Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

Reading in the Target Language…What helps them ‘get it’?


In a second language classroom students regularly work with text in the Target Language (TL). We have them read independantly, or in pairs, and trust that they have ‘understood’ what they read. But did they? Often it isn’t the weaker students that are the issue – its the stronger students who also gloss over portions in a quest to ‘get to the end’. My challenge has always been to ensure that they actually took the time to understand what they read. How to do that?

One key for me is to use a variety of pre-reading activities to set the scene. A video clip, group mind map and key vocabulary words help to do this as does knowledge of the topic in their own language. Students are attuned to the context of the piece, and ready to get into the text.

During the reading portion I typically have students read in pairs. It is a supportive way to read; they help each other with language encountered. We practice “Two and Talk” – reading two sentences then pausing to talk about the meaning. After they read students answer, in point form, comprehension questions using the target language. The audio for the story is, when possible, posted on my site for them to hear again at home if they need to.

By far my most effective comprehension strategy has become the post-reading activities; tasks that require them to have understood what they read.   I have detailed various post-reading activities in a previous post ” We read the story…now what?” My classes know that once they have done their questions they will not see the text again during this post-reading ‘recap’ phase. They are now very careful about their reading and eagerly anticipate what is going to happen. I hear comments like “I wonder what we’re going to do after this?”

It’s a challenge to try to do things differently each time, and I do recycle general ideas, but my students are much more involved during reading now…..and that’s great!




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