Matthew Walsh's EFL ESL website

My version of an 'Active Reading' class

  In dealing with a short reading text for a content-based class, preparation for a debate, or in preparation for writing an essay, I came up with this series of tasks that allows students to become more involved with the text, while at the same time assures me that the text has been understood.
 This would be used for a text about the length of the 'For', or 'Against' texts from my debate class page.

1) Preview and predict.
  Students skim the text for 3 minutes, and then selected students are asked to write 2 things on the board. Somewhere on the right side of the board they write what they thought the main point of the text was, and somewhere on the left side they write a fact they guess that (predict) they may find if they read it over again closely.

2) Feedback: Scan for details.
  They read the text a second time, this time for 8 minutes or so. They scan through it and see if the predictions on the board were true or false. As a group, we go through each item on the board and verify or deny them.

3) Post-reading questions are answered by the students. ( or option 4 )
  At the end of the text, there are some questions aimed at the general meaning, or gist of the text. These questions are made as much as possible so that they can't be answered simply with a line from the text; something needs to be inferred. Instead of turning it completely over to them here I add a little listening aspect here. One by one, I say out the answers to the questions, paraphrasing, so as not to use the exact phrases that were in the passage, but then pointing out what area of the text had the info needed to infer the answer.
  I had told the students to listen to my answers and then make their own answer.  By giving them several ways to answer the question, and constantly changing the phrasing of my model answers, I prevented it from becoming a simple dictation. Once the faster students started to complete their answers, I started peaking over their shoulders and read out those student's answers slowly, praising them and encouraging the slower students to borrow the sentence as their answer.
  After each question was completed, they had a pretty complete understanding of the text, and a chance to produce some of the language on their own terms in the answers. It worked well, I think!

4) Alternate post-reading activity,
   Another way to consolitade meaning and comprehension using group work would be to have Ss in groups of 4, chart out the points of the text on a graphic organizer. They would pick out meanings from the text and write them out on a brain-storming type sheet that simply had organized blank cartoon ballons on it waiting to be filled in. The students write in partial sentences, or 'chunks': just enough to get the meaning across.

  Doing this in a group would allow Ss to cooperate and collaberate, making a lot of learning happen at once, (easier for the teacher!)
  The filled out sheet could easily be checked at a glance by a roaming teacher, or gone over as a group with teacher front. Pretty easy! 
  I was really sure every student had understood the text the way it was meant to be read. Difficult in a class of 40!

 Good points:
Preview, Predict, Skim, and Scan are good reading strategies that will become skills if practiced like this.
(3): Paraphrasing the answers for the Ss adds a listening element.
(3): Reading out the faster student's answers makes it a bit more learner centered, and the fellow students are likely to listen to their classmates answers closely.
(3): Praising the correct answers of the faster Ss is good for motivation.
(3): Having the student's construct their own answers adds a free production element.

(4): The overall meaning is made very clear.
(4): Having the students write partial sentences, or 'chunks' is good practice.
(4) Perhaps the constuction of a paragraph becomes more transparent to the Ss. 'Intensive'

Click here for my 'Graphic Organizer'