jueves, 2 de febrero de 2017

Are Your Students Bored With Reading? What to do to Change That Situation

By Flor de María Vila A.

Whenever we need to train reading text, the first thought we frequently have in mind is: “Students aren’t terribly fond of reading; I need to motivate them so that they enjoy the activity”
As good teachers, we prepare everything needed to teach our learners how to read. For instance, we prepare videos related to the topic or use different visual aids to enhance students´ participation. In most cases, our pupils get excited and become ready to welcome the passage. However, as the lesson goes on, something happens that makes the honeymoon finish before having the chance to truly enjoy it. Learners start getting bored, and a considerable amount of time has been dedicated to an apparently inactive exercise. Or maybe worse, some students finish first, while the others are still struggling with the text. Then we tend to accelerate the process because we cannot stand a “silent and inactive stage.” We have our students compare their answers either with their classmates or with the key provided by the text or even with their teacher, namely, us.
And the big question is: Does this work? Are students learning how to read? Are we teaching them how to read or just motivating them to do what they already do in their own language?
In fact, this topic needs more than one article to give a better idea of what teaching reading implies. The explanation of what this process means will help us understand why the enchantment of initial motivation does not last until the end of a reading lesson. In general terms, reading is not just the act of decoding symbols, it deals with the comprehension of the message contained in the text and to do so it is necessary that the reader negotiates the meaning between the text and his own background, experience, knowledge, as well as his objective about this activity. It is not enough to work with the well-known BDA activities (activities done before, during and after reading). The act of reading demands not only knowing the vocabulary related to the topic but also discerning how to use the different cognitive skills and strategies that will help establish permanent interaction with the text. This enduringly active communication will create an interaction back and forth which will keep the flame of joy for reading longer and stronger.
If we know how the process of reading really works, we will be able to make better use of any aid to motivate students and keep them motivated along the road. Nowadays, there are many tools that will make this part of the job easier since they provide interesting reading passages, in different levels of English, diverse lengths and dissimilar topics. Moreover, they contribute with the visual aids needed, the pertinent vocabulary explanation and some exercises that will reduce our workload. Some of them are Newsela, News in levels, Readworks, Rewordify, Commonlit, Tween tribune, Breaking news English, Guided reader, Books that grow, and Footsteps to brilliance. Each of them has a number of advantages; you just need to decide which your main objective is to choose the one that fits. Try just one of these tools and start experiencing the change in your reading lessons.
However, do not ever forget that you need more than the dancing shoes to be a dancer. 
We will see more in another article, keep in contact. 

Meanwhile, share with us your experience and together we can take off.
What do you do to keep students´ interested in reading? Do you teach any strategies to improve comprehension? 

Biographical Data
M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development from PUCP, B.A. in Education with a major in English Teaching. Ms. Vila is currently Pedagogic Advisor and Member of the Research Team at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico and Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory). She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, freelance consultant with Universidad ESAN, experienced speaker on diverse English teaching issues for prestigious institutions, and senior international examinations trainer (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS)