Micro staging for reading

Micro-staging for Reading          Nikue Gardner by Teaching Temple (TESL/TEFL) (find ‘Teaching Temple’ on Facebook for regular classroom ideas, links, teaching vacancies and more) http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/nikue

Although it may be an obvious point, it's worth repeating: Reading is an activity students can do at home. They have the texts and can be provided with answers. However, the answer to the natural follow-up question, "How can we as teachers make classroom reading worthwhile in terms of time spent versus other activities which students can't do at home?", is less clear. The answer comes from micro-staging. The term refers to the actions taken by teachers before, after and between reading tasks and feedback. Let's take a look at possible micro-stages one by one.

  1. Introducing texts
    While most teachers are aware of the importance of establishing and maintaining context in terms of lessons, it is equally important to establish the context of reading texts. Providing as much information about a text without giving away task answers will help students engage with the text more easily. Rather than jumping straight to a gist task, consider telling students where the text is from (e.g. a newspaper), who wrote the text, what type of text it is (e.g. a letter) as well as how it connects to the rest of the lesson and why they're reading it.   

  2. Pre-teaching Vocabulary
    There is often confusion about how much and which vocabulary to teach beforehand when preparing students for reading tasks. The key here is to consider which words students need to know in order to complete the reading tasks you'll be assigning them. This is often referred to as blocking vocabulary. Avoid pre-teaching vocabulary which is simply interesting, unknown to the students, or just plain difficult. (Although, you may want to include those items in a post-reading language analysis.) An easy way to determine which vocabulary is likely to block students is to do the tasks yourself, or have a friend do them, and focus on which words helped you complete them.

  3. Peer-checking
    Many teachers consider peer-checking a time-consuming exercise with little potential value. A common question is: "Why waste time checking with a partner when we're going to go over the answers as a class anyway?" The answer seems counter-intuitive at first. In fact, peer-checking often saves time, as it reduces the likelihood of having to deal with a variety of responses. Students are able to come to a consensus before whole-class feedback and therefore the teacher saves him/herself time that would otherwise be spent resolving those conflicts at class-level. Students also get valuable speaking time here.

  4. Eliciting justifications
    Feedback is the moment when teachers have the greatest opportunity for helping students develop their reading skills beyond the immediate reading text and tasks at hand. How can we help students get better at gist, scan and detailed reading as discrete skills? And how can we check their development? A great way to do this is to elicit justifications from students during feedback, rather than just answers. For gist tasks, ask students how they arrived at their answers. Did they use the picture? title? what words guided them? For scanning, it can be helpful to ask which keywords from the question helped them find the answer. For detailed and inference tasks, a simple why? may be sufficient to clearly see how students are completing tasks. Training students in this way will both help to improve their reading skills and encourage the use of those skills in the classroom (no more reading word for word).
(appeared in the Spring 2011 newsletter)