Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Just to compensate for being so rubbish at posting…. 2 in one day!

I was reminded of this idea when I posted about the magazine activity. It’s a nice little warmer/filler or even use towards the end as a competition to finish on a high.

Buy enough copies of the same magazine/newspaper so each pair of students has a copy in your class. Then create a short quiz about stories in the paper, and the students have to use scan read the article to find the answers.

For example:

If there is a story unemployment, a questions could be “how many people are unemployed?”

If there is a picture of Brad Pitt, you could ask “what is the name of Brad Pitt’s new film?”

Obviously the answer has to be in the story, it’s not a general knowledge quiz!

The students then have to flick through the paper and find where the story is (you could include page numbers if you were feeling generous) using headlines and pictures to guide them, then they have to look for specific information.

I tried a similar exercise with an IELTS class, as they were having trouble with the reading section of their exam as they would laboriously read every single word to find an answer and then ran out of time!

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Someone sent me this poem.. Thought it was good fun. 


We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
Then one may be that, and there would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!
Let’s face it – English  is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
Neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England.
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
We find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing,
Grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them,
What do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
Should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship…
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
While a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
In which your house can burn up as it burns down,
In which you fill in a form by filling it out,
And in which an alarm goes off by going on.
And in closing……….
If Father is Pop, how come Mother’s not Mop

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I started out this afternoons with big ideas about a Halloween lesson, with pumpkins and scary stories etc… but there is just too much stuff out there and didn’t know where to start with finding something I could use in the classroom!

I wanted to combine a useful skills lesson with something a bit more fun and engaging, so decided to do a reading, and also watch a video clip of some sort.

I settled on watching The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror X” as my previous Simpsons lessons was really well received (I’m doing this with a different class though so watch this space… it may be a huge failure!). I watched the episode and wrote some questions for the first two horror stories.

I also found a good multiple choice reading from Sean Banville’s Holiday Lessons website: http://www.eslholidaylessons.com/ The multiple choice focuses on some common issues my students have, so it will be useful grammatically as well as culturally.

I’m going to combine this with some vocabulary picture matching at the beginning of the lesson, and then get them to write the ending to a scary story for homework. If we have time, and if I can keep the classroom clean enough, we might do some apple bobbing!

If you have any links to good video clips or useful ideas or materials, please post them!

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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 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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I saw this article online about the Indonesian tribal language Dusner being on the verge on extinction. There are only 3 people left in the world who speak the language who are all in their 60s and 70s. They were all recently injured in a natural disaster but thankfully survivied. Linguists at Oxford Uni are now trying to protect the language.

Have a look at one version of the story here: http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/TechandScience/Story/STIStory_661278.html

This might make a good topic for a lesson. You could use the text as an authentic reading exercise. Extention tasks could range from an interview with the survivors, a diary of one of the speakers, or a debate on languages. Eg, Will English ever be the world’s only language? Is there a link between language and culture? English is the most important language in the world. It is important to learn several languages etc….

Just thought this text would make for a nice lead in to a discussion. Please let me know what you think and how it went if you use this in your lessons.

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