Thursday, 10 September 2009

Paired reading

It has been a bit of a slow start in my class this morning. Only half of the students were in the classroom on time, and quite many very obviously too tired to do anything before their first break... Knowing that time flies (and I have also heard that some pigs might fly on a lucky day...), I still have to rush the students through the lesson plan of the week and the topic of Global English. The class I am teaching this morning are the first year students at the course "Health and Social Services", and even if the curriculum is the same as for my other English class, I have to do things quite differently with this group. First of all, almost none of the students in this class likes to speak English in front of the others. Second, many of them are not all that positive when it comes to learning English and some say that there are just too many things they have not learned, so that the gap between their knowledge and our curriculum is too big.

So what do I do? I decided to just go for the text I had planned, "A Global Language" from their textbook Tracks. What I really like about this book is that there is a "shortcut" to many of the texts, so that the weakest students can read a shorter version of the original texts. Today, however, I asked all the students to read the longer text and to use the method of paired reading when doing it. Paired reading is a fairly simple activity and I am sure most have used some kind of version of it at some point in their teaching career. To students sit together and take turns reading one paragraph each. When the first student has finished his/her paragraph, his/her partner has to repeat what the first one has just read. In this way, both students have to be active all the time, either as reader or as listener. I use paired reading a lot in my classes, and I strongly believe this is a good way of working with longer texts. The twist of the day was that I opened up for the students to speak in Norwegian, hoping that that would help them understanding the text.

By now all the students have been through the text twice, once by the paired reading, and once by listening to the text on CD. At the moment the classroom is all quiet and the boy (yes, there is only one boy in this class) and the girls are busy working on some of the activities to the text. The combination of activities from the textbook and from Track's web pages seems to be working fine, and it seems like the slow start this morning has turned into quite a productive working session after all. Indian summer has also come to this part of the country and the sun is shining. I am quite sure it will be a nice day!

Picture: "Early Morning Reading"

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Killing them softly?

Tuesday afternoon and my students are working on a text on English as a global language. It has been a long day for them and for me, and we still have 45 minutes to go. They are all quiet, and it seems most of them are doing what I have asked them to do. On the front row one of the girls has fallen asleep, however. It makes me wonder if I am killing my students rather than teaching them English. Today's ordeal is to apply this reading strategy to the reading of the text, believing that it can help them understand the text, remember the content and also learn a few new words. Perhaps this is not the kind of activity to do at the end of the day, but I simply cannot come up with any creative idea on how to do this differently, and they just have to work their way through this text sooner or later. Maybe next week will be more fun and more action? My dream is to have a collection of activities that are not too time consuming that I could use to spice up my teaching. Any ideas out there?