Teaching Reading: CELTA Demo Lesson #2

I love reading. I learned how to read even before I started talking – no jokes here, I kept silent until I turned 3 and communicated with my family via gestures and some random non-word sounds. And yes, I already was fascinated with books back then. I cherished them, took care of them and hugged them in my sleep. And well, I still do.

I love teaching reading. I am constantly monitoring for interesting and inspiring articles and blog posts and add everything I like into my ‘For Reading lessons’ collection.

An ideal reading lesson as I see it is a lesson focused on some interesting and somewhat controversial, and a little bit emotional topic like happiness or failure, or positive thinking. Students read the text, learn some interesting words, and, the most important, they discuss it and share their thought on this matter. They’re engaged, inspired, and motivated. When the lesson is over, they might say it was difficult (who said learning is always easy?) but they will definitely say they enjoyed it.

For my second demo lesson, I chose reading about happiness. The thing is I have a friend who is a poet. She studies happiness and writes poems about what she’s learnt. She’s amazing so are her poems. From the very first moment I opened her book, I wanted to use it for my lessons, and I finally did.

Choosing a poem to teach was insanely difficult. I literally couldn’t sleep being torn apart among several of them. After shuffling them in all ways one could possibly think of I made a decision to use three poems in one lesson.

I’ve never done anything like that before. I heard of group reading when two groups read two parts of the same text and are then united but reading three different texts even though all of them are about happiness… it seemed somewhat scary but I still went for it and didn’t regret it.

The outline was simple:

  1. I divided the class into three groups and assigned one text to each group.
  2. Reading for gist: Each group read its text and tried to summarize the main idea in one sentence (thus, they learnt that all texts are about happiness).
  3. I gave them some time to read other two texts (follow-up questions related to all of the texts).
  4. Vocabulary: I told students to underline any words they’re not sure about. If they could, they had to explain the meaning to each other; otherwise, I helped them.
  5. Reading for detail: I prepared a set of questions focused on the implied meaning and critical analysis of the texts (2 per text). Each group had to start with the questions for their text and then answer other questions if they had time left.
  6. Each group shared their answers with the class. Other groups commented on it. I also gave some comments so we ended up having a nice conversation/discussion.
  7. Follow-up: I rearranged the groups ensuring that each new group consists of three people who answered three different sets of reading for detail questions. Students were given 3 questions to discuss. They had some time to think about it before starting the discussion.

The lesson was a total success. Students were extremely engaged and discussed the questions actively and lively. All of them had different thoughts on what happiness is and what things make people happy. I heard a lot of interesting things like:

  • ‘Sometimes I feel sad but then I think I’m alive, healthy, and I have people who love me; I can change what makes me sad so why should I feel unhappy?’
  • ‘Simple things make me happy. For example, when I’m upset I eat ice-cream, and it’s enough for me to feel happy. I don’t need anything big to feel happy, you understand? Life consists of small things, and for me, it’s enough.’
  • ‘Happiness depends on social templates. We have many different kinds of social templates. What things we should have to feel happy or which job we should do to feel happy… and if we follow them we realise we actually feel unhappy. We have to decide what makes us happy. Other people can’t decide instead of us.’

This is it. The best part of the lesson is when you listen to what your students are saying and realizing you didn’t expect to hear anything like that. The best part of the lesson is when your students surprise you – and they almost always do.

So let’s summarise the key points:

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment (using three different texts in one lesson for a simultaneous reading works!)
  • When you choose a text/texts for your reading lesson, think of some topic that is relevant to all students in your class (or at least to the majority)
  • Also, try to choose a text/texts that inspire/s your students and motivates them to speak out
  • Think of some questions that would boost students’ critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Talk to your students, let them know what you think – believe me, they’re interested in it
  • Dedicate a great deal of your lesson time to discussing the topic-related questions
  • Be ready to get surprised

 

I hope this tips will help you when you teach a reading lesson next time!

 

This how-to will be followed by the ready-to-use lesson plan. Stay tuned!

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