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Teaching Tips 138

Campaign for Real Reading
Major monitoring
The Big Day

reading Campaign for Real

Reading is an essential skill if your students are to make real progress. This is especially the case if the students are studying in their home country. Here are a couple of ideas to help your students become more effective readers, all of the points campaigning for real reading!

1. Try as much as possible to match text & sub-skills. Think of the sub-skills that a native speaker would use to read that particular text & then reflect that in the classroom by asking your students to do the same thing. The students will then know the most efficient way to tackle a text when presented with the same outside the classroom.

2. Explain these sub-skills to the students. Use the terms skim, scan, gist & intensive reading.

3. After you have incorporated the above, after a while you can then present the students with a text & ask them how they will go about reading it.

4. Choose interesting & relevant texts! Obvious really but sometimes overlooked in our race through the coursebook. There's no point in wasting students' time reading boring texts. The more interesting they find reading, the more they will read.

5. Speed their reading up with strict time limits & competitions - at the same time as explaining the sub-skill they are to carry out. This will get them away from reading every word, & to read in chunks.

6. We respond in different ways to texts. So, as you have chosen the text for the group, ask them to respond to it. e.g. what did they think? what would you have done? etc...

7. Do the tasks yourself beforehand. e.g. if you find the answer to your extensive task is near the begininning of the text you know you need to design another one that asks them to read all of the text to find the answer.

8. If you have lower level students, get them reading interesting graded readers. Have a look at the brief review for the Classical Readers on the site:

Some reading to find more ideas & background:

Extensive Reading Activities for Teaching Language - J.Bamford & R.Day (CUP)

Using Newspapers in the Classroom - P.Sanderson (CUP)

Teaching and Researching Reading - W.Grabe & F.Stoller (Pearson)

Class Readers - J.Greenwood (OUP)

Developing Reading Skills - F.Grellet (CUP)

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Major monitoring

As teachers, we play many roles; classroom manager, course planner, monitor, corrector, language facilitator, adviser/counselor, motivator, tester, participator, entertainer, representative of the target language culture among others.

Depending on your approach, you might spend quite a lot of your time in the classroom in monitor role. Clearly we do this literally most of the time, gauging how the students are getting on, but here we are referring to monitoring the students while they get on with a task. This ranges from observing a roleplay to looking at a written task the students are doing.

It is often difficult for the inexperienced teacher to decide what to do when monitoring, with the tendency to either stay completely out of the activity or get into it too much to the detriment of the students & the activity. Creating the right balance depends on the students, the task & the stage in the lesson. Sometimes the students would prefer to be allowed to do a task on their own, while at other times they might prefer some intervention from the teacher.

And then how do you monitor? During discussions teachers sometimes find it difficult to hear what's going on due to the noise level. They then move around, sitting near to the group they are monitoring. Depending on the size of the class sometimes it is possible to sit in the centre & listen in to the different groups without moving positions.

Monitoring a written task can be done from in front but can be a bit imposing for the students & uncomfortable for the teacher. Sometimes the size of the room makes this the only way to get around & see how individuals are getting on, but if you have a bigger room monitoring from behind the student may be preferable, making it easier to see the student's work without getting in the way.

The teacher could be making notes for feedback afterwards, especially for the freer speaking tasks. Different task sheets for different activities could easily be designed that help the teacher focus on the students& the task at hand.

The students could be asked to do some monitoring. For examples in the Tip ' Working with Triads', the students are divided into threes, where student A & B do a task which student C monitors & takes notes on their performance. At the end of the task the monitors feed back to the observed & the whole group & the area being monitored can be expanded upon & refined for all.

Students could be assigned monitor buddies for sessions. They monitor each other to see how they go about the tasks given that day. At the end of the lesson the monitor buddies get together & discuss the strategies they used.

Part of Stephen Krashen's ideas on the Natural Approach concerns the 'monitor model'. Adult learners consciously monitor their own output & will try to self-correct before speaking & know some of the mistakes after speaking. Three types of monitor users are mentioned; monitor over-users are those who are very accuracy conscious, monitor under-users are not bothered about making mistakes, & optimal monitor users get the balance about right.

A way of encouraging optimal monitor use for under-users is to ask the students to monitor their talk during speaking activities & encourage them to take notes on when they felt unsure of how to say something or would have liked to have said something in a different way. At the end of the activity students could give each other feedback, you could take questions from the students, or they could be encouraged to put their comments in their learner diaries for written feedback from you. The more often the students take notes the less obtrusive it will be in the activities. For over-users lots of freer speaking activities with the emphasis on fluency with, initially, little correction afterwards can help them to loosen up.


Chinese New Year
2009 is the year of the Ox within the Chinese calendar. This begins on 26th with the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality, saying: "This is the animal that hides in your heart."
So if you were born in within one of the following periods, your sign is the Ox & 2009 is your year:

January 24, 1925 to February 12, 1926 (wood)
February 11, 1937 to January 30, 1938 (fire)
January 29, 1949 to February 16, 1950 (earth)
February 15, 1961 to February 4, 1962 (metal)
February 3, 1973 to January 22, 1974 (water)
February 20, 1985 to February 8, 1986 (wood)
February 7, 1997 to January 27, 1998 (fire)

Celebrities include:
Bach - Handel - Van Gogh - Dvorak - Walt Disney - Charles Chaplin

Those born in these years are typically reliable and dependable. Ox personalities often rise to positions of authority and make excellent leaders, however they are seldom elected into high official status because of their lack of flair and excitement.
The Ox achieves through routine hard work and patience...not that the Ox lacks a creative imagination. They are hard-working and persistent, and can stick to a task longer and harder than others. They believe in themselves.
Although seldom romantic, the Ox is very tender and loving to the few lucky enough to receive such attention. They are not social or party animals and tend to be quiet when in groups. People who are around oxen-personalities often misunderstand them, but oxen are patient and caring. An ox is the best friend you could choose.
In business, the Ox often bring prosperity as a result of logical thought and extensive planning. They are exceptional at hand-crafts or the arts.
The Ox has a prime place in Chinese symbolism and appears on the first page of almost every Chinese Almanac. The Ox is a symbol of diligence, perseverance, tenacity and thoroughness.

This all is from the Chinese New Year lesson plan on the site:
There is a lot of material that includes fortune cookie sayings, the history of the New Year, the Chinese calendar & personality types according to traditional Chinese Astrology.

China is undergoing an economic crisis of its own at the moment. For an article linking the crisis & the New Year celebrations - Painful Lunar New Year for China's Migrant Workers.

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Barack Obama
The Big Day

This week's going to be a a historic one with the inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the US.

"Rosa Parks sat so that Martin could walk. Martin walked so Obama could run. Obama is running so we all could fly"
Attributed to the rapper Jay-Z in October 2008.

Before the inauguration, Monday 19th is Martin Luther King Day. There are lots of lesson ideas & links in the following past Tip:

The inauguration is on Tuesday & you can find the schedule at:

Wikipedia on inaugurations:
And Tuesday's in particular:

An interesting side note to the inauguration from the above Wikipedia page - it's the little things that can make a big difference:
'Obama has decided to follow tradition and use his full name, including his middle name Hussein, regardless of its past and present use by detractors as an effort to slant his image. This seems to have caught the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies off guard. According to their announced program, the schedule states, "Oath of Office Administered to President-elect Barack H. Obama." The program also states that the inaugural address will be given by "the President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama." The decision to use his middle name is part of an effort to "reboot America's image around the world," according to Obama.'

Pages on Obama's history:
Obama section on the New York Times site:

Last week Parade magazine in the US published a letter from Obama to his daughters. It might make an interesting reading lesson:

Here are some interesting things about Obama from

Interesting facts about Barack Obama

1. He won a Grammy Award in 2006 for Best Spoken Word Recording. It was for the audio version of his book Dreams From My Father.

2. He and his wife bought a house in Chicago in 2005. Back then it cost $1.65 million. The house has 4 fireplaces.

3. He doesn’t like ice-cream. He worked in Baskin-Robbins as a teenager. That’s where his distaste for ice-cream comes from.

4. He loves playing Scrabble. He never commented on how good he is, though.

5. He is bi-racial. He was born to a Kenyan father and a white American mother. In his book Dreams From My Father he writes that he barely noticed the racial difference between his mum and dad in his young age.

6. He experimented with drugs. Back in his early years he tried marijuana and cocaine. According to his own words he is not proud of it and considers it a mistake as a young man.

7. He smokes but wants to quit. After all, there is a non-smoking policy in the White House.

8. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii but went to live in Indonesia with his mum when the parents divorced. There he was introduced to dog meat, snake meat, and roasted grasshopper.

9. According to his wife Michelle he is very romantic. He is not a door opener but he remembers every anniversary and brings her flowers all the time.

10. Every night when he is at home he reads the Harry Potter books to his oldest daughter Malia.

You could give this out as is & ask the students to guess which are true & which false - they're all true apparently. You could even add some false facts into the list to make the discussions more challenging.

For the teenage group, a web project around the social networking sites that Obama has joined would be interesting for them.
Here are some links - get them to track down more.
Obama on Twitter:
The inauguration on Twitter:
Obama's MySpace page:
Obama's Facebook page.


There's even more reason to have a good time on Burns Night this year, 25th January, as it is also the 250th anniversary of the bard's birth.
There a lesson plan & links in the past Tip 'Burns Night' at:

On the Guardian site - Supper, song and breathtaking scenery - Kevin Rushby enjoys a taste of the Scots' legendary flair for a party ahead of this year's Burns Night celebrations at the end of January'

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