Effective Multi-Level Reading/Speaking Activities

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Transcript of Effective Multi-Level Reading/Speaking Activities

45-minute demonstration

Effective Multi-Level

Reading/Speaking Activities

Presented at TESOL 2011 Annual Convention

New Orleans, Louisiana

March 19, 2011

Session 192511

Laurel Pollard

Educational Consultant


These activities are carefully structured to challenge each student in a multi-level class: every student feels excitement at the edge of learning

engage students: they see that their participation is important and is expected.

provide feedback: students see their errors and their successes immediately.

create a learner-centered classroom with high student motivation and retention.

teach any content

be easily adapted for different levels

provide times when students are working independently, so the teacher has time to breathe during class. (Best of all, these activities require little or no preparation time by the teacher.


3. A Word of Reassurance About Multi-Level Classes

Individuate instruction by having every student do the same task at their own level.

4. Read, Cover, Re-Tell, Re-Read

4. Vocabulary Cards

4. Quick-Write

5. Mingle

5. Reconstruct the Story

6. Find a Sentence

7. Mark the Margins

Individuate instruction by having students do different tasks related to the material to be learned.

8. Telling Back and Forth

9. Questions Outside the Room9. My Job, Your Job9. Multi-Level Dictation

9. Resources

Individuate instruction using the same task,

at their own level.

Read, Cover, Re-Tell (to self or partner), Re-read, Repeat if necessary.

The title says it all! This routine is effective with all kinds of listening and reading texts. Students who thought they were listening or reading with good comprehension are often surprised when they cant re-tell much of what they understood. They return to the task with minds awake and strategies activated.

1. The whole class begins to read a text silently. Choose a time limit, e.g., 30 seconds (longer if you wish.)

2. Say, Stop. Students cover the text.

3. Students re-tell what they remember from what they just read. (They may do this in pairs, or they may talk to themselves in a quiet voice, using Elephant Ears so they can hear their own voice.)

4. Direct everyone to read the text again, starting at the beginning.

5. After 30 seconds, say, Stop.

6. Repeat Step 3 (Re-Tell)

Let students tell you whether theyd like to read it again.

This simple routine offers many gifts:

-- Students learn the value of re-reading; they understand more the second and third time they read!

-- Some students will read farther in 30 seconds than others. Thats all right; everyone is doing the task

together, and everyone is learning.

-- Every student misunderstands different things and every student gets immediate feedback each time

they re-read. This is differentiated instruction at its very finest!

Note: Some students read more the second time. Thats good; theyre reading faster.

Other students read less the second time. Thats good; theyre slowing down to understand more.

We can trust our students to do whats best for their learning.

Vocabulary Cards Students write each target word on a card. On the back, they write a translation, definition, sketch, sentence, etc., using the word. They play with these cards in pairs or small groups, quizzing each other, telling what that word reminds them of from the reading, or using their words in original contexts.

Quick Write: After a reading, students write as much as possible for one minute about what they read. Some students may produce a full page of sentences while others write just a few words and phrases or draw a picture. Students pair up to discuss what they wrote. Mingle

Students walk around, talking briefly with one partner at a time. (Students who need extra help travel with a buddy, of course, and the lower-level student speaks first each time they meet a new partner.)

Here are three good variations:

1. Mingle with cards: Students write or draw brief notes about what they want to say (from their own experience or about something they read or heard in class). They circulate, talking with one partner after another.

2. Mingle, Swapping Cards: Same activity, but this time they trade notes with each successive partner in the mingle.

3. Building up a Chain: Students carry a notebook and collect ideas as they mingle with partner after partner.

Tip: To help students find their next partner quickly during a mingle, try Touch the Wall and Talk.Students find an available classmate in the silent area of the room (where speaking is not allowed). This new pair moves to another part of the room (along the walls, for example). There they both touch the wall then they exchange their ideas. When theyre done, each of them goes to the silent area to find their next partner. Zero Prep 1997 Alta Book Center Publishers at www.altaesl.com

All rights reserved. Permission to photocopy must be obtained from the publisher.1.2 RECONSTRUCT THE STORYSometimes the simplest activities are the most adaptable and repeatable.

This activity can be used for pre-reading or for review.

LEVEL: BeginningAdvanced

AIM: Listening, speaking, reading


1. Read or tell some information one time. Students listen but do not take notes.

2. Students write down three things they remember.

3. Students retell what they heard. You can use Pair-Share or Numbered Heads Together with the whole class, or have students re-tell in small groups, Round-Robin style.

Extension (writing option): After the three steps above, students write the story as fully as they can. In small groups they compare their versions and write additions and corrections on their own papers.

Reading Preview: use a synopsis of a longer text that students are about to read.

Variation for pre-literate students

As usual with a good teaching routine, this works just as well with pictures instead of written words.

1. Show a picture to your class. Then put it away.

2. Students draw three things they remember from the picture.

3. They show-and-tell what they drew theres plenty to say because different students remembered and drew different things. (This can happen in small groups.)

4. After the discussion, students go back to what they drew. They correct it and add more things. They may work on their own or may look at classmates papers.

5. Display the original picture again. Students add to their drawing as they discuss the original that they are now looking at again.

Zero Prep 1997 Alta Book Center Publishers at www.altaesl.com

All rights reserved. Permission to photocopy must be obtained from the publisher.


In-reading tasks can make the difference between students reading mechanically or reading with real interest and comprehension. This adaptable activity can be used again and again.

LEVEL: IntermediateAdvanced

AIM: Reading with a purpose, scanning, discussion, getting to know classmates, writing


1. Tell students, While you are reading this, I want you to choose one sentence and write it down to share with the class. Offer the students one of the following options:

a. a beautiful sentence

b. a very interesting sentence

c. a surprising sentence

d. a sentence that contains the main idea

e. a sentence the student doesnt understand

f. a sentence that reminds the student of something

g. a sentence that makes great sense to the student

h. a sentence the student agrees or disagrees with

i. a sentence that upsets the student

Note: Option e is particularly effective because when students slow down to

identify a sentence they think they dont understand, they suddenly understand it!

2. You have choices here.

a. Students may write their sentences on the board for class discussion.

b. In small groups, students share their sentences, telling why they chose that sentence.

Extension (writing option):

1. Students write to expand on their own sentence or one they heard from a classmate.

2. These short compositions are posted around the walls.

3. Students circulate, reading these and writing comments at the bottom.

Variation: You may present the entire menu of prompts to give students more choice

and/or to elicit more than one sentence from each student.

Mark the Margins

Level: beginning through advanced

Aim: This in-reading activity activates student's best reading strategies by requiring them to respond with margin notes as they read. Students understand the content better when they mark the margins. This also helps them stay on task because their margin marking is visible to the teacher. Most important, using this routine regularly helps students gain confidence and independence as readers.


1. Students make brief notes in the margins as they read. If it's not appropriate to write on what they're reading, they can lay (or better, tape) a strip of blank paper beside the text and mark on that. The notes vary with the purpose of the reading. Here are a few possibilities:

2. Students mingle to discuss their margin marks with classmates. Advantages:

Everyone has something to contribute.