This week I did an activity to help my students prepare for our first reading. The class is our first accelerated academic ESOL level. Students will be reading an article about the civil rights movement and many of the students in the class have fairly limited language skills. The article has a number of cultural references, expressions, and phrasal verbs that I knew would prove challenging for many my students.
To help students build schema for the reading, I identified a list of things I anticipated would be challenging for them and created the handout below.
In the last 25 minutes of class, I gave each person the handout and asked everyone to walk around and share what they know and also learn from others. The whole class was engaged in problem solving together. I wandered around and gave answers here and there to unlock some of the harder questions that no one seemed to know. Then, I directed students to other students who I knew had answers for certain questions. The activity started a bit slow, but it turned into a snowball effect. As more and more people had answers, it became easier to find information. I will certainly do this activity again; however, I will make a couple of modifications.
- I’ll keep one of the handouts with me. When I give an answer to a student, I’ll write the student’s name down on that square, so if anyone else asks me about that one, I will tell them who to ask.
- I will number the questions to make them easier to reference.
- I may also include the context sentence in some cases that could have multiple meanings.
I was also thinking later if there’s a class where most people wouldn’t know the answers, it would be helpful to print a number of copies equal to the number of questions and write one answer on each separate copy before making copies for the class. This way, 1 or 2 students in the class would have the correct information to share.
The thing I really liked about this activity is that it gets students to share what they know, so everyone can improve their knowledge. It’s also very interactive and gets students out of their chairs and talking. The students then get to keep the handout as a resource to use while they read the text.
Reading, especially as a nonnative speaker can be challenging. However, by using these types of collaborative activities, we can create scaffolds toward understanding.
What is your favorite pre reading activity? I’d love to hear about it. You can share in the comments below or in one of TESOL Planner’s teacher groups.