There are so many excellent resources online for teaching all the various aspects of the English language and culture. I have previously shared some of my favorite sites and tools for listening and speaking as well as writing. This month’s blog entry will focus on promoting reading skills.
Breaking News English
I have written about Breaking News English previously, but I have not focused on the reading materials that they offer. Every other day, the site adds a news story that is available for listening or reading with an extensive collection of additional materials that support all skills. Readers can select different speeds of text delivery (for the text in the following example, you have the options of 100 words per minute, 200 words per minute and 300 words per minute); the following movie is an example of 100 words per minute:
Users can also choose a number of other modes for interacting with the written text, including two jumbles, which present chunks of the text as a grid, requiring learners to drag them into the correct order. One jumble is composed of shorter chunks of text into 24 pieces while the other includes longer chunks with 15 pieces (see Figure 1). Each reading is also accompanied by a quiz. Learners, or teachers, can also use these tools to create their own reading activities that utilize these functions for individualized reading texts.
One of my favorite things about the site is the ability to identify thematic topics that are of interest to students. In particular, I think that that the topic of technology itself is quite popular and likely to promote vocabulary that is beneficial for many learners. Breaking News English has a page that compiles technology related news stories that can be found here.
E-Readers and Digital Textbooks
Another great resource for promoting reading today is to take advantage of the many opportunities presented by e-readers and digital textbooks. However, I have seen little evidence that they are being used much with English learners. E-readers such as the Kindle, Nook, and iPad offer readers a variety of new ways to interact with text in compelling ways.
Rather than simply being a digital equivalent to a printed text, e-reader texts that are thoughtfully designed have the potential to include interactive content, including multimedia and links to additional related sources of information. Texts can easily be projected in class in order to share with a larger group. Learners can take advantage of the built-in dictionary to support their reading (see Figure 2).
Learners can adjust the size of the text, which can be particularly helpful for learners with vision challenges. They can also have words read aloud so they can also learn to pronounce new vocabulary. Further, these devices can allow users to take digital notes, highlighting and sharing portions of text that are interesting, challenging, or worthy of further study; these notes are saved in an online repository. Data can be gathered about the learner’s use of the text in order to gain insight into their abilities and challenges.
Many interactive e-books can be downloaded for free from various sites online, purchased through familiar venues, such as the Amazon Kindle store or Google Play store, or accessed directly from academic publishers. Instructors can also create their own customized, interactive reading materials for their students or, perhaps even better, students can create content for other students. This can be done using a number of different platforms, largely depending on the format learners are expected to be using. For example, the ibook authoring tool allows us to create such materials for use on Apple’s iOs devices (including iPhones and iPads). Similarly, Amazon provides tools for creating Kindle-friendly content, including the Kindle direct publishing resources.
For some additional ideas about how to use these devices in the English classroom, you can check out FluentU’s site, How to Transform Your Kindle into an English Learning Tool.
What educational technology do you use to promote your students’ reading? Or have you found new and interesting ways to use Breaking News English, or e-readers? Please share in the comments, below.