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Encouraging Extensive Reading
by Scott Shelton
- lesson plan 1

Please note: for this lesson you will need a copy of Raymond Carver's short story 'So much water, So close to home'

Preliminary information

Level: Advanced

Time: 1 hour

Main aims and Objectives
1. To encourage extensive reading outside of class time
2. To create student interest in the story

Sub aims
1. To provide exposure to other accents
2. To provide intensive reading practice
3. To provide extensive listening practice
4. To provide opportunity for speaking
5. To allow for interpretation of events in the story

Timetable fit
This lesson fits in nicely with the course book unit we began last week.
We are focusing on stories, reading, storytelling and storytellers. We have looked at structures and framework of traditional tales and urban myths. We have also analyzed features that storytellers use to add spice to their stories and how voice can be used to bring them to life. This was dealt with through extensive listening and oral shadow reading to raise student's awareness of these aspects and to provide them with practice. We have read one short story, worked on comprehension and inference skills, vocabulary and language analysis. I feel that this group would benefit greatly from engaging in more reading (for pleasure) outside of class and this lesson ought to at least get them started by reading something more on their own.

Learner's needs and this lesson
As a way in to this lesson I set the class the task of creating the questions for a class survey on reading including the what, how, why, where, when and how much of reading, relating to each student. Two groups then exchanged surveys, answered each other's questions and finally got into pairs to interview each other and create a reader profile for each student. It came out that although most everyone read a lot, and some more than 60% of it in English, most of what they read was related to work and they did little extensive reading for pleasure in English in comparison. Everyone did agree, however, that reading could help them improve and learn more English but they didn't have much time for it. It also came out that the majority enjoyed being read stories.

As some will not continue on after this course ends after March, I feel now is the time to really encourage reading English for pleasure outside of class. Hopefully the habit will stick and they will continue progressing through reading after the course ends. As pointed out in the background paper which accompanies this lesson, if a learner is to gain the benefits of reading extensively, what they read needs to interest them as well as be well within their present level of comprehension or even just slightly below it. The majority of the class do read outside of class (in English) even if it is mostly related to work and not for pleasure. The class and I both feel that they could benefit greatly from doing more reading for pleasure and this lesson is aimed at addressing that need by getting them excited about a story by reading only parts of it and later discussing and hypothesizing about the content and outcome.
This lesson is based on a seminar given at International House, Madrid

Assumed knowledge
Previous knowledge of narrative murder mystery genre and general discourse pattern of marital problems.

Anticipated problems and solutions
1. Unfamiliar vocabulary might cause problems in understanding the story.
Class will do a context rich, multiple choice exercise based on pre-selected lexical items. NB this will take place before the observation. (See exercise included in lesson plan materials)

2. Some students are slower readers than others.
Listening to and reading the story at the same time should aid slower readers in keeping up.

3. It might be difficult to follow the connection between parts of the story and to infer the relationships and attitudes alluded to in the story.
Focusing on leading questions before and while reading and paired discussion after reading should increase their chances of understanding.

4. Understanding songs is something most students have problems with but ultimately enjoy doing.
Allowing prediction before listening and playing the song after the main themes of the story (the song is based on) have been at least partially understood should provide them with the necessary background and interest to increase chances at success in the task.

5. This type of story may not usually be of interest to some students.
Interest may be stimulated by listening to readers breathe life into the characters. And by leaving much of the story unread, students may be inclined to read the rest. By presenting a song based on the story I hope to raise interest as well.

Aids and materials
§ A story by Raymond Carver titled, "So much water, So close to home."
§ A song based on the story by Paul Kelly & The Messengers titled, "Everything turns to white."
§ Questions on the reading done in class
§ A report form to encourage outside reading
§ An Overhead projector

Class profile
This class consists of 10 students. I have been with the majority of these students since October and I am generally pleased with their motivation and progress. There are two students, both named Raul, who have been in this class since September and are among the 'strongest' of the group in terms of overall level. The majority, as I mentioned have been coming to class since October or at least for the past three to four months with the exception of Javier who has only just joined the class at the beginning of January. He is arguably the 'weakest' student in the group, especially in the areas of listening- comprehension, and pronunciation. The majority are doing quite well at their present level and with the exception of Javier, I suspect that they will all do well on their 'end of level' exam coming up at the end of march. Alicia and Dario are among the better writers in the group and have a more diverse range of vocabulary and structures when speaking as well.

They are largely young professionals between the ages of 21 and 35 and come to class directly after work. Most use English at work on a daily basis as was made apparent in their answers to a questionnaire on reading habits and reading in English. Several of them are doing something related to economics and therefore read lots of press in order to keep up with the daily changes in the market. One student, Carlos, is a professional writer and writes for a women's magazine. They are motivated and enjoy each other's company in class, work well in groups and pairs and are fairly autonomous when asked to work on their own or do homework. They do come straight from work, however and although they make the effort, not everyone is able to get to class on time. I have made a point of not making a big deal of this but I do start the class punctually with whoever is there and that motivates everyone to try to be punctual. The course they are currently on ends at the end of March and that is one big reason for this lesson as I want to encourage them to continue to improve their English outside of class and I believe extensive reading is key in this area.

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