One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my classes is to get my students passionate about reading and writing. Most of my students already like to chat in English, so the motivation is usually there for them to participate in speaking and listening activities. Over the years, I have incorporated many different techniques and tried lots of different activities to build up enjoyment and a passion for reading and writing. Recently, I have had a lot of success with the following ideas. Here are seven steps highlighting how I am trying to stimulate my learners to get excited and enthusiastic about reading and writing.
1. Talk to your learners
This is something very easy and straightforward to do. At the start of the semester, I get students to make small groups and brainstorm things they’d be interested in learning about. There are virtually no restrictions. As long as it isn’t offensive, I’m happy to listen. After the brainstorm, I get one student from each group to come and write their ideas on the board at the front of the classroom. When everyone is done, I take a picture. I use the ideas on the board to plan my reading and writing activities.
2. Plan the lesson
This is usually quite time consuming because it is not always easy to find suitable reading materials on some of the topics they suggest. I use http://dreamreader.net or http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com. Between these two sites, I can find most of the topics that I want. The plan I use is very simple, but because the content has been chosen by the learners, it seems to engage them much more than if they do something similar from a textbook.
3. Pre-reading activity
I usually prepare some pre-reading discussion questions relating to the reading that day. The students pair-up and talk for a couple of minutes. I then rotate the students so they can discuss the same questions with a new partner.
4. Reading activity
I usually do this as a pair activity. Students take turns reading one sentence each until they have finished the article. I have had many students tell me they much prefer this to reading alone. It also encourages them to teach each other the meaning of unknown words and pronunciation.
5. Post reading activity
After the class has finished, I then ask them to talk about a few questions about the reading. These are either simple comprehension questions or questions written to elicit their own opinions about the content in the reading. They are also designed to get the students thinking about the writing topic.
6. Pre-writing activity
This is usually done as a brainstorming activity. Students spend five minutes brainstorming about the topic and then a further five minutes organizing these ideas into categories. I usually teach them how to do this at the start of the semester.
The writing itself is done in a journal. It is also done as a timed writing. I give the class 15 minutes to write a page length entry about the topic. The topic is always related to the reading and it is always about their opinions and feelings. The students are also given the option of receiving some writing energy! This comes in the form of candy or some dried fruit to eat while writing. This is never refused!