The holidays are here, and teachers usually have two main goals for their students during the summer break. One, we want them to relax and come back to school healthy, happy and refreshed. Two, we want them to develop, or at least maintain, the level of English they've reached throughout the year.
One easy way of combining relaxation and learning is reading. In this post, we’ll suggest some different approaches which you can either combine or offer separately to your students. Before we get there, let’s clarify what actually counts as reading. When I ask students what they have recently read in English, they often say 'nothing', simply because they think of reading as long, worthy books. Let’s remind ourselves, and our students, that reading includes ALL types of reading. For example, they can read magazines, forums, blogs, graphic novels, comic books, graded readers, short stories, novels or even the back of the cereal box. Both online and offline reading count, and they can read the instructions to their games or a long thread on a social media platform. However, one important distinction to be made is that these different types of reading involve different text types. And different text types rely on different reading and thinking skills. For example, when students are reading a forum or blog online, they might skip some information or jump to different pages. When they are reading graphic novels or comic books, they decode both the visual and verbal elements of the text. When they are reading instructions, they need to pay careful attention to every detail and step. When they are reading the news, they might just skim the text. While when they are reading a novel, they get engaged on a magical level and go into a slow, deep kind of reading. Reading fiction activates their imagination, creates contexts for the narrative and students get to know new characters, places and feelings. It seems that reading narratives is the most exciting form of reading.
Three approaches to reading
Once you have discussed the different types of reading, you can help your students by discussing different approaches to reading.
1 Read short texts daily
Tell your students that getting into a habit of reading a little bit in English every day will take them a long way. What can they read? Make sure that it is a text of their own choice. Here are some ideas for daily reads:
- Subscribe to the newsletter of a magazine, a club or blog.
- Choose a blog and follow it every day.
- Read one news item in an online newspaper every day.
- Read a short poem every day.
- Select a topic that interests you and read about it every day. For example, read about different types of cars, animals, musicians or actors.
2 Read long stories
This can be either a story the whole class decides to read over the holidays and discuss when you are back at school, or a story of your students’ own choice. Or both.
When you pick a story for the whole class, you can rely on the classics and/or choose a contemporary young adult novel. For lower level students (elementary to intermediate, CEFR A1-B1), consult a graded readers catalogue (such as the Helbling Readers catalogue) for suitable titles with graded texts that your students can comfortably read on their own.
Set a time frame for reading the story, but make it easy to complete so that your students feel successful by the end of the holiday. You can simply say they should all read one or two titles by the end of the holidays.
You can encourage interaction with the story by asking your students to keep a paper-based or digital reading journal. Always discuss the details and the writing process of a reading journal, we should not assume that students have learnt about it in another class.
You can read more about reading journals in the English class in our blog post.
3 Read online
Although we believe in the wonder of reading paper-based books (just think about what a new book smells like!), it is important that students read well online. They also need to know that it is a valuable form of reading so they can practise English on their various devices.
An important thing to keep in mind is that online reading is more like a multimodal experience (texts are based on sounds, images, videos, symbols and text coming together). When your students read a webpage or a social media site, they need to consider all these elements. It is also important to discuss that not all you read online is true and they should keep a checklist in mind about what counts as a reliable online resource.
Talk about critical digital literacy skills by discussing some of these points:
- How do you know who created the content for a website?
- Is there an ‘About’ section where you can read more about the authors?
- How can you double-check where the information comes from?
- Are there references for the data or claims they include?
What should students read online?
They can read about their hobbies, sports and music interests, as well as scientific and cultural blogs. Ask students to make a list of their top five online reading sites. They should include a blog, a magazine, a scientific and a fun site. Students can share their lists with each other and present their favourite websites to the others. Ask students to bookmark their favourite pages so that they are easily accessible and they can read them regularly over the summer.
There are many other ways to encourage reading during the holidays. Here are some of our blog posts that will help you to discover various ways of reading.
- Reading for fun at home: tips and resources
- Slow the summer slide
- Get creative: offline and online projects for language learners