My students complain that CLIL reading texts are too long and difficult to deal with… What should I do?
Unlike traditional EFL (English as a Foreign Language) texts, which are graded and fairly simple for lower level class, texts in CLIL books are usually long and more demanding in terms of vocabulary, structure and are usually different in terms of task types (e.g. students may have to complete a Venn diagram). These features may bring to surface complaints by students and parents and add further pressure to the educator. How can you deal with it?
Make the most of the title and photos
Ask learners to anticipate the content from the title, subtitle, headings, photos, drawings or diagrams. Anything in linguistic or paralinguistic form that can help them form hypotheses and stimulate their curiosity. They can also act as a lead in for brainstorming and vocabulary recycling.
Activate their schematic knowledge (their knowledge of their world)
Make the most of their existing knowledge. If the text refers to music, play pieces of music and elicit vocabulary relevant to the topic. There are thousands of animated videos on YouTube that offer a simplified version of various topics ranging from global warming and environmental issues to purely technical issues such as wedges and bolts.
Set clear reading tasks
Be very clear about what you expect from learners. For instance, “read the text and find the main idea”. It is also worth pointing out that they do not need to know all the words
Break down the text
Younger generations are used to shorter texts, thanks to the social media. A long text often seems to be a daunting task for kids or teenagers who usually deal with texts at sentence or paragraph levels.
Revisit the text the following day and assign different tasks
This will help learners build confidence as the text is already familiar and seems more manageable.
Create information gap activities
Some texts are written in such a way that allow for jigsaw reading. You can divide the class into two groups. Ask them to read different parts of the text and then work in pairs to bridge the information gap. This will motivate learners to find out more about the text and will also facilitate the development of speaking skills.
Spend time in class
Try to resist the temptation to assign reading for homework and work on other skills in class. Reading is a skill that requires you to invest time but there the return of investment is worth the effort and time.