How can I make reading lessons less tedious?
Diary submitted by Laurynas, Barcelona
Reflecting on my experience the most tedious reading classes are the ones with lower level English students and A1 – A2 would fall into this category as well as B1-B2 though latter ones were getting trapped into monotonous reading mainly while subjected to dry or difficult to follow topics like the kinds of cultural, historical nature, etc. My general observation would be that any prolonged activity with only one party (teacher or student) being active at a time becomes tedious very quickly. The timeframe for boredom or distraction to kick in depends on a person, though I believe it fluctuates around the five-minute mark.
I figured out that the rule of thumb to avoid this boredom is to break the monotonic activity with a bit of variation. I would usually ask whether the student understood the last paragraph or particular phrase and would talk about it for a bit choosing different analogies to elaborate, depending on the student’s personality or studying goals. This system steers one’s concentration away from the tedious task and allows to reflect on the context of the text at the same time while adding some dynamics to the seemingly challenging task. I think it is a good idea to use these moments to write down problematic idioms or concepts to come back to later on, thus implementing the repetition method in a less obvious way.
One of the suggestions which keep popping up all over the internet is to bring some humour into the class. I am certainly a big fan of the idea, although a small group of students I had would not necessary agree with the concept. Sometimes it is an issue of a different social background or different belief system in general, so occasionally peoples’ skills come in handy trying to discover the right path to an effective teaching technique.
One of the classes I had was particularly challenging because of the difference in interests and unusual worldview between the ageing student and myself. He seemed convinced that teaching English was the teacher’s task and his contribution to his personal learning ended with the input of his PIN number, thus leaving the opening of the mighty gates of infinite wisdom in his head, to my crafty hands. The role of inspirational Messiah always worked quite well, leaving the freedom of self-expression through motivation to me. It always worked greatly to my advantage, but this time all the stories about Eldorado of knowledge on YouTube ended up echoing between his ears… sounding like “Monkey Business” by the Black Eyed Peas. At the time I felt like I failed my task as a teacher, but later, reviewing the online course about the present-orientated societies, I understood I should have shown him part of the “Eldorado” during the class to spike his interest by giving him a bit of instant gratification.