Those of you who’ve been following my recent posts, will notice that I’m going through a phase of thinking about how I can help students make their free-time English activities more effective for their learning. My general addage has always been: Whatever you like to do in your free-time, just do it in English! But the realisation that relaxing in front of ‘How I met your mother’ with a beer and a bag of crisps might not actually be helping improve students’ English as much as it could, has lead to me think up ideas for tasks that could further the learning that occurs through these free-time activities. Recently, I posted some ideas for practising English with news items (see here: https://clareseltcompendium.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/practising-english-with-news-items/ ) And then I asked some students what it is they do in their free time. The number one answer: Reading (fiction) books.
So here’s the next list: This time, activities that learners can do once they’ve read a book, in order to practise their productive skills in English (since reading is a passive skill). I’m sure teachers also use fiction as part of their courses and have a whole host of comprehension and discussion questions etc. These ideas could also complement those. But my main aim is to give students who are reading fiction for fun some ideas on how they can make this even more helpful for improving their English.
- Write a short summary of the plot of the novel. You could also start a blog where you post summaries of novels you have read – other people may comment on your summaries and start a discussion.
- Write a review of the novel. You could also discuss your review with a friend who has read the same book – or set up your own book club with friends to read and discuss novels together. Or again, post your reviews to a blog for discussion with other. Alternatively, you can slso post your reviews on sites like Amazon for others to read when they’re looking for something to read.
- Pretend you work for the publisher, and write a blurb for the novel. You can look at blurbs for books on websites such as Amazon to see what kind of language they use and the techniques used to entice the potential reader to read the book.
- Take on the part of a character and a) act out a scene , b) re-write a scene from that character’s perspective (using a first-person narrator).
- Write a letter to one character explaining why you find their behavior unacceptable.
- Watch the film adaptation of a novel, and write a review of the film comparing it to the original book version, or discuss your comparison with a friend who has also read the book and watched the film.
- Pretend you are a teacher and going to work on this novel with your students. Compose comprehension and/or discussion questions (and answers) based on the text.
- Pretend you are recording an audio version of the book and read some parts aloud. Record yourself, making sure to check the pronunciations and word-stress of any unknown vocabulary (e.g. using the online OALD). You can then listen to the recording (or play it to a friend) and check that your pronunciation and intonation are fluent and accurate. An official audio-book may be available – then you can compare your recording to that!
For more ideas on using literature to teach & learn English, please see the following websites: