  • Do pre-reading and follow-up sessions around a book. Check out the activities in our readers. Look at sample pages in our online Readers Catalogue.
  • Have goals. Working towards an objective is always inspiring, but make sure your students don’t feel under pressure. Let them make their own choices. Offer 5 titles, and tell them they can read between 1-4 books a month. If they choose and complete only one, they will feel successful. If they manage to finish two books, they will feel great about themselves.
  • Provide D.E.A.R. sessions (Drop Everything and Read) at regular intervals, but not so regular that you lose the element of surprise that so intrigues your students.
  • Talk about the benefits of reading to them, tell them how you have benefited from it, tell them that it is useful for vocabulary development, grammar practice, concentration, exam preparation. They might not come from families that read a lot, and they might need to hear about the benefits of reading from you. They might not even know how important and beneficial L2 reading is.

More classroom practices

1 Shared reading sessions

Shared reading works best with young learners, but secondary students can benefit from it, too. It gives your students a guided reading experience. It can help you model reading and reading comprehension, as reading aloud is already an interpretation. You can stop at harder words and  sentences to demonstrate how to guess meaning from the context. You can stop and reflect on the plot, or analyze the narrative: characters, setting, point of view, narrator, narrative techniques. For more information on literary terms, download the Literary Terms file from Teacher’s Resources on this Blog.

2 Helping with the comprehension of narratives

Let’s have a quick look at the Reading to Learn Program, run and supported by an international network of educators, from Australia to Sweden and Japan to South Africa. (www.readingtolearn.com.au)

The Program offers strategies to help you with ‘scaffolding support’:

  • The steps in the first level are: Preparing before Reading, Joint Construction and Independent Writing. (For more information, visit this website, click on Book 1 preview, and go to page 14.)

How to do it?

  • In Book 2 – Detailed lesson plans you will find information on Using lesson notes, Steps in planning lessons, Modelling comprehension, and an example lesson plan.
  • Enlarge the passage because yours students will have to highlight words in it and write notes around the text. You can highlight metaphors, time references, idioms, unfamiliar words, words of movements and sounds.

It’s never too late to start it. Try these practices, start reading even if you are in the middle of your course, or at the end of the semester! You are always READY to READ!

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