Dream Reader

This post is not about books or extensive reading, as the title and the image might imply. It is about another useful teaching/learning resource I’ve recently learned about and used in class. 
 
A few days ago, on his A new day, a new thingblog, David Harbinson shared a newly learned thing that had come to him via Mike Griffin’s blog. If you go to Mike’s blog, which I did today, you’ll find an interview with Neil Millington, a university teacher based in Japan, who, six months ago, co-set a website for English learners called DreamReader.net.  
After reading David’s post, nosey me immediately went to the website to see what it’s like. It reminded me of another website I like and use – News in Levels – so I decided to experiment with it a bit in the following lesson. This was on Friday and it was supposed to be a small class of only 10 students. Due to a flu epidemic, though, only 4 students finally turned up for that particular lesson, so the conditions were much more convenient for a language experiment I was up to. It turned out that four was actually a perfect number (but I believe it could work well with larger classes too). So, I’d like to tell you what I did with the website. Spoiler: it went really well. 
My students were pre-intermediate language learners aged 16 (3 boys and 1 girl). The lesson was in the morning and it was 45 minutes long. There are five categories on the site: Easy English, Interesting English, Fun English, Practical English and Academic English. For starters, I chose Fun English. I selected two audios which I thought everybody would be interested in: Minecraft – a PC game everybody knows and plays (or played in the past) and The Simpsons – an animated comedy TV show that is hugely popular over here in the Czech Republic. My plan was to exploit the two short texts to the full.
I projected the web page on the screen. I gave students some brief background information about what I was doing and why, we did some brainstorming, and I started with the first recording. I played the audio and asked Ss to answer the four simple questions that accompany the transcript (note: I had scrolled down the page so that Ss could not see the transcript while listening). The questions are very easy to answer; they serve as an introduction to the topic rather than as a listening/reading comprehension exercise. This is only to the good because it doesn’t put too much stress on Ss during the first encounter with the text. Then we checked the answers quickly as a class. I played the audio again; this time I let the kids follow the transcript. After that we looked at some useful expressions, especially collocations, and put them on the board. I removed the text and got Ss to retell (in pairs) what it said, in their own words, using the chunks on the board. I did the same with The Simpsons. 
I moved on to the next stage. I’m a big fan of Paul Nation’s Learning Vocabulary in Another Language and I love using some of the activities he suggests in this thick volume. So I projected the first text (Minecraft) on the screen again. I asked Ss to work in pairs. One student was sitting so that he faced the screen, the other one right opposite her partner. The one facing the screen was asked to read the text in this way: Look at the text and remember as much as possible (the amount doesn’t really matter – it can be two words up to a whole sentence). Then look at you partner and reproduce the bit you’ve just memorised. Then look at the screen again, memorise the next bit and tell your partner. Do the same with the rest of the text. It doesn’t matter if you only manage to memorise one word, but you must not look at the text and speak at the same time. You can only speak when you are looking at your partner. It is best if you only manage to move your eyes. Try not to move your head too much – it makes reading more difficult. 
This activity is called read-and-look-up and its value lies in the fact that the reader has to carry the words, phrases, or even sentences in his mind. The connection is not from the text to mouth but from text to brain, and then from brain to mouth (see this pdf for further info). 
 

The Ss then changed roles and worked the same way with the other text (The Simpsons). The final stage was something that I’d never done before but that I’d always wanted to try – simultaneous interpretation.  I asked the Ss to work as a class (which was actually a group of 4). The Ss were sitting in a circle, facing each other. I played the audio and asked them to take turns to translate the speech as the audio played. I only paused the audio when I wanted another student to take over. As the students were already familiar with the text, it made things much easier for them. However, I believe this technique helped them make more new brain connections because once again, they received language input which they had to retain in their memory for a short moment before letting it out – this time in their mother tongue. So it offered Ss an opportunity to work with L1 in a meaningful way. Needless to say, it was fun! 

I believe I managed to exploit the two short text/audios in a very effective way. Also, I gave my students a useful tip for an online resource which they can explore and use on their own. I wish there were more handy websites like this one. Hats off to those who take the time to create them and offer them for free! 

 

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
This entry was posted in Reading, Teaching ideas, Trying out something new, Vocabulary and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Dream Reader

  1. Sandy says:

    What a great way to exploit these texts! I particularly like the read and remember activity – I don't think we do enough activities focussed on memorisation with our students in general, so this is definitely one I'll be stealing.
    Sandy

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  2. Sandy says:

    PS Have you taken away the facebook share button on your posts? I can only see the 'like' one now 🙂

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  3. Hana Tichá says:

    Well, I actually thought it *was* the FB share button. But I'll check in the settings. Thanks for reading and sharing.

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  4. Hi Hana, I really like how you used the texts in your class, and I think that there are a lot of possibilities. I think showing the students the actual website in action is really good, because as you say, it gives them a resource that they can go off and look at in their own time. I think the layout of the website is pretty easy, which is great for students.

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  5. brad says:

    Hi Hana, So many great things here. This is how we hoped the lessons would be used by teachers. You really used the text in great ways and we're happy it helped your students. Thanks for the great post.

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  6. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks, David. This post is a proof that it's worth following your blog; it's full of useful ideas and links. Yes, I immediately fell in love with the layout as well as the content of DreamReader.net. It's user-friendly and handy.

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  7. Hana Tichá says:

    My pleasure, Brad. I hope to be coming back to the website on a regular basis. I'd like to explore the Academic English section a bit now. Thanks for stopping by.

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  8. Thank you so much for writing this! The perfect coincidental journey: I was just planning an input session on how to teach lexis, and here you provide super helpful links to Nation's work. Of course I also enjoyed your Dream Reader reflection, but info on vocabulary is what I needed at the moment and just wanted to thank you. I'm glad I took a little Twitter detour!

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  9. Hana Tichá says:

    My pleasure, Josette. And I thank you for stopping by, reading and commenting. You always find what you are looking for 😉

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