Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Reading as an Integral Part of Education Process

Last Friday I had a wonderful day attending an annual conference on reading and literacy issues held by Reading Association of Russia (http://rusreadorg.ru/en). It was a fruitful experience as I got to learn a lot of theoretical and practical info, which I am going to share with you :)

Information and statistics

First of all, some interesting facts which were mentioned in young scientists' reports contest:
- girls read more than boys;
- top-3 popular books among children of 12-17 years old in Russia:
1) Harry Potter
2) Hobbit
3) Twilight
-1/3 of primary schoolers in Russia read 60% of info from screen.
-48% of teenagers prefer paper books
-modern parents are more concerned about children's reading than generation before
-fewer people join libraries comparing to statics of 2005
-the reading intensity has grown, that is children read more books in one month now

I also put down a name of book which is probably worth reading - "Библиопсихология. Библиопедагогика. Библиотерапия" (Bibliopsychology. Bibliopedagogy. Bibliotherapy). I was lucky enough to meet the authors and listen to their short presentation of the book and it sounds like a profound study.

Practical tips

Second part of the event was devoted to workshops, where reports on different topics were presented. One was supposed to stick to one workshop section and listen to the reports grouped under the same topic. Some participants however found it more useful to cruise around and attend several sections. So did I, and having listened to the report on mindless reading which nowadays is widely spread not only among children with disorders (who usually tend to have these difficulties due to improper brain function or disabilities). Mindless reading implies reading without understanding the sense of the text/sentence, without paying attention to details.
Two women, who I started to admire after their speech as it was truly great in terms of usefulness and ideas presented, suggested some tasks for primary and pre- schoolers to prevent mindless reading. These exercises however can be successfully used in ESL/EFL classroom ikprao.ru

1) Read and assume
Students are given a short piece of text. The information is not given directly. Students need to draw a picture in accordance with the text, adding details that are based on logical assumptions.
Text: it's the 1st of September (p.s. for readers from other countries - it's an official first day of school all over Russia). The sun is shining. Children are hurrying up to school.
What your students should come to:
- it's the 1st of September, therefore it's autumn. So some trees are probably yellow. Sun is shining - not many clouds in the sky. Maybe some paddles on the ground.
2) Hypothesising
You give text piece by piece (sentence by sentence) and students need to give predictions after each piece of info. Text should give ability to change hypothesis with each next piece.
What season is it?
It's windy. (can be any season)
It's snowing. (can be autumn, winter, spring. BUT: here children are likely to conclude that it's winter. Discuss this together)
The grass is green. (can be autumn, spring)
Snowdrops are coming out (spring)

Then I had a chance to attend a workshop where teachers shared their techniques of creative writing and reading. Here are the ideas that can be put into practice:
1) Every story has 4 major parts:

  • Each story can focus mainly on one of the parts. So we can try writing one story 4 times shifting the focus each time
  • When writing first stories, it's wise to focus on one part at a time. For example, one week is devoted to the development of characters, next - to the setting, and so on

2) Writing while reading a book tasks:

  • Story inside a story: ask children to write a one-page story to put inside the story they are reading. It can highlight some particular moment in a character's past or explain some of the actions
  • Small changes lead to important consequences: ask students to retell (or rewrite if you are a cruel teacher :D) the story changing/eliminating one of the events or characters
  • Changing the structure: stories may have different structure, For example, they can be told as a flashback of events from the past or have a circular structure. Ask your students to retell the story changing its structure

3) There are 5 types of conflicts which a story may have:
Man vs. Man
Man vs. Society
Man vs. Self
Man vs. Nature
Man vs. Digital World (that's rather new one)

  • You can ask students to add one conflict to the story you are reading and imagine what would change
  • You can start creative writing activities by writing a short story with one particular type of conflict in focus (usually good stories have several of them)

4) There are 6 main types of character:
Round (usually main character)

  • You can ask your students to imagine what the story you are reading would be like with a different type of character
  • You can classify all the characters in the story and find similar and contradictory features

5) One of the greatest reading activities is mindmapping of course. Any info presented in graphs, schemes or pictures is more interesting and more likely to stay in memory. I'll be writing a post focusing on mind maps a bit later (soon I hope), and I plan to make it useful and informative, so for now I'll just mention mind maps as one of good strategies to work with texts.

To end with, here are some important points that I have come to through my personal experience:

  • As you see, all the reading and writing strategies are quite interchangeable, and all the reading tasks can be given as writing activities with an aim to create one's own story and therefore develop imagination and writing skills.
Even Mickey is writing ;)
  • It's essential for writing activities to start writing at the lesson. Write at least first 5 sentences at the lesson, together, so that your students don't have to start with a blank list staring at them and frightening them.
  • Comments on written work are crucial to students' motivation, self-esteem and effectiveness. Write at least 2-3 sentences about each essay/story/composition so that your children feel that their work has been carefully read through, their efforts are appreciated and progress is noticed.

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