My first two-hour lessons with them were divided into 4 parts of 20 – 30 minutes, in which students wrote words on whiteboards, read together as a group, made words with cards and did some written dictation.
However, when I began to isolate the skills I wanted to teach and adapt activities I used with other levels, I found there was a variety of different games that could be used with Literacy learners, that made classes fun and learning successful.
A. Bingo: This game can be done with all sorts of vocabulary and is great for any age group. It also works very well with Literacy and allows for phonic recognition practice by listening, and reading, as well as blending practice as learners read their words to find the one they have heard the teacher call out. It provides excellent practice for vowels and tricky consonants, as students are forced to listen to sounds repeatedly and identify them.
1. I use osric.com to generate bingo cards. I put in words of the sounds I want to practice with students. For example, if the lesson is on the five basic vowel sounds, I put in words with the five vowel sounds in them, making sure there are no other consonant sounds that students have not learned yet.
2. The cards are distributed to students, who are given a minute to read their words.
3. The teacher says a word out loud. Students listen and strike it out as they hear it.
4. The teacher then calls out the next word for students to strike out, and so on.
5. When a student has underlined 4 or 5 words in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, they shout out ‘Bingo!’ This student is the winner.
Variation: Bingo is usually an individual game, but may be done in teams. Each team may be given a large sheet with words, and members can work together to find them. The danger with this set up however, is that one or two students may dominate in a group of 3, or a weak student may rely on his/her team members. The benefit is that a weak student may not feel lost if he/she has a stronger partner.
B. Pass the parcel: This is a fun activity, especially for primary students. It encourages students to practice blending and can be done repeatedly with materials prepared once. The teacher can constantly add new sounds as well.
1. Before class, write words on little slips of paper, making sure they only include sounds students have been taught. Put the words in an envelope.
2. In class, students are sat in a circle together with their notebook open in front of them (I like to have a star page that they collect stars on every time we play this game).
3. When students are sat and ready, music is played, and students pass the envelope with the words in them until the music stops.
4. When the music stops, the student with the envelope takes a word out and reads it. If the student reads it correctly, he/she gets a star. The word goes back in the envelope. If he/she has not read the word correctly, the word goes back in the envelope and the student has to wait until the next time he/she happens to have the envelope when the music stops.
5. Music is played again, and the game is continued.
Variation: Stars or points can be awarded on a chart. If the class is large, an assistant may work with one group, and the teacher with another group.
C. Running dictation: This is a great activity for any level, as it gets students to read and understand to remember, makes them memorize lexical chunks, listen and apply existing grammar and vocabulary knowledge when checking what they hear against what they know, etc.
For Literacy (A0) level learners, it is even more useful because the reader must be able to apply knowledge of phonics and letter sounds, blend to read, remember the CVC order and spellings of words, and articulate them correctly when reporting to the writer. The writer, on the other hand must be able to segment the word they hear into its letter sounds for writing, translate the sounds into the correct grapheme and form letters correctly when writing. It can therefore be very cognitively challenging for even the strongest A0 students.
1. Before class, write a list of words, choosing them carefully depending on what sounds learners have already learned.
2. During class, stick the list of words outside the classroom or at a far but equal distance from all learners.
3. Have learners work in pairs. One student writes and the other reads
4. The reader reads the first word off the list, comes back, reports to the writer.
5. The writer listens and writes.
6. The reader then goes back for the next word.
Variation: If a lot of your students are struggling, students can do it in groups of three, making sure there is at least one strong student in each group. You may have students switch roles, so that everyone gets to read, and everyone gets to write, or keep the students in one role depending on their individual strengths and weaknesses.
D. Board Games: Board games are excellent for student centered reading practice. They allow the teacher to monitor from a distance and give students opportunities to learn from each other.
1. Numerous templates can be found online, and all one needs to do is fill in the empty blocks with words depending on the focus of the lesson.
2. In class, students are grouped into threes or fours. Each student is given a counter and the group is given a dice, and an A3 copy of the board game.
3. One student rolls the dice, moves his/her counter from ‘START’ forwards according to the number rolled and reads the word he/she lands on.
4. If the student reads the word correctly (as decided by his group), he/she stays, and if not, he/she moves back to ‘START’.
5. Players take turns rolling the dice and moving forward until one of them wins by reaching the ‘FINISH’ point.
Variations: Different templates can be used for different lessons, and words can be changed to suit the lesson aims. Words can be dictated to students for them to fill in blank squares as well to create their own board game. If the class includes students with strong spoken English, board game language, such as Two steps forward, Back to start, etc. can be taught to them as language chunks.
F. Noughts and Crosses: This is a game most kids and teenagers are quiet familiar with. When adapted for A0 level students, it makes for great reading practice.
1. Before class, prepare about 8 or 9 blank standard noughts and crosses grids on one sheet of paper. Insert words into the grids, one on each block. One grid should have 9 words.
2. In class, demonstrate the activity on the board, so students know they must read and not just write ‘X’ or ‘O’.
3. Students play in pairs; one is ‘X’ and the other is ‘O’.
4. The game is played the same way as traditional noughts and crosses, except students must read the word correctly to place their nought or their cross.
5. If their partner feels they have not read the word correctly, they must give that block up, and go on to another word in another block.
6. The winning student will be the one who has managed to get one straight line vertically, horizontally or diagonally.
Above are only some of the activities that can easily be adapted to suit A0 learners. Since I started incorporating them in my Literacy lessons, students have enjoyed lessons more and their learning has become very successful. So, happy reading lessons!