ESL Brains-style Critical Reading Club

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How we see it

The materials we share with you on ESL Brains mainly focus on practising speaking and listening skills. It’s reflected in almost every worksheet we publish. However, it doesn’t mean we don’t want students to practise the remaining basic language skills, i.e. reading and writing. It’s just the way how these skills are usually approached and taught that we find difficult to support. We’re not sold on spending a lot of precious students’ class time on reading long texts and doing comprehension activities. Students often have one hour of English a week, which in practice means it’s the only time when they are actually exposed to the language. Of course, teacher’s support during reading activities is valuable and such activities can be conducted in class, but within reasonable limits.

Therefore, our idea is to make students read longer texts outside the class. We’ve always tried to motivate students to do that by asking them to choose an article of their interest or, if they suffer from a lack of time (as many adults learners do), by curating some texts for them. Most of our students love to read something authentic and interesting and talk about it in class. Basically, this is what we want to do as part of our critical reading club: curate content for you and your students.

What to expect and where to go to get it

The concept is quite simple. We want to curate thought-provoking articles on up-to-date topics out of the ocean of texts available online. Each week, we’ll try to present you with a link to a worth-reading article together with discussion questions we’ve come up with. You can send the link to your students so that they read the article before class and then, start your class by asking questions we’ve prepared. You could also encourage your students to prepare one question they’d like to discuss in relation to the article they’ve read. We’ve done that for years with our students and it’s been pretty successful.

You’ll find the article links and questions on our Instagram account. Yep, that’s right, we have an Instagram account, but up till now, we didn’t have a good reason to use it 😊

Feedback from you

How does it sound? Please share your thoughts about our critical reading club with us via email or on our Instagram account. If you ever come across an article worth reading, send us a link and we might share it with other teachers together with some questions for class discussions.

Comments

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  1. Robert Durant

    Hi,
    Love this idea, and believe it is needed. However, I am not ready to add to my long list of subscriptions, this one being QZ.com. I can’t read the article without beginning a trial subscription. Thanks again for your thoughtful lesson plans.
    Robert

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    1. Stan

      Hi! Quartz is a paid media website but they offer a few articles per month for free to everyone. Maybe that’s not available wherever you are or you’ve used up that limit, you can always check whether this article is open when you use a different device/IP. That doesn’t change the fact that your students may have the same issue so in the future, we’ll try to find interesting articles on media websites that are open to all! This is just a beginning so we need some time to do things right!

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  2. Audrey S

    Sounds great guys!
    I choose one article a week for my students which connects to the theme we are discussing in class. It’s very useful to push their vocabulary and give them time to read about interesting issues.

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  3. CaroHuer

    Love it! Great idea and saves us a lot of time searching for ideas.. Do you think you could post it also on another social media than Instagram? Not sure if you are on FB..

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    1. Stan

      Yes, we’re on FB too – see the footer of this page for the link. We planned to start the Critical Reading Club as an Instagram-exclusive thing, but we’ll obviously think about extending it to other social media or our page.

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  4. Maria Ines

    Great idea! Thanks!!!

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  5. Luc Daenen

    Hi Stan and Justa,

    First of all, thank you for your excellent website which is a tremendous resource in getting together my weekly in-company classes.

    I keep being frustrated that most students (all working adults) almost never get to do any task, however small, in between the classes. I could give it another shot with your worth-reading articles. However, would it be feasible for you to publish them on the ESL Brains website too? The reason is that I don’t use Instagram nor Facebook or the like, and I notice that more and more students are cutting down on their social media use too.

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    1. Stan

      Well, we can’t publish them here – we might link to them. For now though, the whole Critical Reading Club is only available on Instagram. If we see that this proves useful to teachers out there, we’ll think about making it ‘mainstream’ and sharing it here or through other channels 🙂

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  6. kieran

    Yes I agree it’s a good idea. The more resources people have access to the better. However, I agree with the comment that there is little point in pointing students in the direction of articles where they have to pay to access the site (starting a free account often involves having to remember to cancel it before they charge you). So yes, great idea but only practical if the articles/texts are freely accessible.

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    1. Stan

      True! We’ll make sure that whatever we recommend is widely available (or at least to the best of our knowledge). We thought that the Quartz article would be available to all because we could read it without any registration or accounts.

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  7. Joanne

    Hi
    Is the link to these texts not on your website?

    Best
    Joanne

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    1. Stan

      Nope, it’ll be available only in our Instagram posts

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  8. Maureen Clark

    Like others, I agree with the concept – it’s a great idea, however, I too am not in favour of having to go to external websites to access, even if free for 10 minutes. Also, not all students will want to create multiple accounts just to access a reading.

    I am in favour of aligning readings to existing lesson plans/topics as an extension or precursor activities/flipped lessons. This way, readings get linked to existing lesson topics, and also to CEFR levels. Context is then established, and vocabulary enhanced/reinforced through functional use both with the reading, and any subsequent discussion.

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    1. Stan

      I suppose what you say could be our end goal. It adds layers of complexity though, i.e. finding an up-to-date article that is about the same topic as the lesson but doesn’t simply regurgitate what students will learn doing the lesson but add some other information or perspective + making sure the article somehow corresponds to the CEFR level of the lesson. Right now, that would be too time-consuming but we might get there one day 🙂

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  9. Agnieszka

    Hi!

    I love the idea 🙂 Thanks for coming up with something so creative 🙂
    My only suggestion is: would it be possible to create a separate section for critical reading here, on this website? To tell you the truth, as I teach remotely most of the time, I’m also trying to reduce the amount of time I spend in front of the computer screen and using social media. That’s why having everything in one spot would be a perfect solution for me 🙂

    Cheers!

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    1. Stan

      That might be a good idea but right now we want to run it as an Instagram thing. Maybe in the future this will become a permanent part of ESL Brains service. We need some time to test the whole concept out and refine it.

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  10. Matteo Losito

    An excellent idea, and I can’t wait to see how you will keep refining it in the future, much as you’ve done with your lessons over the year.

    Ideally, the reading topic would be related to one of the (or the latest) lessons you prepare and publish, so as to create continuity. The reading links could, perhaps, be added to a “resource bank” for each lesson, where you include follow-up tasks and ideas, links to sources for the videos/text in the lesson itself (which you do at times in the speaker’s notes already), etc.

    Once again, thank you for your excellent work so far.
    Matteo

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    1. Stan

      It sounds interesting! Right now we plan to keep it separate and not related to any particular lessons we do but this might develop into a sort of pre-class lead-in to the topic of a lesson, who knows 🙂

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  11. Janet Silva

    Hi,

    Great idea but what about those who don’t have Instagram and don’t want one more media account?

    Janet

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    1. Justa

      As mentioned above, we planned to start the Critical Reading Club as an Instagram-exclusive thing, but we’ll probably think about extending it to other social media or our page.

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