Archive for July, 2011

With thanks to Peter Watkins from Portsmouth University who lead this RALSA session and allowed me to post his ideas on here.

Following a recent professional development session lead by Portsmouth University’s Peter Watkins, I came across some great ideas to help with reading lessons. The key idea I took away from it was dont’ test reading, TEACH reading. This idea stuck with me and I used it in my next reading and the students were given a more native approach to reading a text.

Here are some ideas that we discussed in the sesson:

How to deal with vocaulary

Is pre-teaching vocabulary the only solution? Is it always the right solution? Depending on the level, some teachers prefer learners to teach themselves the vocab via context and identifying word type and general meaning. Others provide a glossary as this speeds up the reading and learning process. Studies have shown that the slower you read, the less you understand and bottom up learning isn’t very effective.

In come cultures, if you don’t know the meaning of every single word, they believe that you don’t understand the text. In European English teaching situations, this isn’t the case, but we are still faced with students with heads in dictionaries trying to learn the meaning of every word.

One idea we talked about was allowing the students to ask you the meaning of the words they don’t know. However the whole class can only ask you 8 words (or choose and appropriate number). This encourages negotiation, forces them to choose only the key words and allows peer teaching as they tell each other the words so they don’t waste a question.

At the end of the lesson,s get the students to write down 6 words they want to remember. In two days time, get them to tell their partner the words. See if they can still remember. Then get them to tell each other about how they remember them – the stronger students can teach the weaker students a lot.

Make it personal:    

Are a group of Greek teenagers really interested in thatched cottages in Devon? Probably not.

One solution to this would be to get the students to find their own article online that they find interesting. They could then either present their article to the class, or hand them in to you and *ta-da* you have 13 reading lessons with the materials already provided for you – all you have to do is create the lesson around them.

Get the students to read the text and mark their reactions to it. A tick means they agree, a cross means they disagree, a question mark is something they don’t understand and an exclamation mark is something they found surprising. Anything funny can be a smiley face or a “lol”. The students then compare their reactions and develop and expand their opinions and understanding.


We did talk about a lot of other activities, most of them commonly used (jigsaw readings, restoring damaged texts etc…) but I found these the most interesting as they gave the students a real, authentic way of reacting to the texts. Who here reads a text then searches for specific dates, numbers, people, opinions etc once they have finished. I found that the above activities really taught them to read and react, not test them.

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I’ve just found this website which might be nice to use for an off book, authentic material lesson.


Every year, this organisation gives a prize for the worst sentence and they publish the winners.

Could be interesting – let me know if you use it and how it is received.

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I find this is a good way to revise grammar and get the students to teat each other.

Photocopy a basic snakes and ladders board game (Cutting edge teachers book at starter/elementary and pre-int) has a copy in the back of it, or use a real board if you like.

one of the square should have a question mark on them (or all of them if you like!). When a person lands on a question mark, they must take a card which has a question on it.

you can either use a real board, or find one in the Cutting Edge resources packs

It’s a good idea to get the students to make the question cards which revise all of that week’s/month’s/course’s vocabulary and grammar. Jumbled sentences, gap fills, collocation and conjugations also make good questions. The students grade the questions as they are focusing on the topics covered in their class and it also provide a fun way to revise on a Friday rather than a normal gap-fill exercise!

I’ve done this with a variety of levels and ages and it has always worked well – the students feel challenged as they spend the first part of the lesson writing questions but spend the second half in a more fun frame of mind “playing a game” and learning.

Let me know how it goes!

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Just found this link online, which follows on nicely from my last post about the evolution of English and the relationship between American and British English. There are 10 one minute animated clips showing how English has evolved. Might be quite nice to use in the classroom?


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I read a really interesting article on the BBC Magazine website about people becoming more and more irritated by Americanisms in British English. They listed the 50 most popular complaints and it made for some quite interesting reading.

I have a lot of Korean and South American students, who are all exposed to American English when they are learning, and they find it quite funny that the English aren’t too impressed by American vocabulary or spelling. I thought that doing a lesson looking at this in more detail would appeal to them and is also quite culturally appropriate.

I started the lesson with some extracts from different time period which showed the evolution of the English language. The texts ranged from Beowulf to a poem written in text speak. The students have to order the poems according to time which they should be able to recognise from the language.

We then looked at a reading from the BBC Magazine which was written by an American in reply to a British person’s disgust at Americanisms. We focused on some vocabulary and then a speaking exercise about the evolution of language and the link between culture and language.

I found a great video online with an American TV presenter and Britsh actor Hugh Laurie talking about American and British slang. I got the students to imagine what the slang could be, then we watched the video which had them in giggles at the word “Ba-donka-donk”!

Then we focused on some more specific English-American vocabulary and a cross word seeing as it was a Friday afternoon!

If you’d like to see the materials I used for this lesson, you can download them here:

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