Classroom Reading

I had recently presented at my company’s workshop on the topic about lesson planning and a question arose about how to plan reading in reading or literature class, or simply how to make sure students are reading when having to read a story or book in class. I had just finished talking about the difference between teaching and observing in class when this question made me think about how I manage my own classroom.

Teaching requires the teacher to be informing the students about some topic and having interactions with the student to demonstrate their understanding. Teaching could be talking about vocabulary and having students communicate using those words with the teacher. Observing however is when the teacher watches the students perform tasks which require different English skills. This way, the teacher can make notes about students’ production and monitor their comprehension of different skills.

If not done correctly, reading in class can actually hurt students’ reading skills in the short and long terms. The most damaging effect could be students lose interest in reading and thus not be willing to read as they grow and develop as humans and learners. How does this happen? Typically in a reading class where the students are expected to read, a teacher will choose certain people to read one at a time. The problem with this method is only 1 student is required to read while the others are expected to follow along and “act” like they are reading. Even if you catch a student not reading, they won’t know where the other students were at nor will have paid attention to the previously read text. So, how can we fix this?

classroom teaching

1. Instructional Reading

Usually a reading class will have some type of theme or topic/lesson to focus on. If there is a grammar or vocabulary focus as well, the better. Before reading, provide background knowledge or necessary knowledge for the students to better understand the text they are expected to read. Then, after doing all of your exercises, activities, techniques, etc. to make sure the students understand you instruct the students to mark or highlight that focus while the teacher reads. The teacher will read the story aloud in class while the students read along with their fingers and mark their book as they read. They could be marking for vocabulary words, grammar points, or even related reading terms (characters, setting, plot, problem, solution, etc.). As the teacher reads, the teacher should monitor the class to make sure the students are following along. After the story is finished, the teacher can do comprehension exercises with the marked information in the students’ books. I have found this activity works for various levels of students and age groups. Some students have viewed this as a game and want to mark better than their classmates. Some students become more focused when listening so they don’t miss something important. This activity gives more meaning to the text when the students need to analyze it and not just repeat the words.

2. Shared Reading

While this term may have a different meaning, I use shared reading with my students, especially the younger students, because it helps them identify better with the activity of reading when a teacher is reading with them. As a child, my parents used to read books to me and the comfort of them doing that helped make me want to read more and become more interested in books. Many times as a teacher, having students read together is like watching a show at the zoo. You see the reading activity as being productive for the students but the students see a teacher watching them try to speak in their 2nd language. I will participate in the reading with the class and we will get together in circles and share reading responsibilities. By working together, the students feel more at ease and are usually more focused when others are dependent on their reading performance. By going around in the circle and reading together, teacher and students, everyone can get involved with the story better.


3. Popcorn Reading

This final activity to reading is typically for the older students. While the older students are expected to already have a concept of how to be a successful reader, many do not display these skills. Popcorn reading is when a student begins reading the story and at any time (usually I say after a paragraph), they can say “popcorn!” and then choose a different person to read. The next student is suppose to follow immediately after in the story. If the student does not know where the spot was, they get punished. Punishment can be an assortment of sinister ordeals. Some teachers make the student perform a song and dance in front of the classroom. I however make my students begin the reading all over again from the beginning to where they should have started. At first, the students who did not want to pay attention were called upon and forced to re-read the whole story. Because they were not comfortable reading long texts, nor had strong reading skills, they were frustrated. But the more they read, the more they became aware of paying attention when reading. They also became more fluent at reading because they were finally reading for more than a few sentences (which shared reading can lead to). Additionally, students may find it jokingly fun to pick on other students to try and get them to reread the story. When everyone is paying attention, the story gets read at a much faster pace and the students focus shifts from reading as a game to reading for purpose. The flaws to this activity include spending potentially more time than is allowed in a class to read, especially if a student wasn’t paying attention. Another flaw is the students are reading to not get penalized, so they are following the text but may not be fully aware of the meaning or context of the reading passage.

4. Silent Reading

While this activity has been widely used all over the world, it can be the most difficult to actually see if the students are reading and how well they are understanding the story. To help alleviate some of these problems, I have found having students take notes in a notebook or in the margins of the book helps the teacher see how developed the reader is. I check for reading strategies and see if the students are able to record the correct/necessary information which was mentioned in class or for the test. When students are not demonstrating strong reading abilities, the teacher can consult the student 1 on 1 while the rest of the class continues to read.

So what are you some of your ideas towards reading in class? Are there any other reading strategies you can think of? Do you plan your lesson according to the reading that is required in the classroom?