Tag Archives: reading

3 Activities for Bringing Reading Comprehension Texts to Life

I have to admit that my least favourite activity to do in class is Reading Comprehension. I have the feeling that doing reading activities, as suggested in textbooks, somehow disconnects students from the interactive aspect I struggle so hard to maintain and promote during the whole session So, I’m always balancing two options. Either I set the reading task as homework or I try to devise an engaging activity that brings a bit of creativity and engagement into the reading process.

The activities you’ll find below aim at improving the most basic level of reader response, which is the oral retelling of the texts. Oral retelling exercises demand that students recall as many details from the text as possible therefore encouraging communication, oral language development and reinforcing students’ vocabulary.

So, here are three activities to bring Reading Comprehension texts to life.

 


Activity 1. Using word clouds. No preparation required.

Introduction: For this activity students will be working in pairs retelling the story in as much detail as possible with the help of word clouds to actively use vocabulary.

To create the word clouds I have used the cloud generator Wordle (it works better with Firefox), but you can also use Tagul or any other. Alternatively, you can just create your own word cloud on the board without using any technology.

Procedure:

Choose a text that can be easily split into two and divide the class into As and Bs.

Ask As to read the first part and Bs the second part once.

Tell students to underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that the aim of the exercise will be retelling their part  in as much detail as possible so they will have to read it several times. Give them some more minutes for this task

Display the word cloud text box and ask them to tell you what keywords will help them remember the text. Type the words they suggest and create the cloud ( to keep words together for phrases, use ~ between each word). The idea is to retell the text in as much detail as possible with the help of key words included in the cloud

Open a new tab and repeat the same procedure with Bs

Retelling. Display word cloud 1 and ask As to retell the text using as much vocabulary from the cloud as possible. Display word cloud 2 and repeat procedure with Bs.

(Wordcloud Student A)


Activity 2. Retelling Competition. No preparation required

Introduction: For this activity students will be competing in teams retelling the story in as much detail as possible and the teacher will guide the competition by monitoring the time each team speaks and by making sure the development of the story is as close to the original as possible.

Procedure:

 Ask students to read the text once and underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that they will need to retell the text giving as much information as possible. Ask them to read it slowly several times.

Divide the class into two teams and ask them to close their books. Explain that they’ll need to retell the story in as much detail as possible. The winner will be the team who ends the story.

Decide which team starts telling the story. Ask this team to choose one of their members to start.

Rules:

  • Each team can only speak one minute and only one person at a time. At the end of this minute, the other team will continue the retelling of the story.
  • The other team can interrupt the team doing the retelling if
  1. The information is not correct
  2. If they have missed something important

The winner is the team who manages to tell the end of the story.


Activity 3. Using pictures. Some preparation required.

Introduction: For this activity students will be working in pairs or in small groups retelling the story in as much detail as possible with the help of pictures and some selected vocabulary.

Before the class, you will need to find some pictures to illustrate each part and select some vocabulary you want your students to use. There will be as many students in the group as parts you have split the text into.

Procedure:

Choose a text that can easily be split into meaningful paragraphs (a story or a biography are excellent for this kind of activity)

Ask students to read the text once and underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that they will need to retell the text giving as much information as possible.

Put students in small groups and split the text into meaningful parts assigning each student a part. Their aim will be to retell the story using the pictures as prompts and incorporating the vocabulary shown next to the pictures. Ask them to read their part slowly several times.

Display the pictures for the first part and ask students to start the oral retelling. Encourage them to use the vocabulary accompanying the pictures. Repeat procedure.

Tools used : befunky and playbuzz

Below, example of the activity with a text from File Intermediate

Rewordify: a Free Online Tool to Simplify Difficult English

Today I want to share with you an amazing free online tool which has a lot of potential for learning English.

Rewordify simplifies difficult English and helps you understand what you read.

How this tool works

  • Go to Rewordify.com
  • Enter sentences or whole paragraphs difficult to understand into the yellow box at the top of the page. You can also enter a web site URL.
  • Click Rewordify text and you’ll instantly see an easier version of the text providing clear, easy-to-understand definitions. (see picture below)
  • The reworded words are highlighted in yellow— click them to hear and learn the original harder word.
  • You can also click the non-highlighted words to read their definition.
  • Click the Print button and choose the type of printout you want. You can print the original text, the rewordified one, vocabulary lists with definitions and without them, a word bank quiz, a standard quiz or a difficult one… etc (see picture below)
  • By clicking the Parts of Speech button you’ll see nine part of speech categories (see picture below).You can turn on and turn off the highlighting of each part of speech by the words in the header. For example, if you only want the nouns and verbs highlighted, click all other parts of speech in the header

You don’t even have to register but if you free register:

  1. You can change how the highlighting works to match the way you learn
  2. Store, edit and delete your documents
  3. Share your documents
  4. Save vocabulary lists

Up for a little game?

And if after working hard on vocabulary you still feel up for a little challenge, Rewordify has created two word games for you

  • Reword where you’ll have to select the correct definition for the hardest words in English, as fast as you can.
  • Difficult Hangman. An old favourite but with hard words.

Thanks for reading!

The 8 Best Audio/Video News and Current Affairs Websites to Learn English.

I’m currently really tied up with checking exams, so I’m going to make the introduction to this blog post really brief.  I’m sure you have enough on your plate, too. June is usually a hectic month for almost everybody, isn’t it?

So, how do you keep up with the latest news? Or maybe, are you one of those who, sick and tired of reading bad news, have decided to completely isolate yourself from the world? I wouldn’t blame you!

If you are one of those, I kindly suggest you make an exception for the sake of learning and improving your English. You won’t regret it! Reading is one of the best ways of acquiring vocabulary and learning grammar without studying.If you read and listen to one article every day, or two if you feel overzealous, your reading and listening skills will improve very quickly. Trust me on this!

This is my selection of the best audio/video news and current affairs websites to learn English.

I have looked at the following features in all the websites:

  • If the news is written in levels
  • If the same news is written/read at different levels
  • If it is audio news or video news
  • If the transcript is provided
  • If the site provides a ready-to-use lesson plan for the news
  • Any other relevant additional content

The image below is interactive. Click on the icon and read what each website has to offer.

How else can I use these sites in the classroom?
• Choose one news website from above and ask students, as homework, to read a piece of news they find interesting. Ask them to read the news several times until they feel confident they can retell it. In the next class, ask students to work in threes and share their news.

• The news. Same procedure as above but this time, at home, students will need to rewrite the piece of news in their own words. In class, and again working in threes, students will be asked to assume the role of newsreaders and present the news to the rest of the class.

The interactive image has been created with Genial.ly,a free online tool for creating visual interactive content.

6 Excellent Free Sites to Practise Reading Comprehension

It’s been too long since I’ve written about improving reading skills. Last time I posted about sites to help you practise reading comprehension was in May last year. Way too long. The truth is that doing reading comprehension activities in class takes time, especially if we are talking about long texts with an amount of difficulty, and very often this is one of the tasks we give students as homework.

On the other hand, I am one of those teachers who think reading aloud in class is a good exercise. In my opinion,

  • Reading aloud fluently not only helps to improve the reading ability, but also oral expression.
  • It gives students a chance to focus only on fluency, pronunciation and intonation as they don’t need to worry about grammatical accuracy.
  • It gives teachers a nice opportunity to correct pronunciation mistakes.
  • It helps students enhance comprehension as pauses should be made in the correct places.
  • Reading aloud is especially good for students who don’t feel very confident speaking English in public. It gives them a nice chance to use English in a safe environment and helps them gain confidence.

These are some of the sites I’ve been recommending my students to further practise reading comprehension.They are all completely free.

1. Newsela. Have you already tried Newsela? It’s a really good site to help students become stronger readers while reading current event articles.

I teach different levels, and what I like most about Newsela is that you can give the same news article to all your classes no matter the level. Why? Newsela offers five different levels of the same news item. You just need to choose the levelled version you want to use.

The site also offers a multiple choice exercise to test your comprehension of the article.

Although you have to sign up, the site is free. As a teacher, you can assign articles to students in your classes and monitor their progress. Find out how to do it here .

2. Dreamreader is a free website with more than 500 reading lessons. Every lesson comes with free audio, a free printable worksheet and a free multiple choice quiz.

The site offers 5 categories, but the most interesting ones to help enhance your reading comprehension ability are “Fun English” and “Academic  English”. This last category is full of lessons and quiz questions for beginner, low intermediate, intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced students.

3. GCF LearnFree.This is a fantastic site to improve your reading skills. There is a wide variety of topics displayed at the top of the page. Choose the topic you want to read about and then at the bottom, select the kind of exercise you want to do. If you want to practise reading comprehension, select “Text” and then from the two options offered, choose “Reading Comprehension”.

The site is very visual and user- friendly and I highly recommend exploring all its possibilities.

4. Easy reading

This is a section of the British Council especially aimed at teens though I have often used it with adults with great success, too. Here, you can read stories and articles written at three different levels A2 (elementary), B1 (intermediate) and B2 (upper-intermediate).

After the reading test, you can do an online interactive multiple choice exercise to test your comprehension and a grammar exercise based on the text. The site also gives you the possibility of downloading the text and the activities.

5. Literacynet. Aimed at adults with an advanced level of English, it offers texts on a variety of subjects.

Select a topic and the piece of news you want to read. Click on “Story” and then from the menu on the left, choose the activity you want to do. There are five comprehension activities.

6. Teaching Kids News is a very interesting site that offers original news articles on topics that are “timely, relevant and intriguing”. Though it doesn’t offer the standard type of comprehension exercises you normally find in English exams, each article includes Writing/Discussion Prompts, Grammar Features, and a Reading Prompt.

Hope you find these sites useful!

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Two Superb Sites to Practise Pronunciation by Reading Along

In this post, I want to share with you two superb sites that can help you improve pronunciation by reading along.

Aim:

By asking students to repeatedly read a selected text or story while simultaneously listening to a text or a story, you can help them

  • improve reading fluency
  • improve pronunciation
  • improve automatic word recognition

1. The first site Listen A Minute.com is one I have been using for years. Here you can find alphabetically-listed topic- based activities  from  Airports and Harry Potter to Zoos.You don’t even need to register. It’s completely free!! Choose a topic and read along. One minute a day… that’s all they are asking and in return… you’ll be passing your listening/speaking tests with flying colours.

2. The second site I want to share with you is a youtube channel called Learn English Through Story ,where short stories at various levels are read at a slow pace to further improve reading and listening skills in English. There are 7 levels. Choose the one that fits your level best. Visit youtube and write  Learn English through Story on the search box.

Procedure:

  • Pick a topic or a story
  • Set a  timer for one minute, and read the article/ story aloud until the timer goes off.
  • Read aloud the same passage  three times or until you feel confident.
  • Remember that the aim is to read along, not just to listen.
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Lesson Plan: The Etiquette of Social Kissing.

“How far away the stars seem, and how far is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart”. William Butler Yeats

I was once kissed by a marquis, or maybe he was a count, but it was in a palace. I cannot remember his rank, but he was old and ugly, at least for me! Nothing to daydream about, believe me, but the fact remains that I was kissed by a nobleman. He was a long way from Prince Charming, but that was ok for me. He was selling. I was buying. That was it!

But the kiss… yes…back to the kiss. First time ever I had been kissed on the hand. I was ready for a handshake so I extended my hand. Instead the marquis suddenly, and in a very quick gesture took my hand, bowed and made the gesture,  and I have yet to decide whether he actually kissed my hand or just the air. Now that I know a bit more about the etiquette of hand-kissing I realize he probably never kissed me.

Photo by Tim Rooke/Rex/REX USA

Level: B2

♥DISCUSS: It is not very often that a woman has her hand kissed nowadays. But let’s reflect a bit on how we greet each other in our different countries. Discuss these questions with your partner:

  • What are the rules for social kissing in your country? Do you always know how you are supposed to greet someone? Have you ever experimented any awkward moments where you didn’t know what you were supposed to do?
  • When kissing as a form of greeting, do you kiss on one cheek or on both cheeks?
  • Is it the right or the left cheek you kiss first? Know that you should kiss the right cheek first to avoid awkward situations.
  • If you don’t like the kissing business, how do you cope with people who want to kiss you as a greeting?
  • Is it appropriate to kiss in a business setting?
  • Do you ever hug?
  • Apart from the handshakes, cheek kissing and hand kissing which are quite common for us, do you know any unusual ways  of greeting people ?

♥READ: Have a look at this interesting article about Unusual Ways to Greet People Around the WorldWhen you finish reading , tell your partner which form of greeting  you found most unusual.

♥LISTEN: Watch this video about the etiquette of social kissing and answer the following questions:

  1. In Good Morning America, the *anchorwoman describes an awkward moment when you get to a party. Why is it awkward for some people to greet your host or hostess?
  2. The British are described as” buttoned-up”. What do you think it means?
  3. Laura Ford is a British artist. Does she kiss people she doesn’t know? Choose from the options below and justify your answer.
  4. always b. never c. sometimes
  5. According to Hillary Brown, social kissing in France might be getting out of control. Why?
  6. Social Kissing is taught at some schools. Which ones?
  7. What are some of the rules of kissing taught at these schools?
  8. How are Americans and Latins different as regards social kissing?
  9. At the end of the clip, the anchorman apologizes. Why?

*anchorman/anchorwoman = a person who presents and coordinates a live television or radio programme involving other contributors.

CHECK: Answers here

READ: Why do we shake hands?

♥WRITE: Imagine a foreign student is coming to your school/house on an exchange visit. What advise would you give about your customs. Use the ideas below and the modal verbs should/shouldn’t , could, must/mustn’t.

  • greeting someone
  • meeting someone for the first time
  • being punctual
  • being invited to someone’s house
  • tipping

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English E-Books- a Site to Read and Download Adapted Books with Audio

Ebook Readers or traditional books? What’s your choice?

I am a bookworm. I love reading  though it has not always been like that. There used to be a time when I only had time, and this unwillingly, to read the compulsory books my Literature teachers thought were essential to my upbringing, if I may use this word. And believe me, each of these unforgettable  teachers had a long list in mind! As my school years faded in memory, so did my laziness -called it boredom-to start reading again and one day I found myself with a long list of books waiting in queue to be read, only this time I was willing.

Why did I cross to the dark side and stopped buying paper books? I think this is easy to guess, dear readers, I am still an avid reader  but I have more books than shelf space  and that’s the sad truth.

And you, are you like me or do you still  prefer paperbooks? If you prefer e-books, then I’m sure you’ll find this site very interesting

English E-Books  has been created to help people learn English  by reading adapted books – one of the best and interesting ways to increase your vocabulary. Here you can find English ebooks of different levels, from elementary to advanced  in epub, mobi, fb2, rtf and txt formats and very often you can also download the audiobook.

Two Wonderful Sites to Practise Listening and other skills

So, you’ve done all the listening exercises in your textbook, workbook  and on my website 😉  but still, you feel you  really need to go the extra mile ?

Here you are two wonderful websites where you can find tons of Listening exercises to practise before the exam.

1. ESOL COURSES. Choose your level and then choose the skill you want to practise ; they are all great!

2. ESl Lounge Students: on this site you can also practise all skills . Scroll down the page and on the right sidebar, choose the skill you want to practise and your level.

 

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Feeding your Own Newspaper with the News you Want to Read

Isn’t that what everybody would like? Isn’t it a good reason to read every day? In this post I am sharing with you a wonderful tool that is basically a newsreader with wonderful customizable features. The idea is to encourage students to read every day  the things they like to read about.

The benefits  of reading when  learning a language are many and  nobody can deny that. When you read you:

– acquire new vocabulary in a natural way

-learn to infer meanings

-learn to punctuate

-write better

-speak better

– learn  the grammar in context

We, as teachers, tend to ask our students to read mainly graded books or the texts in their textbook. We certainly feel confident  our students won’t be struggling to understand or won’t get demotivated because they cannot easily grasp the meaning of the words.

On the other hand, I firmly believe we need to show our students how to develop strategies to encourage autonomous learning. It is essential if we want our students to keep improving when the course finishes.

Whenever a student asks me, “Are there any compulsory books to read this term?” I never fail to remember the 50 or 60 books I had to read if I wanted to have a chance at passing some certain subjects at university. I used to be keen on reading but having to compulsorily read, I would say “swallow”  those books chosen by somebody else turned me, for some years, into someone who would refrain from  getting close to a bookshop, let alone a library.

For this reason, I never choose the books my students have to read. We go to the school library together and  choose the ones they find most appealing from their level section.  I encourage them to read regularly, every  day if possible, and not to use the dictionary every single time they don’t know a word, as this would discourage them. Instead, I ask them to try to guess the meaning  and only use the dictionary if it blocks comprehension or it appears frequently in the book.

Reading books is Ok, but what about magazines, blogs, newspapers… In this post, I would like  to share with  you   a tool  to motivate students to read every day and the key to motivation is READING WHAT THEY LIKE.

The tool I use is called FEEDLY . It ‘s for me the best way to organise and read my favourite sites on the Internet. It’s mainly a newsreader and it’s highly addictive. Everything on the same place with a very nice layout.  Imagine Feedly as a newspaper with only the news you are interested in. You feed Feedly with online sites that interest you.In this sense I recommend my students to feed it with a variety of sites including news, fashion, cooking, IT, learning languages …etc and why not, gossip.

Feedly is customizable and the only thing you need to do is Click on Add content, paste the url of the blog or site you want to have in your newspaper. Can I suggest you try adding this blog and this other one  🙂 to get started?

 

 

 

If you want to know more about how  Feedly works, here is a very visual tutorial here .

Are there any sites or blogs you would recommend? Please, let me know

 

Improving your Pronunciation by Reading Along

I am one of those teachers who thinks pronunciation can be easily improved if you are
really determined to work on it. Contrary to what most people think, improving your pronunciation takes little  time and little effort although  it needs some  motivation. If you really want to improve, there are some sites that can help you if you just dedicate a little time and effort to this task. And the good news is that you can do it at home, without a teacher guiding you.

Reading along is an exercise I frequently practise with my students.
I normally choose texts from Listen a Minute .com because they are short ( 1 minute) and not too difficult. I like to do this practice at the beginning of the lesson because I think it is a good exercise to get them into English  quickly and without much effort.

We always follow the same steps.

♥Students listen to the text three times. The first time they  silently follow the text. The second time students read along  but in a low voice because at this stage they still need to hear the audio. Before playing the audio a third time  I point out some difficult words and make sure they pronounce them in the correct way.

♥ I split the text into two and ask students in pairs to read their part to their partner. I encourage them to correct their partner’s mistakes.

♥ Finally, I ask students to read aloud  one sentence each.

All in all it shouldn’t take more than 10  minutes.

Today, looking for something completely different on youtube I came accross this channel  which is also very good practice for the students to do at home to improve their pronunciation, though I would suggest it is for more intermediate or advanced students

The channel on youtube is called WaysandHow and it also has its own website where you can see and read  hundreds of  tutorials and tips on various aspects of life, including education. What is good about this site is that it is  beautifully subtitled and read at a good pace, so students can follow and read along. A nice way to improve pronunciation and also your vocabulary.

Have a look at this video -there are plenty to choose from and on a variety of issues- and see if it works for you! Hope it does!!

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