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Topics - JABRocky

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Complete Reading and/or Writing Units / Folk Tales Fiction Unit
« on: May 12, 2017, 11:46:15 AM »

I developed a Folk Tales fiction unit for my beginner-low-intermediate Reading and Writing class.
On the website link below you'll be able to access background information, lesson plans, and materials. :D

How can you adapt/use these materials in your teaching context?

Some ideas:
  • You can use the texts, powerpoints, and handouts as is (or feel free to modify as needed).
  • Is there a topic or theme from these stories that could be useful for you to focus on? (e.g. cross-cultural communication, creation myth stories, having students write their own folk tales).
  • The texts offer a variety of grammatical points you could focus on. I primarily focus on phrasal verbs, but you could also analyze genre, structures of stories, transferring to different tense, etc.

Prereading Activities / Opinion Pre-Reading Activity
« on: May 01, 2017, 12:04:40 AM »
I wanted to share a opinion/discussion activity that I did in class as a pre-reading/schema-activation activity for my beginner-low-intermediate Reading & Writing class.

Unit Topic: Music & Media  8)
Unit Timeline (this is done before the 2nd reading in a 3 reading unit, so students already have some familiarity with the vocabulary associated with music).

Time: 10min

  • Student practice agree/disagree language (previously introduced) such as:I think/don't think that...; I agree/disagree that... and why.
  • Students talk about a personal experience or evidence (something they heard/read) as a supporting example to justify their opinion.
  • Activate students' prior knowledge about the topic to help prime them for reading the text through their discussion as well as listening to their classmates' opinions.
  • Small sheets (or cut outs) with statements taken from the text, including which paragraph they were taken from.

  • Students can do this activity in pairs or small groups, depending on how much time you have available (pairs seem to be fastest).
  • Pass out the cut outs and ask each pair to read the statement, decide whether or not they agree with the statement, and then to explain why they feel a particular way to their partner.
  • You can debrief as a class with eliciting opinions from the class, or if there is more time you can have each pair share what they felt and discussed with the class.

Overall I felt this activity was an effective way to get the students warmed up before getting into their reading as well as practice sharing whether or not they agree with something and why. I specifically focused on this type of activity because they will be writing an opinion paragraph later in this unit, as well as be doing an in class debate about technology and social media.


I was fortunate to receive a sample copy of the textbook, Discovering Fiction - A Reader of North American Short Stories from Cambridge University Press at an TESL conference in Illinois this spring.  ;D

:redstar Student level: Low-high intermediate level students

The textbook consists of 12 adapted short stories that are divided into four thematic units: making choices :?don'tknow , the role of fate 8) , mystery and fantasy :notworthy , and close relationships :D :D .

Each chapter is organized into four sections:

A) Preparing to read (pre-reading and vocabulary activities)
  • Schema-Activation: Here they ask open-ended questions about the students experience or knowledge of one of the main topics to help them connect with the story (e.g. going to college). The textbook also provides a picture from the short story (or inspired by it) to serve as a priming and schema-activation activity (e.g. What do you think the men in the picture are doing?).
  • Prediction: There is also a series of prediction questions in this section as well for the students to answer before they begin readings (e.g. Circle one choice below or write what you think will happen).
  • Vocabulary: Here they introduce any special idioms, expressions, and phrasal verbs used in the story. They also present a few literary terms with both the definition and an example from each short story (e.g. The setting is the time and place of the story, here the setting is in...).
B) The Story
  • Each of the stories are introduced first with biographical information about the author as well as when the story is taking place.
  • The short stories vary in length from 1000 - 2000 words. While there does seem to be predominately high frequency vocabulary, many of the stories are set in the late nineteenth to mid twentieth century (e.g. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) and as as a result have some low frequency vocabulary appropriate to the language used in those time periods (e.g. stagecoach).
C) Understanding the story (post-reading comprehension activities)
  • Reading Comprehension: Pair and small group questions that ask about major plot events
  • Vocabulary in Context: Fill-in-the-blank sentences with vocabulary taken from the short story.
  • Grammar: Each short story has an exercise with a particular grammar feature taken from each short story (e.g. adverbs, count and noncount nouns). The chapter provides metalinguistic information about the particular rules of the features, as well as examples followed by a short fill-in-the-blank exercise.
D) Thinking critically (post-reading higher level analysis and discussion activities).
  • Thinking Critically: Making inferences, using a graphic organizer (e.g. short story elements chart), and short writing response.
  • WebQuest: Online resources and related information (about each story) through the Cambridge website.
:bluestar Overall I think this textbook is a fantastic resource for teachers that want to incorporate classic and contemporary fiction in their reading/writing class. Each short story chapter has a great variety of pre and post reading activities that incorporate a variety of higher level order questions including encouraging students to think critically and analyze a topic or issue from each story.

Prereading Activities / Using Survey & Previewing before reading
« on: April 20, 2017, 01:33:31 PM »
Recently, we started Unit 8 in the Making Connections (1) textbook in my beginner/low-level Reading & Writing class. The first reading that we were going to jump into was about leisure activities.

To prime students for their reading about leisure activities, I created two pre-reading activities:

1) Class Survey about their classmates leisure activities

The goals of this survey are to first elicit the student's existing knowledge as well as give them an opportunity to talk about the topic freely by asking a few of their classmates about how they spend their leisure time. To maximize exposure to different cultures, I asked them to ask 3 people that spoke a different L1 from their own. Because I wanted it to be a relatively short survey (less than ten minutes). After briefly debriefing their answers, we moved onto the preview and prediction activity.

 :D Modifications: This survey could easily be adapted to almost any context (e.g. a survey about business experiences, strategies they use for studying, etc.), as well as question types (offering free response,

2) Preview & Predict Activity about the reading

For this activity, I took the first one/two sentences (to make sure the topic sentence was included) from each paragraph in the text. Each pair of students was given a different paragraph excerpt and given two discussion questions:

1)What do you think the paragraph will be about?
2) What do you think the whole reading will be about?

 :D Modifications: This kind of excerpt preview activity can work well with any relatively short text (500-700 words). You could adapt this to work for longer texts/novels by looking at larger units such as chapter titles or the subheadings/first sentence of subsections in a research paper/journal article.

Motivation / Motivating Students At the Half-way Point
« on: April 20, 2017, 11:58:04 AM »
I am currently teaching a Reading & Writing beginner/low-intermediate level class and noticed that (as expected) students were starting to seem more fatigued and less engaged close to the half-way point of class around the start of spring vacation. This is something I to can remember feeling during my own language studies, especially in intensive contexts. The initial energy and excitement about beginning a new class has somewhat faded, perhaps they aren't reaching their goals as quickly as they would like, or are starting to realize that some goals were unrealistic. So, I planned this (45min)-ish motivational reading and reflection activity to help get their eyes back on the prize!

- Have students reflect on their own motivation levels
- Have students reflect on their language learning goals from the beginning of the semester and assess how they feel in their progress of their goals and whether some have changed.
- Have students think about how to use their mindsets as a tool to reach their goals.

(Source: Northwestern University Kellogg School)

For student reflections:
1) Ideally, some kind of original student contract or list of individual learner goals that the students created at the beginning of the class.

2) SLOs (student learning objectives) or SWOBAT lists of the linguistic/pragmatic/metacognitive items that students have done in class so far (e.g. I can write a short paragraph talking about the main idea from a short text; I can ask someone about their work/hobbies/job).

For this class, I first had the students look over their student learning objectives from the beginning of the semester and well as their individual lists. I then asked them to write a short paragraph whether they felt they were making progress on their goals. Or, to note if any of their goals changed.

After this, I presented the reading to the students in groups with them discussing what they found to be the most interesting or surprising things in the article. I adapted the original article and changed some of the text to higher frequency words (and trimmed some areas to keep it in a manageable length for time) to meet their proficiency level.

Each group then presented a few things that they found interesting (on post-it notes on the board), and then the entire class read all of the post-its (grouping the similar/same ideas together) and marking stars next to the points they found interesting.

We then discussed the one's identified as the key take-aways from the board (with some motivational pictures!), as well as this:

[/color]Motivation, the researchers say, only picks back up when we switch from thinking about "how far we've come" to "how close we are."
The danger of getting "stuck" occurs because of a shift in perception as we approach completion. When you're in the early stages of a project, you reflect on your progress ("Look at all the great work we've done!"). As you get closer to your goal, around the halfway point, your frame of reference shifts. You reflect on how much work there is to go ("Look at how close we are to being done!"). If we don't make that shift we're in real danger of getting stuck.[/font][/size]

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