CELTA, like mentioned earlier in this article, is one of the most demanded initial teaching qualifications, that is widely recognized throughout the world and has a lot of teachers applying for it yearly. It shouldn’t surprise us then, that this a quite intensive course, rich in theoretical knowledge and practical experience.
It tends to be that passive skills are actually getting less attention in the classroom than they should, hence, here we will be talking about some reading activities that I have learnt to use during the CELTA course I was doing a couple of years ago.
Stage 1 — Warm up
First of all, we should bear in mind, that no matter what skill we are working with (speaking, writing, listening or reading) warming the students up for the upcoming session is the first step to take. This ensures that the learners are prepared in the frame of the topic and will be ready to dive into it at later stages of the lesson. Here are a couple of ideas that we can use to create a context for, let’s say, a reading section about “Travelling”.
Draw a spider’s gram and ask the students to brainstorm on what associations they have with the word “travelling”. Elicit at least 8 ideas. Below is a sample of a spider’s gram my students had come up with.
Next you can ask the students to narrow down their associations and come up with 1 word that would summarize the idea of “travelling”.
In my case the students had equaled “travelling” with “Brazil”. This game creates a good round of laughter and is really fun in the process. The students feel relaxed, ready for the text.
You can start with the same association game, but do just the first part. Next you can have 3 questions about travelling you want the students to comment on in pairs. For instance;
- Tell about your best travel story.
- Tell about an adventure you had while travelling.
- Where would you like to travel to next and why?
This will also get the students warmed up for the topic and will let them have speaking practice right in the beginning of the class.
Stage 2 — Setting the context
As mentioned earlier, setting up the context is also a vital part of lesson delivery if you want your students to have the big picture of the class and see the lesson outcomes. This stage makes sure the students are on the same page during the sessions and don’t get distracted.
Here is what can be done;
Present one paragraph of the text (normally the first one), ask the students to read it, work in pairs and come up with ideas of what the text is going to be about. This ignites their interest and makes them competitive in coming up with the closest story to the original.
If the story has characters, places, events, take them out of the context and have the students recreate the story.
You can have the following for instance: “Jack, Mary, Joe, plane, storm, police”. Put the students in pairs and have them come up with possible stories. You will be surprised at how many stories the students come up with, sometimes better than the original one. When students are ready, read their stories out (let them read it themselves, or maybe pass around) to make sure everyone knows what the other teams’ stories were.
Stage 3 — Reading for gist
At this stage, your primary goal for the students is to compare the original story to the one they had come up with. You will need to highlight that they don’t need to worry about the unknown words. They simply need to get the general idea of the text.
This is what I normally do;
Split the text into 2 parts and put them on a PowerPoint presentation, different slides. Next, split the students into pairs and have them sit back to back, so that one of the students sees the slide and the other doesn’t.
Time the student who sees the slide for 2-4 minutes, depending on the length of the text and have him/her read it. Then, ask the students to change seats and give the other student an equal amount of time to read the text on the second slide.
When done, ask the students to face each other and tell their parts to each other trying to put the story together.
I really like this activity as it keeps the students more focused and is more challenging.
If the text is not that long, you can always go with the traditional “Read the text and comment on the following questions” task. This is a much easier way to cover this stage as a lot of textbooks offer follow up questions after a reading passage to convey the general meaning of the text. However, I would strongly recommend to look through those questions carefully before the class and maybe adapt them according to the level of your learners. Some of those questions can be too simple for your target group of learners.
In any case, at this stage it’s a good idea to have the students work in pairs/groups where they can help each other understand/find answers to some questions together. It will be less challenging for them and the weak learners will not feel under pressure.
Stage 3 — Vocabulary Work
This is the all famous “Vocab pre-teaching” stage, where we focus on the words that are new to our learners. A lot has been spoken about different ways of pre-teaching vocabulary, so, not to waste your time, have a look for some nice ideas here.
Stage 4 — Reading for Details
Once we have introduced the words that might be new to our students, it’s safe to move on to the next stage of teaching reading skills. At this stage, students go deeper in the text, try to learn more information, focus on details and read between the lines (for B2+ and higher level of learners).
Here is what can be done to make it more fun;
A traditional True or False exercise can be found in all the ESL/EFL books. How to make it more fun? — change the T/F statements into open ended questions. This will give the students a chance to generate more language while answering the questions. You can even create questions which have more than one possible answer. In this case you will also have your students speculating on the possible answers and have more speaking practice.
Once the students are done reading the text, you can turn it into a gap-fill exercise where they will need to fill in the missing information. This doesn’t have to be with the exact wording of the text (unless your focus is to work on the target language in the text). You can simply ask the students to fill in the gaps in a logical way that will not contradict the meaning of the text and will be lexically/grammatically correct. This is a very nice opportunity for the students to work not only with a simple task of gap fill, but also deal with sentence structures, synonyms, antonyms, etc.
Stage 5 — Controlled practice
This is the stage where students need to practice the language/structure of the text. Normally this stage is used to work on the target language presented at an earlier stage of the lesson.
Here are some activities that have proven to be useful;
If there is more than one character in the text, take them out, assign the students to act the roles of those characters and recreate the text by making a dialogue. However, you will need to make sure that the students are using the language you want them to. You can either put it on the board or ask them to highlight it in the text.
Another interesting activity can be conducting an interview. You will need to split the students in pairs and assign them the roles of an interviewer and the author/one character from the story, etc. The interviewer will need to ask different questions to their interviewee and keep the conversation going in the scope of the text and the story it covered.
My personal favourite is telling the story on behalf of some characters. You will need to assign a character from the story to each student (works best if you have more than 2 characters) and ask them to tell the story only on behalf of that character. For instance, if the text was about the “Little Red Riding Hood” and one of the characters is the grandmother, she will need to tell the story only known to her. This means, she will not know about her granddaughter visiting her that day, about her encounter with the wolf, etc. This activity can be really fun and creates a very warm atmosphere in the classroom.
Stage 6 — Fluency Practice
This final stage is to make sure the students can use the knowledge gained in real life situations. As we know, reading texts mostly serves to introduce vocabulary or grammar in ESL/EFL books. So, there are several activities you can do to give your students some nice practice.
Put your students in pairs/groups (depending on your class size), distribute some questions related to the topic of the lesson (“travelling” in our case) and ask the students to interview each other with those questions using the target vocabulary/grammar.
Here are some resources that you can use to come up with the questions;
You can ask the students to write a similar text to the one they had just read using the language/structure presented in the text. In this case the reading stage can be easily turned into a writing session. It works just great if you have a longer class (2-2.5 hours long) and want to cover 2 language skills. Later on, you can ask the students to pass the stories around, read them all and vote for the best one.
Well, these were some activities that I have learned, practiced and seen work during and long after my CELTA course. They always work like a charm. Try and let us know how it went in your classroom.