Here is what seems to be some well-kept secrets about reading classes. The teacher doesn’t have to be the center of attention. The teacher doesn’t have to “act” like a teacher, standing up front talking.
And most of all, students will not be bored or waste time if they are reading individually during class.
What students need from the reading teacher is someone who can help each individual student develop their reading comprehension skills. A student doesn’t need to listen to a teacher explain to the class parts of a passage he/she already understands but that a classmate doesn’t.
Students can get the maximum benefits from a reading class and from a reading teacher through a reading workshop. This student-centered workshop approach has proven effective at all levels and with students from over 40 countries.
One of the greatest advantages is that each student’s individual needs are addressed by the teacher during the class. Another advantage is that students are working on reading by actually reading. Also, they don’t have to wait for classmates to finish reading a passage or feel pressure to read faster to keep up with them.
Here is how a Reading Workshop can be effectively organized.
1) At the start of the class, the students turn in their homework (e.g. reading passage study guides) from the previous class.
2) The teacher gives them the assignment for that class. It will usually be to read a passage and complete a study guide (e.g. comprehension question exercises and perhaps vocabulary exercises).
3) The teacher returns the previous homework assignment which s/he had marked.
4) Individually, students work on two things:
(1) They correct any mistakes on their previous day’s homework. After they finish, they write their names on the board under “Conferencing.”
(2) They begin working on that day’s assignments.
The teacher begins conferencing with students individually starting with the first name on the list.
Conferencing—One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching ESL
This a great chance for each student to get the teacher’s undivided attention. And it’s a perfect opportunity to interact with and get to know each student and truly find out what their reading abilities are.
During conferencing, the teacher sits in the back or front of the room, and a student sits next to him/her. Or the teacher can move about and sit next to the students. While the teacher is conferencing individually, the students are working on #4 (a) and (b) above.
During it, students have an opportunity to ask the teacher any questions about the reading passage or the study guide questions. They also show the teacher the corrections they had made. The teacher can help them with any that they are still struggling with. When a student finishes the conference, s/he returns to working on that day’s assignment and the next student on the list conferences with the teacher.
Three keys to making it work
1) The teacher should mark the mistakes on the assignments in a way that challenges the students when they go back to the passage to make their corrections. For example, on a True-False exercise, if the teacher puts an X next to # 5, the student knows that # 5 is wrong and merely changes T to F or F to T. However, if the teacher indicates that either #4 or #5 is a mistake, the student has to analyze the questions and the passage again.
(See this attachment for a sample of how to mark assignments in a way that will challenge students.) Sample marking mistakes on reading ex
2) If there is not enough time to conference with all the students during the class, the teacher writes down the names of who is next and start with those students during the next class.
3) Students who don’t finish the study guide questions during the class can finish them at home.
4) If a student finishes that day’s assignments, the teacher has two options:
Option 1) The student can start on the next day’s assignment.
Option 2) The teacher gives the students a “backup” (bonus?) reading assignment.
And an added benefit is that students find that if they are focused, they can complete much of the assignments in class and will have less homework.
Teachers who have used this workshop approach have reported a great improvement in satisfaction on the part of they themselves and on the part of the students.
For a similar approach to teaching a student-centered Writing class, see • ESL Writing Workshop: Tremendous Benefits for Students and Teachers