Using a text - Readiness Activities
When reading in our first language we automatically connect what we are reading to our own lives, experience and knowledge. We do this through creating mental images (usually pictures in the mind) and through using our inner voice to talk to ourselves. This helps us to understand and to remember what we are reading. But when we read in a second or foreign language we often devote all our mental energy to understanding the words and in failing to connect the text to our own lives we also fail to really understand and remember it.
We can help our students to connect what they are reading to their own lives by giving them readiness activities before we give them the text. Readiness activities are mental activities which activate the learners' minds in relation to the text they are going to read. They achieve this by stimulating the learners to make connections in their minds between their own lives and experience and the topic(s) of the text.
Here's an example of a readiness activity for the text Beginners' guide.
1. Think of the Premier League. What pictures do you see in your mind?
2. Think of your favourite Premier League team. What pictures do you see in your mind?
3. Name as many Premier League teams as you can.
4. How many teams do you think there are in the Premier League?
5. How many teams get relegated every year from the Premier League?
6. Which team has won the Premier League the most times?
7. Discuss your answers to 3-7 with a partner.
As you can see from the example, readiness activities involve the students thinking before reading. They might also include some discussion, but the main activities are the mental ones.
Here's another example. This is a readiness activity for the text The Nike Premier League Ball
1. Put pictures in your mind of a football.
2. What colour is the ball you see?
3. What qualities do you want your football to have?
4. Nike make the footballs which they play with in the Premier League. In groups of four pretend you are Premier League footballers and you are writing to Nike to tell them what sort of ball you want to play with in the Premier League.
Complete the following letter in reply to a letter you have received from Nike:
Dear Mr Stevens,
Many thanks for your letter of April 10th. In answer to your question we would like a ball which .
We also want it to and it would be good if it
Suggestions for setting the activities
1. Set mental activities rather than speaking and writing activities. The main point is to activate the students' minds.
2. Focus all the activities on the students' themselves. Focus on what they know, what they think and what they've experienced in relation to the topic(s) of the text.
3. Use your local knowledge to make the activities especially relevant to your students (e.g. by getting them to imagine a famous local player, manager or referee operating in the Premier League).
Suggestions for using the activities
1. Give your students plenty of time to think about their answers to questions and to do the mental activities. Don't make them write answers, as the main points are for them to think and to connect.
2. You could take part in the activities by answering them for yourself and then sharing your answers with your students.
3. You could design your activities so that they refer to football leagues in your country as well as to the Premier League.
4. If possible you could ask your students to watch a Premier League game on tv or read about one on the web or in a local newspaper before they read the text.
Here are two examples of such tasks:
On Monday we're going to read a passage about the Premier League. Try to watch one of the Premier League games on tv this weekend and note down any information you gain about the Premier League.
On Monday we're going to read a passage about Brazilian footballers in England. Try to watch one of the Premier League games on tv this weekend and see if there are any Brazilian players.
5. Encourage your students to talk to themselves in English when answering the thinking questions. But you could allow them to use their first language some of the time when they are talking to their friends. The main purpose of the activities at this stage isn't to practise English but to help each other to get ready to read the text.
6. If your students do talk to each other in English don't correct their grammatical errors at this stage. Just listen to the conversations and join as a participant rather than as a teacher.