I’ve recently got back into EFLChat as my timetable makes it easier for me to attend these days and I’m also more online doing other things. It’s a great way to pick up a few ideas for teaching certain areas in class and also finding an audience to challenge your opinions.
Last Wednesday 20th July to start with it seemed there were just a few takers for the topic which had won the week’s vote – Extensive Reading and how you promote it among your students.
Soon enough though the typical rapid fire and sometimes confusedly manic tweeting that typifies ELT Chat was underway. And in the end our marvellous moderator Marisa_C counted out 650 tweets in the hour we lasted – which means this summary is going to be a bit bitty as I try and include as much as possible as succinctly as possible.
The main topics to arise were:
What counts as extensive reading?
Reading for pleasure, reading longer texts, reading outside class were all suggested as definitions. There was a debate about whether the student had to choose the text themselves rather than set texts being used for it to be extensive reading, but this isn’t the case. And some (@theteacherjames: @sueleather) mentioned positive experiences they’ve had with set texts.
There was also the question of the level of the text – some (such as @DanielaArghir: @rliberni: @hartle) were getting all @sdkrashen and expecting materials a little above the level of the students to provide challenge, whereas @theteacherjames corrected them saying the level should be a little below their level so they are fully motivated and can read without the need to stop and think. My understanding of the literature tallies with this – that students consolidate lots of already met language through encountering it in their reading – the aim is not to acquire new language but to consolidate their interlanguage and turn receptive knowledge into productive knowledge. The wrong choice of level could also be a factor in students getting demotivated easily – the level is simply too difficult for them, even though there’s only 5% new language – so keep it simple students!
How to inspire busy people to read extensively in a foreign language in their own precious time?
@Fuertesun suggested the internet made this easier to which @mcneilmahon replied it made ER more achievable as well (since it’s much easier for students to find things they are interested in to read about in English and also find different ways of reacting to the texts and interacting with other readers around them.
The consensus was that enthusiastic teachers who enjoyed reading themselves and could suggest suitable titles to individual students were the most likely to succeed.
Students choosing the material themselves was also a popular motivator, but we still need to get them to want to choose in the first place.
@mcneilmahon suggested taking away any pressure involved and making it completely voluntary, look on it as a bonus some students do, rather than a necessity for all. Of course this does lead to virtuous circles among ‘good students’ and vicious circles among ‘bad’ ones, but I didn’t point that out to him at the time.
@Notyetlanguage reckons it helps if we explain to our students that their progress is much faster if they read extensively – perhaps someone would like to put together an intensive reading lesson where students read about the benefits of extensive reading in class and then ‘just do it’.
Can we change culturally or parentally or generationally ingrained (lack of) reading habits?
@ICTmagic suggested looking for pleasure in reading, which resonates with the above discussion.
@profesortbaker pointed out parent readers help a lot to inspire kids and we agreed teachers can do the same, he went on to quote the example of Nobel prize winner Gabriela Mistral in Chile, who used to write stories and poems for her students, promoting reading throughout her classes.
@lu_bodeman feels she’s up against students who simply don’t have the time or energy to read in English – too many other things they are asked to do for school (I know how she feels).
@luc_germain suggests the taste for reading must be initiated very young (3 – 4 years old) and from thereonin continued which means that teachers must love reading – it also puts a huge responsibility on our VYL teacher colleagues.
@mkofab thinks there are readers and non-readers, also among adults. Books at home and stimuli in class do not always help. Brick wall comes to mind.
A few suggested using film versions of books as a reward once the students have read the book. While it can lead to useful debates about the comparative forms of art and which portrays a story better, surely it’s portraying books in a bad light if the film is the reward?
@mcneilmahon suggested giving extra attention to the reading learners in the class and showing your enthusiasm for their reading achievements – other students may pick up on this special attention and see extensive reading as a way of getting some for themselves.
Specific, practical ideas?
Some great ideas came out of the ELTChat, but others were leading us back into the dark, classroom defined depths of intensive reading, so I’ve left them out of this summary. All of the below are great ideas for inspiring the students to read extensively or introducing it in the first place or following up on what they’ve done:
@PrettyButWise In class quiet reading time (teacher reads too)with post-read discussion / sharing / divide the class into groups depending on their interests /
@luc_germain Organised and attractive libraries / Students create their own book covers
@Marisa_C A book box from which students choose what to read / Students write a class serial and read each others’ work / Skype authors / Students read fave part of book to rest of class
@hartle Use Google Reader & choose three texts or blogs to follow and then present ideas to class / Teacher recommendations / exploit book covers /
@mcneilmahon Use Web 2.0 tools such as blogs and forums about books to make it easier to make ER more interactive for the students / Use critical thinking questions to encourage students to respond to books and share them meaningfully (but keep them general and so extensive J ) / Have a class contract – students agree to read X number of books during term
@rliberni Graphic novels such as Frankenstein / Short stories / Book lists / Using short excerpts as TEASERS / 100 nights of reading
@vickyloras: set a (an even tiny) goal so SS feel they’ve achieved something / Word clouds and paragraph clouds are great teasers
@CeciELT make films out of books & then have a competition with an Oscar night
@DanielaArghir Students create a book trailer video
@sueleather Students present a Pecha Kucha on a book they’ve read / read first chapter then guess the rest before choosing which to read
@theteacherjames Students predict content from covers before reading
@Marian Steiner Write a diary entry from POV of a character
@esra_simsek Press conference with the characters other students are journalists / Hold court over characters’ behaviour
article by Alan Maley on why ER is good for our students- and for us. http://bit.ly/qw8IAP
@Oksan_ocakturk: The Characteristics of an Extensive Reading Approach http://bit.ly/pZaanq
@cybraryman1 gave a link to his classroom library site suggestions http://tinyurl.com/6e6q8bd #eltchat
@Marisa_C Basic issues from the BBC http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/articles/extensive-reading
@IreneAlcamo: Resources 4 ER #ESL Reading: http://www.eslreading.org/ #eltchat
@hartle OUP video on explaining benefits of ER to SS http://bit.ly/datT6H
@vickyloras Ext reading ideas for low income families: http://t.co/L55r8YU via@readingrockets
@sueleather inspiring ways to get students reading http://jezuden.edublogs.org/
And @hartle let us know that Dr Richard Day is the man to check out for further extensive reading on, well…extensive reading.
But to finish this rather long-winded and wieldy #eltchat ‘summary’ I leave you with a lovely tweet from @theteacherjames which just goes to show that all the effort and enthusiasm we need to invest in getting our students to read extensively is most definitely worth it:
Best moment in teaching thanks to ER: student says “Thanks James, I’ve never finished a book in English before”, his face beaming.