Imagine there is such a thing as a reading lesson. (It’s easy if you try). By reading lesson in this case I mean a reading skills lesson for English learners. When I think of a reading lesson, I typically think of a nice PDP lesson. First some pre. Then some during (sometimes known as “while”). Then some post. Pre-reading, during reading, and post-reading, that is. In the pre-reading I imagine maybe some pre-teaching of vocab or maybe some schema activation. Maybe a prediction about the text. Ignoring (for now) the viscous attacks against reading for gist and skimming and scanning let’s imagine that students have a few chances to read the text on their own. In the During stage I am thinking students are actually reading.. The Post stage might then involve some productive skills (speaking or writing) related to to the topic of the reading text.
[Real Question Alert]
Does this sound like a typical or expected reading lesson?
Does this sound like a reasonable framework for approaching a reading lesson?
I have to confess that this framework makes a lot of sense to me. It passes the eyeball test. First, we help students get ready to read. Then they actually read and then they produce something related to the reading. Simple. If we want to help students improve their reading then we need to give them chances to read.
(Some people might be thinking that Extensive Reading is The Answer to which I might say “perhaps this blog post is not for them because we are imagining a world with reading skills lessons for students of English”.)
OK, now that we have gotten the assumptions, reminders, confessions, and first round of questions out of the way, let’s move along to thinking about what could go “wrong” in the above PDP scenario.
The first thing that comes to my mind is the teacher translating every word into L1 for the students without giving Ss a chance to read on their own. (Thus, no during! No chance for students to actually read.)
Another classic is having students read the text aloud (solo or in a group) before they have had a chance to read it on their own. (My concern here is that Ss might be more focused on not being embarrassed than on understanding anything.)
Another one is where the teacher gives students a certain amount of time to read and then counts off every 10 seconds or so that they know how much time they have left but don’t have much of a chance to actually read. You have 1 minute to read……….50 seconds…..45 seconds. (You get the idea. Annoying, right?)
Have you seen or done any of these reading lesson “no-nos?”
As luck would have it, I am presenting at the 9th CAMTESOL (Cambodia TESOL) in about 10 days and the title of my workshop is “A Bad Reading Lesson.” I am planning on doing a mini-demo-lesson where I (as the teacher) share some of the “bad” teaching I have seen in reading lessons and then use these to think about what might make a better reading lesson. I wonder if you, dear reader, have any to add to the list? Who knows, I might even do it in my workshop. Thanks for reading!
Update: I am also doing a version of this presentation at the Seoul KOTESOL Conference. Instead of 30 minutes the workshop will be 1 hour, which will leave more time for discussion. I will still limit the painful sample lesson part to 15 minutes. I will hopefully give participants something to think about. If you are reading after this presentation…welcome!
I am not so comfortable or happy with the simple ideas “good” and “bad. I think it is too simplistic and judgmental and might not promote reflection or reasoned decision making but instead just promote habits without thought. I think lots of potentially reasonable ideas get labelled as “bad” on training courses (or wherever) and don’t get considered as viable options. With that said, I also believe that thinking about and noticing the “bad” can be a starting point to get teachers to think about the type of teachers they want to be.