A typical teenager in class, and staring out the window:
"The sun is out. I DO NOT want to be at school, and now my teacher is telling me we are about to begin the next ESL-reader,'The Time Capsule'. Booorrrrrrrrriinnnnggggg!!
The above example could well be what goes through your teenage students' minds when they learn it is "read-a-book" time. I know it is in my students' heads because they have told me so. In fact, in my class of 17 students, only TWO students admitted that they liked to read. So, what to do? It is certainly a world issue, not just a Turkish one, since it is everywhere on Twitter and educational tv debates that reading is becoming evermore difficult to convince the youth of today that it has huge benefits for them. However, I am not going to spout forth spuriously that I have the answer to this endemic issue. I am, though, going to share an activity with you, which we did today, that seemed to get the majority of the class engaged in the reading process for 100 minutes.
TASTY WARMER & SPRINGBOARD
By using Bill & Ted (a classic teenage movie from the 80s), and by having the short clip subtitled, allows L2-Students to get more of the dialogue than would be possible without them. The kids loved the chosen clip, and it made them laugh; so they were more curious about the subject matter ahead. This is the support short subtitled video clips can give you for engaging students in the reading process.
The first step for us in the hope of engaging students with a 'smart-powerpoint':
The reason I refer to this ppp (actually just the slide-images of course :-) as 'smart' is that you are beginning to engage the students with funny, exciting and interesting short clips. Then after each one, you start to have discussions about their feelings on Time-Travel. The environment became very animated during this 30 minutes slot, as all teens are curious about the future. One boy wanted to go forward only four years, so that he could start to drive! However, thankfully, some wanted to go back in time to fix mistakes they had made, or to meet their iconic world figure, pop star or musician.
So with the mix of EQs, and interest-evoking conversation-teasers a healthy debate did ensue. It was then off to the library for SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) and note-taking.
NOTE: We have found that if we don't get them to properly note-take, and then check, they simply don't read. They muck about and waste everyone's time.
Here, the student has deemed it necessary to mark details that she believes could be asked later. A question like,
"Explain, by using evidence and clues from the text,
how you know that Jan is not in her own bedroom."
how you know that Jan is not in her own bedroom."
could be answered by having highlighted this segment. It shows that this L2-reader is beginning to grasp contextual clues through text, and that she is engaged in the story.
We have also found that if we structure and put an exact amount of pages the students actually read (I know that many of the purists out there will frown at this), we get much more from shorter exposure to the text. I guess we could synonymize this with SCAFFOLDING (?), since the students are in a preparatory class for high school, it seems appropriate. The final part of the actual reading process is the quality of environment. We always take the students to the library to read alone, and we NEVER read to them in class. It also gets them out of the usual surroundings of the classroom, which can be quite suffocating after a length of time. We do 25 hours a week with a class for English.
An iphone panoramic view of our students happily reading in a spacious, silent light environment; not to mention the comfort of big soft chairs. These factors lead to more students reading, and trying to engage with books.
After each child has read the section (for today's read it was 22 pages), they go back to class for the next activity: a worksheet done in pairs. Of course, not all the students finish at the same time, so we ask those who do to go back over their highlights and add annotations, and to think of questions that could come up on the worksheet.
On return to the classroom, we organize the students into pairs. We prefer to have a strong student working with a less-able-to-read-in-L2 type of person. This helps on many levels, not least of all the slower readers and at a lower level don't feel so left out and awkward, plus the quicker, more able ones can feel great that they can help their classmate. What we saw today was total immersion and engagement during this time. We even had pairs openly sharing definitions, answers and debating parts of the book for an even greater understanding.
The final part of this activity is us all having a debate/discussion tomorrow about the book's content (S.C.A.S.I.), and hearing the students opinions on why it starts the way it does. We are always careful to add questions about the characters that can also be personalized relatively easy to suit the students age and age-appropriate development. In fact one of the videos, "Hot Tub Time Machine" is not appropriate for this age-group, if they were to be watching it all. But we chose the trailer, which is family-appropriate, so there can be no problems for either the students or ourselves.
I have to say this was a very enjoyable 100 minutes with the students today. EVEN WITH reading, you can get teenagers to work, provided you set them up to succeed. If you do it in such a way that they don't even realize they are reading, writing, analyzing, discussing, watching, listening through the power of text, then there appears to be few cracks in the method.
Please try it out, and if you have any other methods for a mash-up that have worked for you, please write and let us know.