Teaching Reading Comprehension in Heterogeneous Classes
Teaching Reading Comprehension in heterogeneous classes may prove problematic.
It is a serious challenge. Every lesson requires careful planning. The objective is to find a common denominator for all the students and still meet the needs of all or at least most of them, i.e. find a way to enrich the advanced students and enhance the Reading Comprehension skills of the weaker students.
How do we do that?
Hand out a text (three / four paragraphs).
The subject of the text should be relevant to your students’ interests. The paragraphs should be relatively short. The sentences should be about 1-2 lines long.
How can we help the weaker students?
- An Oral Activity introducing the text might facilitate comprehension and help weaker students.
You may wish to use a picture or a cartoon related to the subject of the text.
The class will be encouraged to describe the cartoon and share personal experiences related to the common cold, the flu, etc.
- Choose 5-10 words the weaker students may not be familiar with. Prepare lists including the new words with the Hebrew translation. Students should be encouraged to pick up the lists if they feel they need help. This way, we – the teachers – do not decide who needs help and who doesn’t. Students should be responsible for their needs and should decide what steps to take in order to improve their reading comprehension skills.
sneeze – להתעטש
cough – להשתעל
remedies – תרופות
nasal drops – טיפות אף
pain relievers – משככי כאבים
After using English – Hebrew Vocabulary lists for a number of weeks or months (depending on the class level), we should move to Vocabulary lists including an English explanation and a Hebrew translation of the unfamiliar words. These activities will enable the weaker students to use the Dictionary at a later stage. The objective is to lead the whole class to Reading Comprehension activities using a dictionary.
We can then move to the classic reading activities:
- Find the main idea of the text / the paragraph / the sentence.
- Suggest a suitable title.
Reading Comprehension Text
The Common Cold
(You may sometimes choose to omit the title and ask students to supply a suitable title.)
Every winter thousands of Israelis catch a cold. They spend long hours at medical clinics and large sums of money on cough remedies, nasal drops and pain relievers. The common cold may sometimes develop into serious influenza cases. The influenza, usually known as the flu, may turn into a very serious disease if not treated properly.
How do we catch a cold? According to the latest research, the cold usually spreads through hand to hand contact rather than sneezing, coughing or kissing. If we shake hands with a person who has a cold and later rub our eyes or touch our nose, we may introduce the cold viruses into our body and catch a cold.
If a member of our family happens to catch a cold, we should take certain precautions to avoid contagion. We should wash our hands frequently and promote air circulation in the house. If, however, in spite of these precautions, we do catch a cold, it may be wise to stay in bed, relax, drink a lot and take certain remedies which may not cure the cold but at least reduce the misery.
- In a test, allowing additional time might help weaker students and prevent frustration.
- The teacher may decide to allow weaker students to answer Reading Comprehension questions in Hebrew. Answers in Hebrew can show comprehension of the text even when students are unable to write an answer in English. Answers in Hebrew might be accepted on a temporary basis until weaker students are able to reach the average level of the class.
Suggestions for Homework Assignments
Write a short composition (10-15 lines) on one of the following subjects:
- Why do you feel miserable when you have a cold? Describe the symptoms.
- What is your particular “secret weapon”? How do you cope with a cold?
- Can you enjoy a cold? What might the advantages be?
And that’s all for today.