15 post-reading activities

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.

post-reading activities

Post-ReadingActivities.pdf

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!


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

A book report

editablebk

Developing learner autonomy: a homework choice board

HomeworkChoiceBoard

Narrative beginnings

NarrativeB1

A book report

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.

BookReport

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.

editablebk

Combine this book report with these 15 post-reading activities!

Narrative beginnings

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.

NarrativeB1

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.

On the bright side of quarantine

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?

91669457_3407843262575770_4857361003911839744_o

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE SLIDESHOW

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?

OnTheBrightSideofQuarantine

You can download the worksheet in two formats: PDF and WORD .

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.DescribingWords

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/

Finish the picture

How would you finish these pictures? What if they were part of a story?

finishthepictureFinish the picture.pdf

This was one of those activities that surprise you every now and then: not only could the students working in pairs complete them in a short period of time, but the process involved questions and conversations about a wide variety of lexis as their creativity – and especially all the constraints – demanded more specific vocabulary. The students were also allowed to decide on the order of the pictures, which added some flexibility.

If nothing else, the task does help students to create and plan their stories in a meticulous way. Rather than a scaffold, the creative process here becomes a challenge, and basic narrative elements such as the setting, the characters, the plot or the ending need to be carefully thought out to complete the task successfully. A thorough planning stage which then paid off once the students got down to writing.

I also tried this activity with a higher group of students. This time, I gave them different writing tasks and asked them to draw their pictures based on them:

You’re writing the instructions on how to make something work.
You’re writing a recipe.
You’re writing a travel guide.
You’re writing a brochure advertising a hotel or resort.
You’re writing a story.
You’re writing an advertisement.
You’re writing a movie trailer.
You’re writing the description of a place.

Once the texts were written, I posted the pictures around the classroom for the students to examine and later on remember so that they could match them to the texts.

This is a flexible task which allows students to create meaning in so many inventive ways. Interestingly, it didn’t turn out to be as intimidating as I had thought it could be for some students. I think it also provides students with extra motivation to read or listen to their classmates’ texts: the starting point is the same for everyone, yet the results can often be really amusing.

Do you think the quality of writing could also be affected by all this?

 

 

Roll & Explain!

Here’s a quick post with a tweak to two popular speaking/writing activities. The game can be played in small groups or as a whole class (B1 and above.)

RE1

Roll&Explain.pdf

One student rolls two dice four times: one to choose the person in the situation, another one for the action, a third one to decide on the place, and finally a fourth one to determine the time. Focus on grammar first by having the student come up with a grammatically correct sentence that describes the situation. The variety of time references, for example, will demand different tenses and aspects (and situations can change drastically due to this!) Different prepositions will be needed, too, for the different places.

Once the situation is clear, the student comes up with a (more or less) plausible explanation for it. You may want to allow him/her some thinking time and set a time limit for the explanation. The rest of the students can then ask a few questions and decide whether the explanation is good enough or not. Alternatively, the board can be used to generate writing prompts for (short) writing assignments. However you use it, make sure you revise, pre-teach or introduce language related to giving strong opinions and persuasion — your students will badly need it!


UPDATE 16/10/20

I’ve written the worksheet into this randomiser for easier use in online sessions or for whole-group work in the classroom!

5 activities for the first days of school

I can’t say I’m a big fan of icebreakers myself, at least the get-to-know-you type. Students may be grouped in a different way from the previous year, and there are always new students to the school, but in my context most of them know each other relatively well (or at least as well as a typical icebreaker can get!) For some reason, I’ve always found students aren’t very fond of them either. Perhaps too predictable? Whatever the context, however, I know they can be an excellent tool in a language classroom to help us analyse the students’ needs at the beginning of the year, implement classroom rules, or set the tone and expectations for the next few months.

It is with these goals in mind that I’ve selected the following activities. Most of them can be adapted to different levels and, while a few do include an inevitable get-to-know-you component, the focus is on production and integrating them with other classroom routines at the beginning of the school year.

1. Communication strategies
I always teach some basic communication strategies explicitly which I expect my students to use for the rest of the year whenever they have problems communicating an idea or to make up for unknown words. This is an activity to practise paraphrasing that has always worked well with my students:

image2

2. Grid challenge
One way to get students testing their own strategic competence is to engage them in informal conversations. One of the reasons why I like the following grid is that it can be played in small groups rather than as a class: less intimidating, more authentic, easily observable. Students roll the dice twice to get vertical and horizontal numbers, and then complete the sentence about themselves. They could also be encouraged to ask at least one or two questions each turn to make the activity more interactive.

20989261_1989396567744521_8169407342737512694_o

3. “I can’t imagine life without…”
Students write the things in life that they can’t imagine living without, and then take turns asking questions about why they are important to them.

48404697_2844881758862660_4495589217010712576_n
4. No-prep writing activities
There’s nothing like a short piece of writing to check the performance level of students. Use one of these creative, no-prep activities designed for the first week of school, or include some of them (and perhaps some of your own) and create a choice board!

Composite of image of a hand drawing a light bulb on a board
5. “First Day at School”
Using the poem “First Day at School” by Roger McGough and an animated short video based on it, students practise reading comprehension, hypothesis making, and finally reflect on their first day at school. An intriguing lesson that integrates all four skills.

firs2

 

School excuses: a creative writing lesson

When was the last time you got one of those hilarious excuses for being absent or failing to do some homework? This lesson (B1 and above) revolves around the theme of school excuses and gets students working on past tenses, reading and listening comprehension, and creative writing:

1. Have students match 10 sentences as they fill in the gaps with the verbs in the box in the right tense. Most of them are irregular past verbs.

School excuses 1

SchoolExcuses.pdf

1. Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it on Monday, we thought it was Sunday.
2. Jerry was at his grandmother’s yesterday, and she did not bring him to school because Jerry couldn’t remember where the school was.
3. Scott didn’t practise last night because he lost his tooth in the mouthpiece of his trumpet.
4. It was my fault Mike did not do his maths homework last night. His pencil broke and we do not have a pencil sharpener at home. Yes, he was home all night!
5. Ronnie could not finish his work last night. He said his brain was tired of spelling.
6. Diane was late on Wednesday. She fell asleep on the bus and was taken back to the bus yard.
7. Eric hurt his knee in a karate tournament over the weekend. He won his age group, but was in too much pain to do his maths assignment.
8. Marty wasn’t in school yesterday because he thought it was Saturday.
9. I left my homework in the back of a pickup truck. It went through a carwash.
10. Sorry teacher, I’m a little, little bit late today. What happened is that in the morning on the way to school I got kidnapped.

2. “What are these sentences about?”, “What do you think of them?”, “Which one is your favourite?”, “Have you ever heard or read any really funny excuse from a classmate?”

3. Focus on the last sentence: “Sorry teacher, I’m a little, little bit late today. What happened is that in the morning on the way to school I got kidnapped.” Play the beginning of this short film by Sijia Luo until 0:48:

4. Students work together and write the missing parts of the story using the words provided. Have one student from each team read their versions to the rest of the class.

School excuses 2

SchoolExcuses.pdf

5. Watch the short film and discuss the differences.

6. In their teams, students write a creative excuse for being late or absent, or failing to do their homework. Students share their excuses and vote on the most inventive!

 

This could be one of the most productive writing lessons you’ve taught in a while. Just saying!

Simultaneous writing and peer correction

Self and peer correction help students to revise and check their own learning as they focus on writing as a process. Apart from creating confidence and dialogue among students, when we analyse another person’s writing to the best of our ability, we are often able to notice those types of formal or communicative gaps that allow us to confirm or reject any hypotheses we may have about the language at that point, and therefore improve our learning.

Simultaneous roundtable writing is an activity I like doing with my students. It does have self and peer correction as one of the main goals, but it integrates many other specific objectives and skills as well. At its very simplest, the procedure would be as follows:

1. Students sit in groups of 4 with a blank paper, they number themselves off, and write their numbers on their piece of paper.

2. Ask a few students for any word they can think of at that moment and write them down on the board (8 or 10 words.) Alternatively, you may prefer to provide the words (for instance, words from a unit you’re working on.)

3. Explain that the goal is to write a series of narrative stories collaboratively. Go over the main elements of a narrative text (setting, characters, plot, solution, most common tenses, typical connectors, and so on.) Also, state that they’ll be reading each other’s writing during the activity, so their handwriting, grammar and word choice should be as clear as possible to avoid communicative problems.

4. During the first 5 minutes, students work on the beginning of their own story independently, which typically consists of describing the setting and perhaps introducing one of the characters. I usually allow them to use 2 or 3 words from the list, which helps them with ideas and makes the whole process less intimidating for some students.

5. When the time is up, the students in each team rotate the papers: number 1s give out their papers to number 2s, number 2s to 3s, 3s to 4s, and 4s to 1s. During the next 5-6 minutes, students read the beginning of the story their classmate has just written and continue the story, describing a character that has been introduced or starting with the plot.
6. Students rotate the papers and repeat the same procedure. Brand new story to read and a new challenge to continue writing! Students should still focus on the main plot at this point, incorporating 2-3 words that haven’t been used yet in that particular story.

7. Rotate the papers once again. Explain that the student who started the story will be writing the ending, so this is their last chance to work on the plot (or even introduce a memorable plot twist!)

8. In this final rotation, the student who started each story reads what has become of it — very often to their amazement! Students ask any team members for clarification if needed.

9. Finally, students write an ending to the story they started at the beginning of the activity.

Writing

There are several good things about this task so far:

  • In 25-30 minutes, students get to actively participate in reading and writing four different narrative stories at different stages.
  • Although there is pressure to write, students can write at their own performance level and any length they can. In fact, I’ve always found the weaker or more reluctant students do write in this type of setting.
  • Students also have an immediate audience who will read what they write in a few minutes. This demands that handwriting, grammar or word choice need to be as clear as possible so as not to cause confusion.
  • Funnily enough, the activity generates a vast number of connectors — very often more than needed. I guess the type of thinking behind this is: “Fine. Now, what should I do with this?! Let’s see…”, and this sort of creates the need to start with a linking expression that helps to confirm there’s a new writer on board.

pencil_notes_chewed_paper_ball_office_leave_writing_tool_notepad-1165859.jpg!d

The students who started and finished the story are finally responsible for correcting (and sometimes rewriting) their papers. This depends on the level of the students and your specific objectives: you can simply have students correct the paper with a rubric or allow them to edit it and work on style as well. A basic checklist would include items related to organisation, grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, spelling, cohesion and coherence. In both cases, students are required to hand in both the original and the revised papers at the end. Students can also point out the strengths and weaknesses of the final product and how they would improve that piece of writing — especially after all those crazy ideas and impossible plot twists!

Indeed, that’s what these written stories often end up being all about (especially if you work with teenagers!) And that’s what makes sharing them with the rest of the class, either before or after editing, the most meaningful and entertaining. After all, it’s no individual’s responsibility but the whole group’s, and the students enjoy sharing their unique ideas and listening to what others have come up with. After some whole-group discussion, can they now choose their favourite story and explain why?

Developing learner autonomy: a homework choice board

Apart from traditional homework tasks based on lessons delivered in the classroom, there is still a myriad of activities students can do by themselves to practise their English, learn to work independently, and take responsibility for their own learning. Learner autonomy is in fact one of the most important things we can promote if we really want to get our students ready for the ongoing, life-long language learning endeavour.

The following homework choice board, intended for students at B1 level and above, suggests 16 tasks to practise all four skills as well as grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation:

  • Students can choose the tasks based on their personal interests, or areas they feel they need more work on, which should result in extra motivation.
  • In the process of choosing an activity, students will be taking into account the skills and language items that are being practised in class, but also what is relevant to them, especially when they can connect the task with their own life.
  • The activities in the board are also flexible as far as proficiency level is concerned, which means that students can work at their own performance level.
  • A few tasks have been designed so that they can be used later in class, resulting in excellent materials based on students’ interests which can be introduced in different lessons later in the year.

HomeworkChoiceBoard

HomeworkChoiceBoard.pdf

Although the tasks here have been selected so they are easy to keep track of, holding students accountable for their work, this should ideally be another step in helping students develop their learner independence skills. How would you use this board in your own student tracking system? How would you assess each of these tasks?


This post won the British Council’s TeachingEnglish Blog of the Month Award for October 2018.

19832816_1990375300988638_219626387_n