A few weeks ago, Rachel had published a post sharing her first DELTA input session reflection, which dealt with ‘teaching reading’ and urged readers to share their thoughts. Someday, I am going to watch her live, in-action, and observe her make magic in the classroom but until then I make do with writing comments on her posts, which is part of my professional development. In this comment, I had highlighted that none of my learners, barring one; all young adults in their mid or late 20s, are interested in reading long-form texts like blogs or books. Hence, one of my primary aims, which Stevick would call ‘a deep aim’, is to inculcate the desire to read more.
Before I could chart a path to the desired aim, I had to ponder over the reasons for my learners’ dislike or sheer ignorance of reading longer forms of texts. Of course, they do read texts (subtitles, keywords, carousel posts, posters and a few more) posted on social media platforms. They sometimes even take the pain of reading the post caption and, if the content is really engaging, they might go as far as reading some of the comments posted. But beyond that, you are expecting a bit too much.
Here are three of my yet-to-be-completely-successful attempts to mitigate the issues highlighted above.
Make them curious
This is something I know quite a few teachers do with their young learners; an MFL teacher brought the characters of a story book alive by sharing just about enough for kids to get to the edge of their seats and listen. I remember a Thai teacher (teaching Thai) inviting a musician to the class, who along with the teacher sang the story from this book while playing guitar.
One of my learners has to regularly share complex data with her team by creating visual infographics. I introduced her to some of Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s work and she got curious. To my great satisfaction, we have now reached the third chapter of Knaflic’s ‘Storytelling with Data’ and she isn’t bored yet, in fact, she is eager to reach chapter 4.
Help them notice
Underhill taught me the value of making ‘… the inner moves of learning more visible,’. The other day, upon asking, my learner explained to me how she was coping with the complexity of the language in the book (Dealing with Difficult People by Rob Lilley) we are currently reading; the author has used dry humour, local slangs and excessive words. She told me she usually skips words which don’t add to the central idea of the text and was willing to take the risk of adding meaning to words or texts from her limited understanding. The fact that she gets to discuss the chapter with me over the call has boosted her appetite to take risks. This also helps her not disrupt her flow while reading a chapter.
Another vital component is urging learners to articulate how reading something is benefitting them as a person; not just a language learner. The same learner during the same conversation had confessed she is now able to read more than mere two pages at one go without feeling drowsy. She went on to add she is now able to focus more on things; apparently, her level of concentration while indulged in any task has increased. During this entire reflection process, she saw a direct positive correlation between her reading habit and her ability to focus.
Make it active
Not one learner, except the exam-prep pupils, so far, has included improving reading proficiency as part of their goals when they started with me. Hence, simply asking them to start reading in their spare time would have landed on deaf ears. One way to get around that was to bring the text alive during our interactions.
Currently, I am involved only in one-on-one online teaching, which I divide between Zoom sessions and Line (similar to WhatsApp) calls. We utilise a lot of these Line calls to discuss our takeaways (I too read the book), from the set of pages we pre-determine to read, express disagreement and/or clarify doubts. This urges them to interact with the text and provides an impetus to sustain their new habit. Here are some activities I use to coalesce the text (book/blogpost) into the overall scheme of improving language proficiency;
I mentioned earlier these are yet to be completely successful because I still have a couple of learners who just won’t dare pick up a book no matter how convinced they are of the benefits. One of them once innocently confessed and summed up the hesitation, ‘Girish, I know reading is good but I know myself more.’
- Rachel’s blogpost – https://teflzoneracheltsateri.wordpress.com/2022/10/24/delta-training-week-5-first-input-session/
- (Stevick) Arnold, J. and Murphey, T. (2013) Meaningful Action: Earl Stevick’s influence on language teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (page 2)
- Knaflic, N.C (2015) Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualisation Guide for Business Professionals: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- MFL teacher (Liam printer) discussing ‘Motivation through reading…’ on his podcast – https://podcasts.apple.com/in/podcast/the-motivated-classroom/id1525120086?i=1000504694396
- Musician & Thai teacher singing a Thai story (มังกรไฟไม่เรียนหนังสือ) – https://www.nanmeebooks.com/LDPage/Dragon/
- (Underhill) Arnold. J. and Murphey, T. (2013) Meaningful Action: Earl Stevick’s influence on language teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (page 217)
- Lilley, R. (2019) Dealing with Difficult People: Fast, Effective Strategies for Handling Problem People: Kogan Page Ltd..