Articles for Teachers
Years ago I was teaching in Cambodia. During my morning prep time with several teachers it was revealed one teacher (not in the room at the time) was asking other teachers on how to teach reading. His method was to have the students to read a chapter and answer questions as they went along. He said he was very frustrated at teaching reading. Hearing this I went to him and offered him some advice. His response was astonishing.
I told him that I had training videos and books on how to teach reading. He looked at me for what appeared to be hours with a blank expression on his face and then stated, “I know what I'm doing.” Then he walked off without any further comment. Within a few weeks he quit teaching. I soon discovered he had only a high school education, no training (TESOL or CELTA) or any previous teaching experience.
I'm not knocking teachers without experience as some teachers have become great teachers out of necessity and do try to improve their learning as much as they can in any areas that they feel they need to improve in. They also look for new ways to instruct the students at any opportunity they can get.
I too struggled in the beginning in teaching reading. My students were frustrated too as they did not like the books or stories I gave them. Once, I gave an original version of The Ransom of Red Chief I loved the story as a child. I then discovered the words in the story were so difficult even I would have had trouble explaining them to the students.
I then took a course on teaching reading. The basic methods I learned were that it didn't take one evening or one hour class to teach a story in which the language school gave me. Instead it may take an entire week to teach to a class on a one or two page story.
It may look like this.
Day one: You can teach the vocabulary the students will learn. This way when the students read the story they can understand much of the vocabulary. You will also need to draw interest into the story by asking questions and having the students skim through the book looking at the pictures. The questions you ask should be general questions: What do you think this book is about? What if this happened to you what would you do? Have you ever had (insert topic) happen to you? Then allow the students to talk about the situations. Then tell them this is what the story is about.
Day two: The students will scan through the book to find words they don't know. When a student reads a book and there are too many words that they don't understand, then the reading is too hard for them. You will need to find a lower level book. Once they find the words they don't understand they need to look up the words. If you don't do this many times the students will just highlight and look up words they don't understand and then say they are done reading when in fact they just translated a few dozen words.
Day three: Have the students read the story. During this time you can give them a handout with questions to look up. These questions should be direct answers the students can find. Don't make inferring questions as the students at this point in time only want to find correct answers that they can show where they found the answer. If you want, have the students write the page or paragraph number of the answer.
Day four: Have the students read again, this time without any type of assessment. When they are done ask inferring questions: Why do you think they did that? How do you think they felt? Did anything like this happen to you? You can also use open ended questions. If a student answers one questions, follow it up with another that will engage the student into thinking for a correct answer that will show they understand the reading. This will show the students understand.
Day five: Provide an activity. Have them make a book re-telling the book in their own words with the use of pictures and text. Have them create a play where they role play the story. Have the students write down what their favourite part of the book was. This will show you how much they understand the reading.
Another great activity is a round robin type questionnaire. You ask one student what happened first, the second student will tell you something that happened second, a third will tell you what happened next. This continues until the story is fully told.
This part is the actual test.
One thing you must remember is if a student looks at you shaking his/her head with a blank expression then this tells you either the book is way above their reading level or the student did not do the work. Don't get angry, just observe the student for the next reading lesson and if it continues then find out what the problem is by covertly asking them. This will help you help that student in their learning.
Keith Brooks has been teaching English for over 10 years and has taught over 3000 students. He gives lectures on how to teach English and soon will be giving TESOL lessons to those interested. He manages the website www.fareasttesol.com and gives seminars on teaching English. He is available for schools in the USA and elsewhere in the world.