Thinking Outside the Box: Exploring Different Ways to Interact with a Text

I believe there are different ways we can read a text with students. There can also be different objectives. Do we want students to read for general comprehension, for example, or to find details? Reading skills also overlap with pronunciation skills. I’m a big believer in oral reading. It shouldn’t be the default format, but I think it should have a place in language instruction. For that reason, I’ve devoted some of my time to building a playlist of practice texts for learners to read aloud. These are short texts that can easily be read multiple times.

How can you keep a text fresh if there are to be multiple readings? You can use any text — mine, yours, or something you find online. As long as the content is comprehensible, appropriate, and meaningful, then it may be used.

1. Read a text aloud at different speeds, but always with expression. A slower oral reading can call attention to phrasing. A faster oral reading is an exercise in articulation.

2. Unscramble the text and do a choral reading. What if each student were assigned an excerpt? Then you could have the students read their excerpt and the group would have to order themselves in a line or a circle. Once the proper order has been established, read the text one more time from beginning to end. The first step requires students to think about structure and sequence. The final time focuses on oral expression.

3. Read in character. How would a politician delivering a speech read the text? What would a salesperson sound like? You may have tried role play in the past, for instance, with dialogs or debates. You can also try it with short readings or excerpts from a larger reading. Ask students to suggest roles. Whose words might these be? Ask for volunteers or have students take on the roles in pairs. This can also be suggested practice if students are shy about role playing in the classroom.

4. Set up the text to serve as answers to questions. This could be similar to reading in character. For example, my latest oral reading text has this paragraph:

     Sometimes there can be pressure to stay in one place, but my desire to move was strong. Those closest to me supported me. I needed space to experiment and build something new. What would control my future, fear or a sense of purpose? I knew the answer. I stepped outside the box.  

Have students create questions that require direct answers from the reading. Then one students asks questions, and another supplies the answers.

Q: Why didn’t you stay in your hometown? A: Well, sometimes there can be pressure to stay in one place, but my desire to move was strong. I needed space to experiment and build something new. 

Q: Did your family support your move? A: Those closest to me supported me.

Do you know another way to approach reading? Feel free to suggest it!

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