Effective Multi-Level Reading/Speaking Activities


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Session 192511, TESOL 2011

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Effective Multi-Level Reading/Speaking Activities

  1. 1. Effective Multi-LevelReading/Speaking Activities Presented at TESOL 2011 Annual Convention New Orleans, Louisiana March 19, 2011 Session 192511 Laurel Pollard Educational Consultant lpollard@dakotacom.net laurelpollard.com 1
  2. 2. These activities are carefully structured to• challenge each student in a multi-level class: every student feels excitement at ‘the edge of learning’• engage students: they see that their participation is important and is expected.• provide feedback: students see their errors and their successes immediately.• create a learner-centered classroom with high student motivation and retention.• teach any content• be easily adapted for different levels• provide times when students are working independently, so the teacher has time to breathe during class. Best of all, these activities require little or no preparation time by the teacher. Contents 3. A Word of Reassurance About Multi-Level Classes Individuate instruction by having every student do the same task at their own level. 4. Read, Cover, Re-Tell, Re-Read 4. Vocabulary Cards 4. Quick-Write 5. Mingle 5. Reconstruct the Story 6. Find a Sentence 7. Mark the Margins Individuate instruction by having students do different tasks related to the material to be learned. 8. Telling Back and Forth 9. Questions Outside the Room 9. My Job, Your Job 9. Multi-Level Dictation 9. Resources 2
  3. 3. A word of reassurancefrom experienced teachers of multi-level classes:Give up the idea that a class can be perfect.You cannot be all things to all students every day -- especially in largeclasses.You cant supervise everything, cant always be on the spot with an answer or correction or suggestion.Good News: The silver lining can actually be larger than the cloud!The burdensome idea that "Its all up to me" is replaced with therealization that "My students and I are engaged in a cooperativeenterprise here!" Students learn that they have plenty of resources: • you, the teacher, who sometimes teaches them • the materials and activities you provide (which also teach them) • classmates (who teach and learn from each other) • and themselves (practice, self-monitoring).As students take more responsibility for their own learning, they becomeless dependent on their teacher and more confident about their ownability to learn from a wide variety of situations.What do your students gain? Confidence that they are good learners. The ability to be in charge of their own life-long learning. These are the finest gifts a teacher can give! 3
  4. 4. Individuate instruction using the same task, at their own level.Read, Cover, Re-Tell (to self or partner), Re-read, Repeat if necessary.The title says it all! This routine is effective with all kinds of listening and reading texts. Students whothought they were listening or reading with good comprehension are often surprised when they can’t re-tell much of what they understood. They return to the task with minds awake and strategies activated.1. The whole class begins to read a text silently. Choose a time limit, e.g., 30 seconds (longer if youwish.)2. Say, ‘Stop.’ Students cover the text.3. Students re-tell what they remember from what they just read. (They may do this in pairs, or they maytalk to themselves in a quiet voice, using “Elephant Ears” so they can hear their own voice.)4. Direct everyone to read the text again, starting at the beginning.5. After 30 seconds, say, ‘Stop’.6. Repeat Step 3 (Re-Tell)Let students tell you whether they’d like to read it again.This simple routine offers many gifts:-- Students learn the value of re-reading; they understand more the second and third time they read!-- Some students will read farther in 30 seconds than others. That’s all right; everyone is doing the task together, and everyone is learning.-- Every student misunderstands different things – and every student gets immediate feedback each time they re-read. This is differentiated instruction at its very finest!Note: Some students read more the second time. That’s good; they’re reading faster.Other students read less the second time. That’s good; they’re slowing down to understand more.We can trust our students to do what’s best for their learning.Vocabulary Cards Students write each target word on a card. On the back, they write atranslation, definition, sketch, sentence, etc., using the word. They play with these cards in pairs or smallgroups, quizzing each other, telling what that word reminds them of from the reading, or using their wordsin original contexts.Quick Write: After a reading, students write as much as possible for one minute about whatthey read. Some students may produce a full page of sentences while others write just a few wordsand phrases or draw a picture. Students pair up to discuss what they wrote. 4
  5. 5. MingleStudents walk around, talking briefly with one partner at a time. (Students who need extra helptravel with a buddy, of course, and the lower-level student speaks first each time they meet a newpartner.)Here are three good variations:1. Mingle with cards: Students write or draw brief notes about what they want to say (from theirown experience or about something they read or heard in class). They circulate, talking with onepartner after another.2. Mingle, Swapping Cards: Same activity, but this time they trade notes with each successive partner inthe mingle.3. Building up a Chain: Students carry a notebook and collect ideas as they mingle with partner afterpartner.Tip: To help students find their next partner quickly during a mingle, try “Touch the Wall and Talk.”Students find an available classmate in the ‘silent area’ of the room (where speaking is not allowed). Thisnew pair moves to another part of the room (along the walls, for example). There they both touch the wall– then they exchange their ideas. When they’re done, each of them goes to the silent area to find theirnext partner.Zero Prep © 1997 Alta Book Center Publishers at www.altaesl.comAll rights reserved. Permission to photocopy must be obtained from the publisher. 1.2 RECONSTRUCT THE STORYSometimes the simplest activities are the most adaptable and repeatable.This activity can be used for pre-reading or for review.LEVEL: Beginning—AdvancedAIM: Listening, speaking, readingProcedure:1. Read or tell some information one time. Students listen but do not take notes.2. Students write down three things they remember.3. Students retell what they heard. You can use Pair-Share or Numbered Heads Together with the wholeclass, or have students re-tell in small groups, Round-Robin style.Extension (writing option): After the three steps above, students write the story as fully as they can. Insmall groups they compare their versions and write additions and corrections on their own papers.Reading Preview: use a synopsis of a longer text that students are about to read.Variation for pre-literate studentsAs usual with a good teaching routine, this works just as well with pictures instead of written words.1. Show a picture to your class. Then put it away.2. Students draw three things they remember from the picture.3. They show-and-tell what they drew – there’s plenty to say because different students remembered and drew different things. (This can happen in small groups.)4. After the discussion, students go back to what they drew. They correct it and add more things. They may work on their own or may look at classmates’ papers.5. Display the original picture again. Students add to their drawing as they discuss the original that they are now looking at again. 5
  6. 6. Zero Prep © 1997 Alta Book Center Publishers at www.altaesl.comAll rights reserved. Permission to photocopy must be obtained from the publisher.4.12 FIND A SENTENCE“In-reading” tasks can make the difference between students reading mechanically or reading withreal interest and comprehension. This adaptable activity can be used again and again.LEVEL: Intermediate—AdvancedAIM: Reading with a purpose, scanning, discussion, getting to know classmates, writingProcedure:1. Tell students, “While you are reading this, I want you to choose one sentence and write it down to sharewith the class.” Offer the students one of the following options:a. a beautiful sentenceb. a very interesting sentencec. a surprising sentenced. a sentence that contains the main ideae. a sentence the student doesn’t understandf. a sentence that reminds the student of somethingg. a sentence that makes great sense to the studenth. a sentence the student agrees or disagrees withi. a sentence that upsets the studentNote: Option e is particularly effective because when students slow down toidentify a sentence they think they don’t understand, they suddenly understand it!2. You have choices here.a. Students may write their sentences on the board for class discussion.b. In small groups, students share their sentences, telling why they chose that sentence.Extension (writing option):1. Students write to expand on their own sentence or one they heard from a classmate.2. These short compositions are posted around the walls.3. Students circulate, reading these and writing comments at the bottom.Variation: You may present the entire “menu” of prompts to give students more choiceand/or to elicit more than one sentence from each student. 6
  7. 7. Mark the MarginsLevel: beginning through advancedAim: This ‘in-reading’ activity activates students best reading strategies by requiring them to respond withmargin notes as they read. Students understand the content better when they mark the margins. This alsohelps them stay on task because their margin marking is visible to the teacher. Most important, using thisroutine regularly helps students gain confidence and independence as readers.Procedure:1. Students make brief notes in the margins as they read. If its not appropriate to write on what theyrereading, they can lay (or better, tape) a strip of blank paper beside the text and mark on that. The notes varywith the purpose of the reading. Here are a few possibilities: A I already do this. √ I understand M I want to do this more. ? I dont understand ? Other response (e.g. I dont understand, or For the margins beside word problems in not applicable) math, students can list the operations theyll use to solve the problem, then compare these notes with a classmate before going ahead me This reminds me of with the calculations. something that + add happened to me. - subtract x multiply divide A I agree D I disagree F fact N I have no opinion yet O writer’s opinion N New to me. A I already knew this. C cause I interesting to me T I can teach this to E effect somebody.2. Students mingle to discuss their margin marks with classmates. Advantages:• Everyone has something to contribute.• Early finishers can talk with a series of partners while slow readers get the time they need.• Students learn that people have different responses to the same reading. 7
  8. 8. Individuate instruction with different tasks for different students, all related to the material to be learned.Zero Prep © 1997 Alta Book Center Publishers at www.altaesl.comAll rights reserved. Permission to photocopy must be obtained from the publisher.Telling Back and ForthThis activity challenges students to read carefully, listen carefully, and paraphrase for the re-tell. Immediate, individualized feedback is built right in!LEVEL: Intermediate—AdvancedAIM: Reading, speaking, writingMaterials: Two short texts, perhaps the first two paragraphs (or the first and lastparagraphs) of a reading.Preparation Stage: Put students in pairs. Give each partner the ‘A’ text or the ‘B’ text.Silently, Partner A reads the ‘A’ text while Partner B reads the ‘B’ text.Each student turns their paper upside down to show you that they are ready.Tip: Use cross-level pairs, and give the slow reader a shorter/easier text to read.1. Partners face each other. A tells B what they just read.2. B tells A everything he or she just heard A say. (A may offer corrections.)3. Together, A and B turn the ‘A’ paper up. They look at it and talk about what they got rightand what they missed. (They do not read it aloud.)Note: Students are often very eager when they get to Step 3. They want to find out how theydid with the telling and re-telling!Give B student a minute to review their paper, then repeat steps 1 – 3.This time, of course,4. B talks first,5. A re-tells what he or she just heard B say,6. Then A and B look together at B’s paper and talk about what they got right and what theymissed.Adaptation for beginners: It’s easy! Just use shorter texts.Or use two pictures: A and B first look at their separate pictures and turn them upside down.Then they use the same three steps:1. Tell2. Re-Tell what you just heard3. Look at the one picture together and talk about how you did.Repeat 1-3 with the second picture. 8
  9. 9. Questions Outside the RoomWith this activity, slow readers and faster readers co-operate in pairs to understand a reading.Materials:• copies of a reading (enough for half of your class – the stronger readers)• copies of a set of questions about the reading (enough for the other half of your students, the slower readers)1. Pair students up. With your usual tact, pair weaker readers (we’ll call them ‘A’) with strongerreaders (‘B’).2. Give each B student a copy of the reading to read silently. (This is the more difficult task.)3. Take the A students outside the room. Give each one a copy of the questions. They practicereading the questions aloud. (This is the easier task, and a good preview of the content.)3. A students come back and sit with their B partners to ask and answer the questions.I learned this activity from Kevin Keating – thanks, Kevin!My Job, Your JobAssign appropriate tasks to different students. E.g., beginners copy definitions and contextsentences from their dictionary for five words in the reading. Intermediate students answer T/Fquestions about the same reading. Advanced students write general comprehension questions,make a time-line or chart, etc. Then students form cross-level groups and teach each other.Multi-Level DictationStudents ‘tune out’ when an activity is too easy – no one likes to be bored.They also lose attention when an activity is too difficult – no one likes to feel overwhelmed.This dictation allows each student to work at his or her own ‘Edge of Learning.”Students choose the paper that’s best for them because it’s simply more fun.As an added bonus, in Step 3, the correction stage, the low-level student is the authority: s/heprobably has the paper with the most correct answers!Preparation: Before a dictation, set out on a table copies of three different papers: a cloze withonly a few blanks, a medium-level cloze, and a blank sheet of paper. (Paste your text into anonline site like clozemaker.com and it will do the work for you.)1. Each student chooses a paper that’s right for the level of challenge s/he wants.2. Do the dictation in your usual way.3. Students re-group in cross-level trios to compare and correct their papers – instant feedback, andthe beginner has a chance to help the others.Tip: Be sure that students do not hand over their papers for others to copy from. You might seatthem back-to-back, or invite them to choose the rule that everyone holds their paper up in front oftheir face.Resources:Teaching Multilevel Classes in ESL. Bell, Jill. Dominie Press, 1991. ISBN 56270-032-4Teaching Multi-Level Classes. Hess, Natalie. ALTA Book Center Publishers., 2001.1-800-258-2375 ALTAESL@aol.comZero Prep: Ready-To-Go Activities for the Language Classroom and Zero Prep for Beginners,Pollard, Hess, Herron. ALTA Book Center Publishers. 9