Post-reading Activites

Students can acquire confidence and flair with language if allowed to explain where their opinions originated. Leiland Roloff in his book The Perception and Evocation of Literature (Harvard Press 1973) did not have the class Reader in mind, but the recommendations he makes about teaching literature are highly appropriate: The language of literature . . . should enable a student to enter inner worlds which become real to the perceiver. '

Students should be able to enter the 'inner worlds' without the traditional teaching method of comprehension checks. Instead they could be more actively engaged in negotiation for potential meaning, both individually and with other students. Interest in the activity can sustain interest in the text or be fuelled by interest in the text.

The activities in this section are generated by the text and extend its potential for meaningful language work. The tasks cannot be performed without the text, that is, they cannot replace the text. Frequently, they involve the students in detailed revision and scrutiny of the author's words, but at all times there is a valid reason for the student to do so, and the various skills being practised and developed in each activity will increase understanding and subsequently pleasure in future Readers.

Activity 1

Title of Activity Looking back at character (matching)
Nature of Activity Revise and emphasize associations between characters, speeches, events, locations, etc
Level Elementary to Advanced
Time 10-15 minutes

If the Reader has rather a large number of characters and the students are becoming confused about who did what, try a simple matching exercise to help them.

    1. Write the names of the characters down one side of the blackboard. On the opposite side write a brief description of the characters, but avoid putting the correct description and character together.

    2. Ask the students to match characters' names with their corresponding descriptions.

Activity 2

Title of Activity Reading by proxy
Nature of Activity Interpretation and revision of plot and event
Level Intermediate to Advanced
Time 15 minutes per conference

If books are in temporary short supply groups can be given responsibility for making a Reader come to life for the rest of the class.

Try to have four or five copies of four Readers (A, B, C and D). Divide the class into four groups. Ask group A to read title A and so on. Give the groups a deadline by which they must all have completed their reading. The reading will be done outside the classroom, and so the books should not be too difficult for the students to read and enjoy alone.

    1. Explain to the class that the members of each group are to take on the roles of the key characters in their particular Reader. These characters are to hold a press conference for the rest of the class who have not read the book and will act as journalists trying to find out what happened. Before the conference the group must prepare a brief press release which will give their names and a very brief, bare description of what happened; for example, Involved in a hijack attempt which failed.'

    2. At the end of the interviews the journalists write up a report or article for the Reader (s) they have not read. The following day, week, or month, another group holds a press conference. If after the interview, any of the journalists are sufficiently curious to request another group's Reader for extensive reading for pleasure, so much the better. It has been found that knowledge of the outcome of the book does not necessarily dull the curiosity to read.

Activity 3

Title of Activity Reviewing and recommending (Read this!)
Nature of Activity Critical appraisal and recommendation to others
Level Intermediate to Advanced
Time 60-120 minutes

Class sets of Readers can be in short supply at the start of term, for financial or other reasons, or the teacher may wish the process of book selection to be the responsibility of the students. The temporary lack of a class set of Readers, whether self-imposed or enforced, can be turned to advantage.

    1. Divide the class into groups of three or four and allocate each group the responsibility of, first, selecting a Reader from those five or six which are available, from publishers' catalogues, or the remains of last year's class library.

    2. The students should all read the book by an agreed deadline.

    3. They must then plan an election or a sales pitch campaign. The object of this campaign is to persuade other students of their own level to select their book as one of the class Readers.

    4. The campaign can take any form; for example, posters, slogans or a speech. This works best if two teachers with two classes of the same level can get involved. The two classes should be brought together on the day of the campaigns and then vote for the three books which sound the most interesting. Students from class A I will mount a campaign for students in class A2 and vice versa. The beauty of this activity is that, as well as the students deciding which books they will use for intensive reading (which is useful for motivation), extensive reading is necessary before mounting the campaign, and can be encouraged afterwards if students are curious about the books which were not chosen as class Readers.

Activity 4

Title of Activity Pick a pocket
Nature of Activity Reinterpretation and assessment of character through unusual perspective
Level Intermediate to Advanced
Time 50-60 minutes

You should prepare lists of items to use as examples and also be prepared to reveal what is in your own pocket and explain what it shows of character or life style.

    1. Ask the students if they agree that the contents of people's bags or pockets reveal something about character. Explain that often the police use the contents of the victim's pockets as their first clue when solving a crime.

    2. Ask the class to look at the contents of your pocket today and comment on what is revealed. The contents can be represented by a series of pictures.

    3. Next, ask them if they would be willing to empty their own pockets or handbags, or perhaps show the class one item which they think reveals something about their character or their way of life? Ask them to volunteer the information. Bear in mind that the activity works best if the teacher is also prepared to undergo the same treatment.

    4. Then ask them to consider what the characters in their Reader would carry around with them. If ideas are slow in coming, the following lists can provide a stimulus. Ask the students if any of these lists conjure up associations with the characters they have encountered in their reading. If not, ask them what associations they do conjure up and then in groups they should make their own lists for each character. Lists can be compared. Suggestions should be justified in some way: perhaps the item was specifically referred to in the Reader; or the item shows some aspect of personality; or the item is one which is associated with the character's profession or interests.

  • POCKET 1
    • three old newspaper weather maps
    • a plastic bottle cap
    • a new cork
    • a pair of sunglasses
    • a tube of insect repellent
    • two unused Band Aids
    • loose matches
    • ten new pence
  • POCKET 2
    • two new buttons in a small envelope
    • a clean handkerchief
    • a used handkerchief
    • nail scissors
    • a comb
    • a small torch (working)
    • a pocket dictionary
    • £50 in new notes in a rubber band

Activity 5

Title of Activity Character zoo
Nature of Activity Reinterpretation and assessment of character through altered perspective
Level Elementary to Advanced
Time 50 minutes

Depending upon the level of the students you may find it helpful to prepare a list of animals and the characteristics or traits with they are most usually associated. It is, however, much better if students can provide this list of associations. (See the example checklist given at the end of this activity.)

    1. With a Reader such as Animal Farm (Longman) the obvious challenge is to see the animals as humans, but equally challenging is the attempt to see characters as animals. Treat the plot of the Reader as if it were a walk around a zoo. Give each character in the Reader the identity of an animal in the zoo according to the personality traits they exhibit, for example, courage = lion, stupidity = sheep.

    2. This task may seem a little strange to the students at first; you provide a list of animals and birds with the characteristics for which they are best known the students will respond more readily. This list can be used as a checklist which will form the basis discussion. Alternatively, the students can undertake to ma list before the discussion begins.

    3. Ask the students to justify their choices, using illustrations if possible, either with pictures from bird and animal books, or with drawings, depending on their willingness to draw.

  • Check list
    • lion brave, courageous, fierce
    • fox cunning, sly, deceitful
    • pig dirty, greedy
    • lamb innocent, lively, gentle
    • elephant good memory, strong
    • hare mad, fast
    • mule stubborn
    • mouse quiet, timid
    • snail slow
    • horse wise
    • owl strong, noble
    • cat lazy, independent, curious
    • dog faithful, friendly
    • sheep stupid
    • peacock proud
    • snake evil, slippery, deceitful

Activity 6

Title of Activity Board games
Nature of Activity Selection, ordering, summarizing and assessment of events in visual format. Creative response to text
Level Elementary to Advanced
Time 60 minutes preparing time 60 minutes playing time
Preparation Once you have shown students how to play a board game based on a Reader they have just read they will enthusiastically create their own for subsequent books or stories.

The design of the board should reflect the theme or motif of the Reader, as shown in the example at the end of this activity. Board A is for 'The Courtship of Susan Bell', Outstanding Short Stones (Longman) where, as the story is primarily to do with love and marriage, a heart was used for the board. Board B is to accompany The Thirty-Nine Steps (Longman), in which Big Ben is one of the prime settings, and so a clock face was chosen for the board. Board C is for 'Lord Ernsworth and the Girl Friend', Outstanding Short Stories (Longman), which deals with the planning of a path through the grounds of a stately home. Board C is an example of a student's work, and demonstrates the pains which some students take when making their own material. Students can work individually, or in groups to make games, but it is most effective if one student the board and another the quotation cards, while a third sup the fact questions and a fourth checks the answers and write on the foot of each question card, or on a separate answer key sheet. When groups have completed their own games they can exchange material and play each other's games.

The board should have between twenty-four and thirty squares on it. Of these no more than three or four are left blank. The remaining squares are divided equally between questions and obstacles. Obstacle squares provide a small part of the story line of the Reader which either encouraged, halted or delayed the action. Accordingly, the students are asked to move forwards, back or to wait and perhaps miss a turn. If they land on a question square they draw a card from a central pile of at least twenty cards, on which a question is written. The questions can be divided between Q questions and F questions, that is, between quotation questions and fact questions. The answers may also be written on these cards. However, if this is done the student's fellow players must read the questions aloud to avoid him reading the answer. They will also be able to tell him if his answer was correct, thereby minimizing intervention in the activity.

Students play the game in groups of three or four; so sufficient copies of the board and the question cards must be made. The players move tokens around the board with the aid of a dice.

If you are taking a board game into the class you will need one board, one dice, and one set of questions for every group of four students. If the students are making boards they will need one large piece of card and paper for question cards for every group of four students;

    1. It may be necessary to explain the concept of a board game as not all foreign cultures are familiar with the principles. First of all give out the boards and explain how the dice will tell each competitor how many squares they can move around the board. Explain that they will need some small token or object to move around the board and that every player moves a different token. Next, inform students about the Q squares and explain that they have to get a question right if they want to leave the square again. Then, explain that some squares will give them some instructions which they must follow. Try to get the students to appreciate that the instructions correspond to the action in the Reader.

    2. Distribute the cards and dice, check that all students have a token to move and allow them to begin playing. You act as monitor, adviser and referee while the game is taking place.

    3. Students will probably move around the board quite swiftly, if the questions are easy and the board uncomplicated, so you may find it useful to say that the winner in each group is the student who has made the greatest number of complete circuits in an allotted time, rather than the first student to reach the final square.


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