Creating resources for your online lessons can seem like a chore. Where do you begin to make something worthwhile that will transfer from student to student? Argh! My brand new ebook (+ digital companion content) 100 Creative Ideas for Online Language Teachers makes this much more fun – for both teachers and students. But more on that later.
In this post, we’re going to look at 3 big Creative Reading Ideas (taken directly from the ebook) and learn how you can make them work for your online language lessons.
If you want to learn more about Creative Listening Ideas you can use in your online language lessons, you’ll love the free live class I’m hosting with Cara Leopold from Leo Listening on Friday 21st April at 2pm UK time.
Cara is my go to online language teacher when I’m thinking about how to make listening more fun for students.
The class is called The 2 Tech Tools To Transform Your Students’ Listening. Your students will thank you. Click below to book your free spot on the class. Yay!
General Creative Reading Ideas
Let’s start off by establishing ways to use reading in lessons that work for various texts and various abilities. It’s always worth knowing how you can be flexible with a text rather than just going to the standard “read this”.
In Your Head
Students read the text in their heads. This helps to ensure understanding by asking open questions about the text.
Students read the text out loud. Works great for students who are currently shy to produce their own spoken language spontaneously.
Students use the short text as a pronunciation exercise. The short length makes for a less taxing pronunciation exercise. You can even include specific words often that you know students have trouble with.
Repeat After Me
Students listen to you read it out loud before reading it themselves. Another twist on bringing pronunciation into the activity.
Tell Me Why
Encourage students to answer questions about it. You can include questions on a separate slide in the document.
Over To You
Let students write their own short text based on the same topic. This can then be used as a spoken presentation too.
Reading is also a great activity to encourage students to do in their own time. Get them started with all the reading resources you could possibly need here.
Now let’s get to the really creative stuff!
CREATIVE READING IDEA 1: TRAFFIC LIGHT READING
Oooo this is one of my favourites! And it’s so simple. Here’s what to do:
Take three pens in different colours. Ideally red, orange, and green, but it’s not too important as long as you and students are both clear on the colour code you’re going to use.
Students skim read a text, not worrying too much about how much they understand.
Ask them to re-read focusing more on vocabulary. Start by underlining the words that they understand completely (including cognates, names, numbers etc) in green.
Then students re-read the text and underline the words that look familiar, they think you know but aren’t too sure in…you guessed it: orange.
Finally, students read the text a third time underlining the words they definitely don’t understand in red. Sometimes, you might want to set students a limit for how many red words they underline, telling them only to underline the words that they believe are seriously blocking their understanding of the text as a whole. Generally however, students are pleasantly surprised by how few words are red and how many are green. Seeing their ability laid out in a visual way really helps to increase confidence.
Once the whole text is underlined, I like to give students a limit of 5, 10 or 15 words, depending on the length of the text, and tell them they’re only allowed to look this many words up in a dictionary. This helps them to identify words that are actually getting in the way of comprehension versus words that they don’t know but actually don’t impact their overall understanding of the text.
This is a useful activity that can be done with a printed text, in a Google Doc, on RealTimeBoard, or set as a homework task for some independent study.
CREATIVE READING IDEA 2: POEMS AND OTHER CREATIVE TEXTS
Poems are great at any level provided you find the right one!
Short haikus or one or two lined poems can be a great introduction to the creative use of the language. Whereas others work really well to demonstrate a particular grammar point (for example, the French poem Déjeuner du Matin by Jacques Prévert, which is littered with examples of verbs in the ‘passé composé’ past tense).
If the poem rhymes it can also be a great activity in pronunciation and spoken stress patterns. Not only for reading but also going beyond and encouraging students to create their own poems as their skills become more advanced.
Another benefit of using poems in your language lessons, is that they are often more accessible to young learners and beginners due to their often shorter length or structure.
So what Creative Ideas can you bring into your online language lessons using poetry?
Find a video narration of the poem on YouTube and use this as a means to inspire students to create their own video version of the poem.
With phones in our pockets, we can now all easily create cool videos and animations. For example, set students the homework task of making a GIF of the lines from a poem you have studied in lesson – or even get creative yourself and make your own to use within the lesson!
If you’ve picked a particularly descriptive poem, use it as a springboard to get students speaking and writing to describe the setting in their own words. A brilliant way to expand adjective vocabulary.
Ride On Rhyme
Use RhymeBrain to encourage students to expand their vocabulary and find words that rhyme with those in the poems.
Even if they don’t understand all the words they find (and heck knows they don’t have to), encourage them to be playful with the language and attempt to say some of the new words, knowing the sound to expect from the word they do know that rhymes with it.
The good news is that this site is available in multiple languages, currently: English, Spanish, French, German, Hindi, Dutch, Italian and Russian.
Take a twist on the classic poetry magnets and give students a list of words from the poem you have read to include in a poem of their own. This allows you the chance to focus on key vocabulary you want them to learn.
A Little Mixed
Introduce a poem to students in the incorrect order. Split the poem naturally by verses and show it in your new order on Google Slides. Ask them to reorder it how they think it should be. If this is difficult, it can help to find a narration of the poem online to bring in listening skills. Oh, and don’t forget to keep a copy for yourself in the correct order so you remember how it should be!
CREATIVE READING IDEA 3: COMICS
Encouraging beginners to read can be tricky. Huge texts, stories and articles look intimidating and nobody wants that. Instead, even before poetry, you can get beginners reading by using comics – short snappy nuggets of language with visual aids to make things much easier to understand.
Here are my favourite ways to use comics in the language classroom:
Have a Google Slides for each student with comic graphics and blank speech bubbles on each page for them to add the text to finish telling the story. This is something students of mine always enjoy – whether they’re young and just getting to grips with the basics or adult and actually pretty advanced.
Much like the idea of splitting a poem into verses and jumbling the order, reorder the panels of a comic strip and ask students to rearrange into the order they think it should be.
Use a comic as a dialogue exercise. The student voices one character and you voice the other(s). This is especially helpful when students are shy about speaking as they will be talking “through” the character and not as themselves, which helps to lift those feelings of self-consciousness.
Create a profile for each character in a comic strip to give students extra reading for the same activity. You could even set this one as a homework task.
Using ComicLife, create your own comics completely.
This is great as it avoids all risk of copyright issues, you are in control of what vocabulary and grammar structures students read or are encouraged to use, and it’s a super easy program to use. Once you’ve created a comic, you’ve got it for life. ComicLife is a paid for program. Free alternatives include Make Beliefs Comix, Pixton, and Toondoo.
With comic strips of 5 or more panels, one activity to try is to show students the first and last panels and ask them to guess what happens in the middle. This can be done as a spoken or written activity.
And there we have it. 3 big Creative Reading Ideas to use in your online language lessons and make them more engaging and fun for both you and students. Woop!
What you’ve just read, is an adapted extract from 100 Creative Ideas for Online Language Teachers, an ebook and digital companion content to support all online language teachers with their organisation, promotion and lesson planning.
Get the full book!
And if you want to get creative with all aspects of your online language teaching, you can now get the entire ebook, 100 Creative Ideas for Online Language Teachers. Yay!
If transferring your teaching online is blowing your mind a little bit, 100 Creative Ideas for Online Language Teachers is the ebook for you.
With Creative Ideas to use within lessons as well as organise + promote your teaching, the ebook + online bonus content including templates, videos + examples is a must for all online language teachers.
What are your favourite ways to make reading more engaging and fun in your online language lessons? Share in the comments below!