Last Tuesday was the seventh day on the CELTA course. Needless to say, there was a lot to learn and practice then as well, but the best of the day for me was the reading lesson Ri Willoughby modeled for us.
She first got our attention by having us talk about the food pictures she had previously hung on the classroom walls. We shared our opinions about the different kind of food displayed. Next, she elicited answers from us, and she was very good at involving everybody in the open class discussion by expanding each answer.
Afterwards, Ri handed out an original menu from an English restaurant. The language on the menu was specific, so I began to wonder how it could be used with even upper-intermediate students. However, my worries dispersed as Ri also gave us questions to facilitate reading.
The questions were about the type of the restaurant, the cheapest vs most expensive items as well as the number of choices available in each course and if we’d like to eat there. They were so well written that each question required a different reading strategy to answer. The first one could easily be sorted out as some English food was identified without difficulty. The next two questions required practicing skimming and scanning strategies while the last question was intended to let students personalize the task.
It was good to see that even a complicated text prepared originally for proficient speakers of English could be exploited to suit the level and needs of students by asking the right questions. We grew aware once more that students should understand they do not have to read everything in the text because it was enough to focus on the answers of the questions and possible to get the gist of it along with some deeper comprehension.
The follow-up activity was for students to come in groups together with their friends and prepare a menu for an imaginary restaurant. The goal at that stage was clearly to get students to use the language they had just studied and do it in co-operation with their peers still maintaining their confidence.
So what was there for a class of CELTA trainees to take home? It was, by no means, the message that you can do anything with even a piece of realia that might at first seem challenging to students.