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"


  1. This effective technique requires, however, a rather disciplined class? Teaching high school students in Vietnam again this summer reminded me that that was not always the case.

    Thanks for sharing - and I share your appreciation for Robert Frost.

  2. Actually, I would not say that this technique only works in disciplined classes. I have tried it successfully in various groups. I do believe, however, that the students that are the most disciplined get the most out of it.