Friday, May 3, 2013

The Reading Initiative Workshop Notes - By Fitch O'Connell

      As a follow up to my previous blog post, I would like to share the interesting notes I got from attending the Initiative Reading workshop , given by Mr.O'Connell at the British Council with everyone of you.
   In the beginning, Mr.O'Connell stressed the importance of affective learning. By increasing the pupils' affective learning, we can trigger the learners' love for reading. And since children use their cognitive and affective skills equally, it's the teacher's responsibility to accentuate the leaners' love for reading. Reading is not only a data-driven activity ie. taking specific data from the text, it's asking them to respond to the story. Learners are much more engaged with critical thinking activities. As a matter of fact, the power of reading is beneficial to the power of memory. More importantly, learners feel a sense of ownership, they can design videos after reading the short narrative exemplfying the story or building up new events to the story. Hence, the learner is not a mere reader, but also, affectively engaged and becomes himself an owner, so proud of what he accomplished as a reader.
Here comes a good question: why should we use narratives, not any other literary form?
Narratives , as the format of constructing our lessons, are built on : binary opposition- conflict- resolution- conclusion.
However, we should distinguish between 7 different plots:
1- The quest: a lot of fairy tales ( such as: the Lord of the Rings, Apocalypse Now, Raiders of the Lost Ark)
These fairy tales revolve around a mythical world.
2-Voyage and Return:
The main character usually witnesses transformation after a journey such as : ( Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver's Travels, Back to the future)
A Christmas Carol, Beauty and the Beast ...
Comedy does not mean funny. Rather the weaknesses of the heroes are exploited.
The internal problem of the main character that creates the tragedy.
Hamlet, Macbeth,
6-Overcoming the monster:
Dracula, Jaws, Hansel and Gretel, The silence of the lambs, Frankstein
7-Rags to Riches:
Aladdin, Cindrella, Great expectations
        After having a clear view of the theoretical background of the workshop, we had the pleasure of living the joyful moment of reading ourselves by stepping into the shoes of our learners.       
Personally, the prereading activities were so engaging and motivating that we were so motivated to know more about the stories. Mr.Fitch knew very well how to whet our appetite and gave us clear pictures of how teachers should make the reading activity a joyful moment taking  the learners to a stroll in the realms of imagination.

  1. Prereading Activities:

-Harnessing students creativity
-All paths are potentially viable
-There are no wrong answers- though some may be better than others!
         * Must : 

  • Motivate
  • exlpore
  • engage
  • provide a framework


  • be negative
  • block enquire
  • be prescriptive
  • be assessable
  • demand written work          
  1.    2-While -Reading Activities :
  • Encourage speculation through open-ended questions
  • Avoid direct questions
  • Develop imagination
  • Support comprehension rather than test it
  • Don't disturb "Ownership"
  • Mix narrative delivery with silent reading
  1. 3-After Reading :
  • Explore general themes
  • Use different student skills
  • Link to the syllabus
  • Maybe more traditional in design
  • Assess overall understanding
  • Bring a sense of closure
  • Revise grammar points
  • Kids designing a book cover

Hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and got much from it to implement in your classrooms. Let us help our learners enjoy reading and love it . We have to help them by designing the proper engaging, motivating activities. (Un)Fortunately, much of the responsibility lies on the teachers' shoulders.Happy Reading! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Reading Initiative Workshop- By Fitch O'Connell

No matter what we do, practically, to evlove, nothing is more exciting, enriching , in my point of view, as meeting colleagues , learning from them, especially when an ELT Luminary as: Mr.Fitch O'Connell is guiding our steps.
We attended a workshop entitled the Reading Initiative Workshop at the British Council from the 21st till the 23rd of April. During these three days, Mr. Fitch O'Connell reawakened in us the love of reading narratives, poetry. Such love for reading, though very deep in each one of us as teachers, is reborn from the ashes. Truly, Mr.O'Connell dazzled us and triggered our imagination with his sparkling performance. Many times, the Artist persona took hold of the teacher and the teacher trainer and we were very delighted seeing the Artist on the stage. No wonder he has had a deep impact on us all, in such a short period of time. He fascinated us by alternating between theory and practice in such a light, joyful , humble and impressive way. 
More impressive is the idea of buliding up a digital library where teachers can get short narratives with the ready made (pre/ while/ post) reading activities.
This experience has pushed me to ponder more on our teaching practices. As a matter of fact, we are missing a lot , for we are not instilling this love of reading in our learners, reading all sorts of literary works whether novels, plays or poems.How could our learners use the language beautifully, effectively if they do not have any idea about the wealth of novels, short narratives written by inspiring native and non-native speakers. Truly, it is not an easy job, but if handled with a lot of care and love , we might succeeed in helping them love to read. Reading for pleasure should  be taken into consideration in our syllabi. Thereof, proper , practical, joyful, engaging ways should be set to meet this challenge and succeeed in  the thirst for reading into learners from an early age. 
Actually, we enjoyed preparing the pre/ while/ and post reading activities to these short creative and wonderful narratives :Survival (by Chaouki M'Kaddem), The Land of Dreams (by Olfa Guesmi), Joha and the End of the World (by Fitch O'Connell), The Emergency Call (by Zeineb Evren) ... 
All of these short narratives do match our learners' interest and could be well fit in our syllabi. So why don't we try to plan them in our yearly schedule and part of our reading for pleasure unit, which must be included (though, unfortunately, our books fail to teach this love for reading to our learners.
Last but not least, I would like to express my best regards to Mr.O'Connell for the wealth he shared with us, to the British Council staff for making this happen and for their warm welcome, to my dear colleagues and friends who , without fail, cooperated warmly, shared insights with us all and I learned much from them all. 
Below are some links that might be of great use for all of you dear ELTs wherever you are! Stay tuned :-) 

Me and Mr.O'Connell