This post was written by Susan Weymouth

Part I of this article “Reading Techniques for Learning-Centered Teaching” established how designing student-centered activities after reading motivates English language learners to speak and write. Part II offers a few suggestions for the classroom. These activities do not replace work on reading subskills, but build bridges to meaningful speaking and writing.

Imagine what is possible when working with a longer reading. A recent article in TESOL Journaldescribes a unit for adolescents built around The House on Mango Street. Because identity and names form an important theme in this novel, students discussed and wrote about the origins of their own names. They found both connections to other students (named for grandfathers, etc.) and ways in which their naming was unique to themselves, their families, or their cultures.

In EFL classrooms for adults, it is more common to assign brief authentic or textbook readings for in-class work, but we can follow a similar course. For example, after reading an news account describing “green” cleaning products, we can ask our students to compare the price, effectiveness, and safety of two household cleaners and explain which they buy and why. We can then group students of similar opinions, allow them some time and resources to prepare, and have them debate their choices. Students could also follow up the reading with persuasive writing shared in groups.

Here is a general approach to personalize any reading:

1st – Look for the reading’s underlying themes.

2nd – Choose a topic that connects the reading to the current lives or personal histories of your students.

3rd – Design an activity in which students use English to express who they are and connect with others.

What forms could these activities take?

• Discussions
 • Role-plays or student-designed plays
 • Debates
 • Drawings followed by presentation 
• Surveys of classmates followed by presentation 
• Completing frameworks to create personalized songs, poems, or graphics 
• Providing perspectives of family members on an issue (a grandfather or daughter, etc.)
 • Storytelling 
• Research and reports 
• Writing based on any of the activities above

In EFL classrooms, reading work is about more than skill-building. It is a jumping off place for social and expressive language activities. Don’t just turn the page when the comprehension questions are completed. Personalize the reading.

Cloud, N, Lakin, J. & Leininger, Erin.(2011) Learner-Centered Teaching: The Core of Effective Practices for Adolescent English Language Learners TESOL Journal vol. 2. Num. 2 pp. 132-155(24)