10 practical tips for heterogeneous learning groups
Why read at all? Several studies have found that extensive reading not only promotes reading skills, but also vocabulary learning and general language skills. The “Extensive Reading” also trains learning autonomy and, very importantly, it strengthens empathy and allows young people to experience the world from different perspectives. Finally, successful reading builds confidence and increases motivation to read more in English. Find out in ten tips for reading work – especially for heterogeneous learning groups – how pupils can have more fun reading.
10 tips for reading work
Present the purpose of a reading
In the case of extensive reading, in contrast to the intensive reading of shorter texts in the classroom, the focus is on the reader’s personal examination of the text and not on the complete understanding of the text. It can happen that individual students understand and interpret stories very differently. Explain to your students that the primary purpose of reading is to enjoy reading and describe the benefits that come with extensive reading.
Choose the right reading
Reading tastes are different: whether exciting adventures, scary stories, dystopias or stories about social justice and more. Provide your students with a choice. In reading webinars with teachers, I have found that this principle is practiced in many classrooms – and of course leads to more motivated readers. Pupils should also be able to stop reading and choose another if the content does not appeal to them.
Let you read autonomously
Readings have the greatest learning effect when they can be read relatively fluently – without too many unfamiliar words that become stumbling blocks. Choose the right level for your class carefully: slightly below your normal reading level. Teach your students reading strategies so they can use context, and more to help them when an important word is struggling. Most reading materials have helpful vocabulary lists, but it is not necessary (or even desirable) for students to fully understand every word. You can just “skip” or “about” some words and still get most of them. Most importantly, let your students read at their own pace.
Use book covers and pictures in the readings and let your students speculate about what is happening in the book. This motivates them to read the story to confirm or deny their suspicions. Have students look at the first few pages in pairs. Play a memory game with them: What pictures did you see? Before the class discusses their impressions, give them a list to help them choose from: Do they find the book exciting/cool/weird/scary…? What do you think is happening?
Address all learners
Not all students are visual learners. Arouse their curiosity and replace parts of the book with audio files. Use audio samples to give students an atmospheric introduction to the topic at hand. Or record a chapter yourself to offer them a change or support while reading.
Break up the reading
Pair reading involves students who struggle with reading to read together: they take turns reading a few pages or a chapter at home, then share information in class. This is how you ensure everyone has a sense of achievement. When students read several readings at the same time, an information gap arises that you can use in the class: After reading a chapter, they each tell a partner what happened.
Students can empathize with a story and develop empathy for the characters by writing them short messages as they read. The messages are private and the students decide whether to share them with the others.
Have a reading diary written
Reading a book should better not entail any tasks. However, recommend a reading diary to structure the reading. This can be relatively open and students write down anything they notice or like, or write down their questions in it.
If there is a film to go with the book, have the students watch the film after reading. Ask them to compare both versions: what do you think is missing from the film, what do you think is well done? If there is no film, have your students make a film poster for the book: Who is in the Leading Roles? What kind of photo or (own) drawing is on the poster? How many stars does the film get and how can it be rated with adjectives or small sentences? Hang the poster on the wall and it will get the other students interested in reading.
Get personal feedback
Very important after you have finished reading – get personal feedback from your students: did they like the reading or why not? My tip: some students might want to make a drawing of their favorite character. What were your favorite scenes? What did you learn from history, a piece of wisdom or advice? Don’t forget: Praise your students for completing the reading!