While-reading Activites

In recent years students have been encouraged to respond more subjectively to Readers. Unfortunately a large number of teachers still consider the Reader to be simply a longer text for comprehension questions or an opportunity to practise reading aloud. Reading is not a passive skill. When we read we search for meaning, drawing upon the complex network of associations which native speakers have at their disposal. Students should be actively engaged in negotiation for meaning. The use of classroom Readers should place emphasis only upon the recycling off acts and key language. Students must be taught how to read and respond to books and not simply to answer questions. During lessons students must be involved in activities which enable them to respond cognitively, emotionally and imaginatively to imaginative writing.

Several of the activities found in this section can be adapted for use in the section 'Ideas for after the reading' (and vice versa).

Activity 1

Title of Activity Chain summary
Nature of Activity Summarizing, retelling, interpretation
Level Elementary to Advanced
Time 5-10 minutes per day
Preparation None

If class sets are prohibitively expensive or Readers are in permanent, desperately short supply (i.e., you only have one or two books for the entire class) try to turn this to your advantage give the Reader to a different student each night. Ask that student to read only one or two pages, and the next day or lesson ask her to report orally to the rest of the class what has happened in the story so far, making it as interesting and exciting as possible. Encourage the rest of the class to ask the student more detailed questions.

Activity 2

Title of Activity Write what wasn't written
Nature of Activity Interpretation and expansion of event
Level Intermediate to Advanced
Time 45-60 minutes

An author frequently makes an oblique reference to an incidental piece of information. Students can expand upon this so that information can become, in a way, part of the Reader. The following examples illustrate this.

    1. In The Man Who Could Work Miracles', Outstanding Short Stories (Longman), the leading protagonist wishes that a policeman could be firstly in hell and secondly in San Francisco. Ask the students to write a description of the policeman's brief visit to hell, what he saw and what happened to him.

    2. At the close of 'The Model Millionaire', Outstanding Short stories (Longman), the philanthropic Baron makes a speech at the wedding of the hero and heroine. Ask the students to write that speech.

    3. In Around the World in Eighty Days (OUP) the detective, Mr Fix, sends a telegram asking for a warrant to arrest Fogg in Bombay. Ask the students to write that telegram.

    4. The missing information can only be attempted after a lengthy class discussion about what this type of document usually contains and what it would contain in this specific instance. The lesson can follow your usual pattern for composition preparation, but in this case the composition is contextualized within the Reader and you should encourage your students to be as faithful to that context as possible.

    5. An entire Reader can be summarized in this way with the students following the progress of the characters and supplying any information which the author did not include.

Activity 3

Title of Activity Story consequences
Nature of Activity Selecting, ordering, and interpretation of event
Level Elementary to Advanced
Time 30 minutes

You should prepare a skeleton of the story line for the students to complete. This skeleton does not have to be for the entire story; it could he for a section, which has just been completed. Also the students could complete the skeleton while they are reading a section.

    1. Ask the students to fill in the gaps in the story skeleton in the way which seems to them to be most appropriate.

    2. The different versions can be discussed with the class.

Activity 4

Title of Activity Get it wrong
Nature of Activity Summarizing, revision of reading. Detailed checking of text for specific information
Level Elementary to Advanced
Time 20-30 minutes

Another way to make students look back at one stage of the Reader before progressing to the next is to get them to correct a summary which is full off actual errors as if they were teachers correcting a student's work.

Prepare a summary (including some deliberate mistakes) of a section of text from the Reader you are working with.

The students can work individually or in pairs and they are allowed to look at the Reader. They should cross out the mistake and substitute the correct information. Once students have seen an example they usually enjoy creating their own silly summaries of the next story or section of the Reader for another student to correct.

Activity 5

Title of Activity Scoop
Nature of Activity Interpretation of events through the perspective of 'other than student'. Writing accounts in role
Level Elementary to Advanced
Time 60-90 minutes

This activity can be done in the frame of journalists who work for a sensation-seeking newspaper, but this is not absolutely necessary. It is an extension of the newspaper headline pre-reading activity

As with the earlier example the key incidents, either of the chapter, or the entire Reader are set out as headlines on a front page. These headlines should be prepared by you, as before. The difference is that this time the students have already read the chapter or Reader referred to. (See the example at the end of this activity.)

    1. Before allocating responsibilities for individual stories, ask the students to suggest which incidents in the Reader are being referred to by which headline, and which characters from the Reader are being interviewed. Remind them too that journalists have a way of building big stories out of very little information.

    2. Ask the students to suggest generally what they would expect to read in each news item about the episodes referred to, and also to suggest what the feelings and impressions would be of the journalist who was either interviewing or writing an eyewitness account. For example, would the journalist feel pleased, shocked or afraid?

    3. A second copy of the front page should be made. From this copy each individual story shape should be cut out. If there are six stories divide the class into six groups. In each group appoint a sub-editor who has responsibility for checking grammar and spelling.

    4. Give each group a list of the relevant sections or pages of the Reader where they are to go 'on location' to get more information for their story. Encourage them to extend the facts imaginatively reading between the lines, in order to come up with an exciting story. They cannot alter anything which happened in the Reader; but they can extend and enhance it.

    5. Alternatively, give some students roles as characters from the Reader and allow them to be interviewed about what happened to them. After the interview they can assist the sub-editor in checking the story and making sure that they are not misrepresented in the news story.

    6. Each sub-editor, when happy with the story, gives it to the Editor (teacher) who does any final checking. The stories are the glued into position on the second copy of the front page. Any gaps can be filled with pictures which the students feel are suitable to accompany their stories.

    7. The final front page with all six stories can be displayed or photocopies can be made for the students to have. The activity encourages re-reading, summarizing, imaginative writing, pride presentation and genuine communication within each group as t story gets written. The Editor can, if she or he wishes, add the e: touch of authenticity by introducing a deadline by which all copy must be ready for printing. This can help certain groups to pace themselves.

Activity 6

Title of Activity Playmaking
Nature of Activity Interpretation of character and event through the perspective of 'other than student'. Discussion and interpretation in role
Level Intermediate to Advanced
Time 60 minutes minimum

This activity has double value in that it enables students to communicate freely and imaginatively about the Reader, while the same time they also use the author's words for the dramatic parts, thereby removing the fear that some students have about improvising. This technique is extremely useful for Readers which have long stretches of dialogue in them.

Before the lesson, take the section of the Reader you wish to dramatize and extract all the dialogue from it. Rewrite the dialogue as a dramatic script with the characters' names in the margin alongside their spoken words. Leave spaces before and within dialogue for stage directions. The students will be supplying their own stage directions. See the example given at the end of this activity.

    1. First of all, introduce the idea of stage directions and demonstrate through a simple example how a change in the direction can alter our interpretation of what is going on:

    • "Oh! It's you!" (with surprise)
    • "Oh! It's you!'"(with fear, moving back)
    • "Oh! It's you!" (with relief, moving forwards)

    2. Ask the students to practise these little exchanges with each other following the stage directions. Then they can write some directions of their own for this little speech. Encourage them 1 imaginative. Tell each student that they are the director and then they must coach another student to say this brief speech according to their direction. The results of this can be shared with the rest of the class in a very light-hearted way.

    3. Divide the class into groups according to how many characters are involved. Any spare students can be allocated to groups as directors.

    4. Ask the students to look at the Reader in a new light as they try to solve the problems of how the characters spoke, moved and reacted to each other's words. At any time during the lesson, space permits, encourage the groups to get up and try out what they have decided.

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