The following board contains a series of activities that the students can choose to do after reading a novel or a short story. Students take on a number of roles, such as detective, journalist, designer or disc jockey, to work on a particular area. When used as a whole group, with the teacher assigning all the roles to different students in the group, the result will be a creative, in-depth study that analyses the narrative text from multiple perspectives.
The task board presents the main idea for each role, and details will be needed depending on the teaching context and the level of the students, including the amount of scaffolding that may be needed. The board does allow for differentiation, taking different interests and levels of difficulty into account. While some tasks can be carried out independently, others may require structured cooperative work in pairs or larger teams. In more homogeneous settings, roles could also be assigned numbers or colours according to their level of difficulty so that students can choose to focus on one task or engage in two or three to get the same points.
Combine these activities with this book report to check comprehension right after reading!
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Students in this activity identify words and then sentences in the sequence of letters using grammatical, lexical and contextual clues. Notice that a few distractors have been included, such as homophones, different prepositions, articles or verb forms. The lyrics from “Count On Me” (Bruno Mars, 2010) should result from this, and listening to the song at the end of the activity is in fact the best way for students to check their answers.
Apart from introducing an engaging conversation starter or writing prompt around the theme of friendship, the text also provides a great context to present or revise first conditional structures!
Here’s a simple report that students can complete after reading a novel, a short story, or any narrative excerpt. Apart from including basic elements such as the title and the author, the setting, the characters or a summary of the plot, the students are also asked to write a few personal responses to different excerpts from the text and a short review. This should allow them to demonstrate different ways in which they have interacted with the text. In the double-entry section, for instance, the students are asked to choose five excerpts that they liked and write them down in the left column, and then explain why they have chosen each of them on the right. A few prompts are provided, too, to help them with the selection.
You can download the PDF file here or, if your students have a Google account, you can share this editable Google Slides version that they can complete (and then share with you with a link, as a PDF file or a picture!) Just click on the picture below and a copy of the file will be stored in your own Drive.
My younger students worked on writing the beginning of narrative texts last week. Now that they’re familiar with the basic structures, we’re trying to improve narrative, descriptive and expository types of text by looking at different options, both linguistic and stylistic.
I first asked them to choose one out of four pictures for their story, which should help them get started in the first place, but they will also serve other purposes such as checking comprehension and keeping the students accountable for the follow-up task. Then they were introduced to different ways to start a story and they were encouraged to try something new. Here’s an extract from the video I recorded for them:
The students wrote their beginnings, I gave individual feedback on grammar and vocabulary, and then I cut and pasted each beginning into a Google Form with a multiple choice.
The students read the beginnings written by their partners, selected the picture each of them belonged to, and then chose two of them and explained their reasons focusing on narrative efficiency.
Do you believe in the magic of flying? You don’t? Let’s see if it’s real. One morning I was playing with my sister. She went to Burger King, she got a balloon there, and she came back with it. She kept on playing with it and I didn’t know what she was doing…
The activity worked so well that I decided to use it with a group of more advanced students, too. Can you guess which picture each of these paragraphs belongs to? Which story would you like to read more about?
“So… who’s going to do the laundry today?” Everyone stays silent and looks away. Since the house had started floating, picking up the vestments from the clothes line had become a laborious task. Who would risk their lives just for a pair of pants? Not me.
I was bathing in coffee. Unusual, isn’t it? I would have never imagined this as a Sunday morning routine either. Yesterday was a day like any other. I woke up, had breakfast, and sat on my bed to work from home, as I usually do. I turned on my ipad and opened Procreate to draw one of my daily comic strips. Then I got up to feed my cockatoo, Mikey. This is when things got weird. I’ve never had pets, and certainly not a cockatoo called Mikey, so why was I feeding one? And what made me think I had one?
“I need it, I need it right now! I’m sure it was here yesterday… Where is it?”, yelled Thomas. “Hey, calm down! What are you looking for?”, answered his wife Helen. “What am I looking for, seriously? Haven’t you realized it’s missing?”
Hey you! Yeah you, another one of those readers that just laughs and makes fun of us thinking that we biscuits don’t actually talk or have feelings. Anyway, can you believe this? I woke up with no icing on me, and now I have to go on a long, long journey to get it back. Follow me!
It was right about then when he knew that he was there. He had finally gotten to this amazing place he was searching. I mean… It’s not every day that you have your morning coffee in a cup that’s bigger than you, right? But then it occurred to him that he had not thought of his next step. What was he going to do then?
It happened suddenly. No one knew why, but the Earth itself turned upside down: the buildings, the people, the feelings of the people, the happy suddenly were sad, and the sad suddenly were happy, up was down and down was up. Everyone except me.
Lithuanian photographer Adas Vasiliauskas has been using a drone to capture pictures of people in their homes since the country went under quarantine on 16th March, 2020. Each portrait is an imaginative exercise in creativity by the dwellers, too. “I started this project to give people a chance to brighten their day in this negative corona information environment,” says Adas. “I believe that these funny photos remind everyone that sitting quarantined at home can be fun too. And, of course, to remind everybody that you need to keep your social distance during these times.”
I contacted Adas about the possibility of using some of his photographs for a lesson and he readily agreed to it. His work provides such an inspiring and vibrant context that it will be difficult for students not to come up with unique, memorable personal responses to it — and we all know how important this is for a good language learning task to become relevant and meaningful. Let’s just add some flexibility so that the students can work at their own performance level.
1. Have students brainstorm any words related to “quarantine” and share their connections with each other. Introduce Adas’ project.
2. The students examine the photographs with a series of questions in mind. This is the more objective part of the description, where they identify the main elements in each picture:
- Who is in the picture?
- Where are they? What can you see?
- What are they doing?
- If there’s more than one person in the photograph, what do you think their relationship is?
3. The students choose six pictures and illustrate their first reactions by writing a caption for each of them. Encourage them to use informal language and the appropriate tone, which should match that of the picture.
4. Have students choose their favourite photograph and ask them to analyse it:
- What can you tell about the people in the picture?
- What would you ask these people? Write one question.
- How do you imagine the person or people in the photo in two hours’ time? What do you think happened right before taking the picture?
- How does the picture make you feel?
5. Steps 1-4 are the planning stage for a writing task in which students write a description of their favourite picture that includes both objective and subjective elements. You may want to revise adjectives of physical appearance and character first, but you can also ask students to use this site and have them come up with adjectives for any noun they’re trying to describe, making their learning experience even more individual and enriching.
At this moment, I’m also going to give the students the option to record their description, and even interview a few members of their family and friends with their own reactions:
- How do these snapshots connect with your own experience?
- Share these pictures with your family and friends. What do they think about them? Do they agree with your choice? Which photographs do they like most? Why do you think so?
Of course, this will be a great writing and speaking task to do with the students in class in the near future! I am now just wondering how the students will react to this lesson in a few years’ time…
Special thanks to Adas Vasiliauskas for giving permission to use his inspiring portraits in this lesson and to publish them here. Please check his website at http://tasfotografas.lt/
Are you looking for websites with material for extensive reading? Sharing some of these resources with students and encouraging them to engage in regular reading can help them to improve their language proficiency while developing learner autonomy. Indeed, extensive reading has multiple benefits:
- Students develop a wide variety of reading strategies.
- It improves reading fluency, which affects comprehension.
- It’s a perfect way to learn new words in context and revise the vocabulary they are already familiar with.
- Students can test their own grammar but also notice new constructions that help to convey different meanings.
- It may affect the students’ motivation to learn the language!
The following websites offer free access to both graded and unabridged reading materials, and they cover a range of text types and genres to suit a variety of interests. Please click on the pictures to get access to each website!
1. Lit2Go is an online collection of stories and poems in MP3 format.
2. https://english-e-reader.net/ offers online fictional readers with 8 different reading levels (A1 to C2).
3. CommonLit requires you to create an account and share a code with your students. In return, students get access to a massive library and well-designed interactive activities to help them with their reading.
4. In TweenTribune you will find articles adapted from Smithsonian Magazine on a large variety of topics and in different reading levels.
5. Each fictional and non-fictional graded text in DreamReader comes with an audio file version.
6. This site offers short 5-minute mysteries for students to read and solve. Students do need to sign in, though.
7. LearnWithNews shares news items in 3 levels, including a glossary and a series of comprehension activities for each of them.
9. Here’s a nice compilation of very short stories from 100 up to 2,000 words long, including a brief summary for each of them.
10. The Short Story Project curates short stories written by authors from all around the world.
Do you use any other websites? Which ones would you add to this list?