Reading in holiday courses – the fun factor

English courses run all year round. After the school term  intensive holiday courses have begun and we all know that they should be a little bit more fun, more relaxed, more entertaining than the standard school courses. As a teacher I appreciate presence and praise my students for attending these courses.

Some students look forward to the courses, others want to avoid them. I started teaching elementary level students and found myself in a hot, sunny classroom with sleepy students who wanted to be out in the sun, on the beach, in the park or in front of their computers. For this reason summer courses can be big challenges for teachers but I believe that with a couple of fun ideas we can lighten up these lazy mornings and afternoons. It always makes me happy to see smiling and busy students in a class but it is even more of a reward if I manage to motivate them to learn during the holidays.

I have always promoted independent and voluntary reading as both experience and research show that extensive reading leads to more regular and successful reading, as well as overall gains in all language skills. The major problem in the summer is backsliding as most students do not have well-established reading habits. As a summer course teacher, you can help them with this. The key is to provide enough reading materials, and as I have mentioned it before, these materials can be graded readers, magazine articles, poems, non-fiction books, or just sample chapters from books. The goal is to help them establish a good relationship with reading, provide access to books and a place to read. No one likes reading under pressure or on time. I like using the lesson as an introduction to a book or article to raise interest and activate background knowledge. However, reading for fun can be a solitary, slow process with interruptions and I encourage students to take the texts, readers or books home for as long as they like. I usually start asking about the text a week after I gave it to them.

Independent reading becomes even more significant in holiday season. Students (just like teachers) associate the summer with relaxation and ‘freedom’, and we do not want to be doing school-related things when we are on holiday. Here are some ideas, old and new, you can use to get into some relaxed reading habits.

1 Reading together: it may sound old-fashioned, but especially with students between 6-13, it can be fun. Parents do not always have the time to read to their children, but storytelling has a comforting, entertaining quality. First I usually discuss the book cover and look at the illustrations to activate text-related vocabulary, talk about the background and predict what will happen. Then I let students take my chair, which becomes the ‘storyteller’s chair’ and they can read out some pages.

2 Art projects
Film posters: Use any film poster you can find on the Internet as a template. Ask your class to create a film poster for the book they are reading. They can come up with ideas for actors and directors, and they can even create a new poster, or advertising campaign.

Travel brochure: If they are reading a book which has an interesting setting, ask them to create a travel brochure about the place and its attractions.

Book infographic: Ask your students to create an infographic about the story or text they are reading. If they have access to the Internet and any kind of social media, they will be familiar with infographics. You can ask them to focus on Who? What? Where? When? to describe the characters, the setting and summarize the storyline.

Make paper finger puppets to act out a passage or a dialogue. This can be fun with younger and older students too. They will have to pay attention to physical features and the mood of the characters when they draw and colour them. This is also a good way to start dialogues and role plays.

Illustrate a paragraph. Ask your class to illustrate a page in the book. They can either make a picture of the scene and the characters but any image that comes to their mind can be interesting to see. Ask them to find evidence in the text to support their images.

3 Discussions
15-minute discussions. When you have 10-15 minutes, ask your students about one aspect of a book they are reading. Do not discuss every bit of the book all at once. You can focus only on the setting, characters, themes, vocabulary or cultural connections. You can use our Role cards for Book Clubs to get some ideas.

Interviews: Ask students to pretend that they are the writer of the story or a character from the book. The students can prepare their questions in advance. They have to be faithful to their character’s personality when they answer the questions. If you decide to do the author interview, provide enough information about the author to the group beforehand.

Do you have a favourite holiday course activity?

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