Reverse reading

Classroom activity
Reverse reading
This video describes an activity that Nicola Prentis calls 'Reverse Reading'. Like all good teaching ideas, it's simple, requires little preparation and gets learners talking and learning.

Hello, and welcome again. I'm Jo Gakonga. And this is another video from ELT Last month, we looked at fairly standard way of looking at receptive skills. And this month, I want to look at a slightly different way of approaching reading. And it's very practical idea and something you can take straight into the classroom. So I hope you like it. Let's get on.

This idea isn't mine, I'm afraid. It's from Nicola Prentis. She's got a great blog at Simple English -shown here - and she also published this idea in Modern English Teacher, which is great magazine if you've not come across it before. As with all the best ideas, this is really quite straightforward but it does really work. So I hope you'll find it useful in your classes.

In the way we looked at last time, this is how the stages went. So you could summarize this by thinking of it as three main stages. So pre reading tasks, while reading tasks (and clearly those are the main focus for reading usually), and then post reading tasks.

Reverse reading is a little bit different. So we still have our pre reading tasks. But the productive work that usually comes after the reading comes first. And we look at the actual text at the end, so the stages look a bit more like this. You can see the emphasis is much more on teaching the new language that's coming out of the text. And on the speaking element, the productive work. So the reading at the end becomes almost secondary. In some ways. It's almost like a task based approach, where you've got a model of the language at the end, coming after the use of the language before, so they have a need to know.

So the question is, why do this? There are quite a few good reasons. One of the main ones is that classroom time is very limited for most students, so we want to exploit it as much as we can for things that they can't do at home so easily. So, if we use reverse reading, there's much less time spent like this. And much more time spent like this. Partly, this is because there's more emphasis on the speaking. But also because the conversation is quite structured, this scaffolds the discussion. So it keeps going, it gives the learners a focus and it helps them to continue. There's also I think, potentially a lot more language learning going on, especially emphasis on vocabulary, of course. So this is on using it and on recycling it. Another big advantage is that it really doesn't take very long to prepare this, I think that's probably an advantage you're going to like. So you can use the text from the course book, you can use authentic materials or any other texts that you find and it's a great investment of a small amount of time preparing, for a good amount of time in a productive working class.

Okay, so I've sold you on the idea, hopefully, let me take you through the example that Nicola gives on her blog, and I'll give you a better idea of how it actually works in practice.

So the beginning is pretty much how you might start any reading lesson. You could activate schemata with a picture like this or a question like this. Obviously, this text is about wearable technology. The next stage is the main difference. So instead of pre teaching essential vocabulary and moving on to a gist task, as you might normally do, you give the learners a list of questions that you've made up. This could be maybe 10, or 12. Quite a number. I've just given you some examples here, but 10 or 12- quite a number of questions. These will ask for personalized answers, but they're about the subject of the text. And they've got lots of the new language from the text embedded in them. As you can see here, the ones that are in bold, you can see that a lot of these aren't single words. It's chunks of language, either collocations or whole phrases that might be useful.

So this discussion is in pairs or maybe small groups. And that forms the main focus of the lesson. You could ask them to talk about these with different partners. And this will go on for quite a while because it's structured and you might find that different groups get interested in different questions. That's absolutely fine. That's not a bother at all. You might be asking 'what about all the language in those questions that they don't know?' Well, because it's in context, obviously it's easier to understand. And also, you'll be monitoring around and helping. So you can encourage them to use the language as well, once you've pre taught it, if you like during the discussion, but it will be more straightforward because it's in a context.

So I think one of the big advantages of this is that it solves that problem of teachers who pre teach a lot of vocabulary and decontextualized way and it doesn't make sense to the learners. In this way, it does make more sense. You do see this approach in coursebooks, sometimes, but the difference here is this stage is really designed to be the meat of the lesson, it is supposed to be the majority of the lesson - a good amount of time spent discussing these questions. So I've included a sample of a text here so that you can see it. Feel free to stop me and read it if you'd like to, but the main thing to notice is the vocabulary that was highlighted in the questions is also highlighted in the text to help the learners notice it. So basically, this means that when the learners do eventually get to read the text, they've got a good idea of what they're going to read. And they've got a good idea of a lot of the difficult language, so they'll be much more prepared, and they'll need less support. And in fact, you could then get them to do that for homework.

The other thing is, the process of finally reading the text at the end of the lesson, after quite a lot of discussion, gives them another exposure to the language. So that'll help to reinforce it as well.

In some ways, this is the reading equivalent of Jamie Keddie's video telling. And if you don't know that, it's really, really useful and great. And you could follow that link too, to have a look at that.

So as a quick recap here, you're going to choose your text. It's going to be a suitable length and level for your learners. And then you're going to identify some useful language in the text, probably phrases rather than individual words, but it could be both. And you're going to make up some questions using this language and put this language in bold in your questions so that they notice it. The learner is then going to discuss the questions while you monitor help with the language. And this may take the whole lesson. And then they read the text right at the end, and that could be for homework.

So that's it for me for today. Do let me know how it goes if you try it out and maybe let Nicola know. I hope you found it helpful. I'm back next month. Thank you very much for watching. Bye bye
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