Most of our teens are not readers. A bold statement perhaps, but as true now as it was 20-odd years ago. They see books as something of a chore, an obligation from school and the idea of reading for pleasure is beyond their experience. And even if they recognise the value with comments such as “she knows a lot – she reads a lot.” or “he always gets good marks – he’s always reading”, they are still very reluctant to do anything about it.
So here, at TCEC, where they’re given yet another book to read the reaction is obviously rather muted. So what can we do to whet their appetite? Most graded readers have pre-reading tasks, but these are more likely to put the students off for life – and are seen as an intrinsic part of the book – the book they feel they are being forced to read.
Over the years I’ve been using a Task-Based-Learning activity which, though it doesn’t turn them into the most avid readers, often arouses their interest and is a useful learning tool in itself.
Before even mentioning the dreaded word book I ask them to prepare a presentation (in pairs or small groups) related to the book or author. My B2s are reading Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination and I’m usually very free with the topics. A biography, introduction to his works, a specific poem or tale… over the years our students have come up with some outstanding work (did you know that the collective noun for a group of ravens is an unkindness? Neither did I until listening to one presentation). My C1s have started Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (original, ungraded version) and here I was more specific, giving pairs topics such as Jazz music in the 1920s, Flapper Girls, The Prohibition Years etc to give them a feeling for the period and thus a better understanding of the book.
And it works! From the photos you can see just how engaged the students are – they even pay attention to their classmates!
(For more on TBL – watch this space!)