Collins Peapod Readers: Engaging young learners in online learning using readers

Recently, I‘ve been looking at ways to support young learner engagement through the use of readers online. Readers can help you to reach out, motivate, connect with and stimulate your young learners and help them continue on their English language learning journeys. They can provide a fun, energetic and multi-skilled learning environment. And there are many free software tools out there that can help.

Why not set up a reading challenge? Make it challenging but achievable in terms of how many books you expect a particular group of learners to read and within what time frame. Create a colourful and engaging reading challenge map: this could be a path, a tree or a maze, for example. Choose, or invite learners to choose, age and level-appropriate readers to fill their challenge map with and make sure every learner has access to a copy.

Then establish a book-club feel to the challenge. Use software such as Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams to either set up a virtual live classroom, or to record yourself reading each book aloud. See an example of me reading Collins Peapod Readers on Zoom/Loom. Seeing your face and hearing your voice will immediately give young learners the comforting feeling of being back in the classroom with you, so take time to introduce and discuss the book as you would usually. Even if children can’t or won’t respond to you via chat or voice, ask them all the questions you would usually ask, pause for thinking time, and then answer those questions yourself.

Use the fact that you aren’t altogether in one space to spark learners’ interest. Have learners guess where you will be reading in today’s video. Will you be reading in your garden? In your kitchen? On your sofa? Engage with them by asking questions about the cover, the title, etc, initiating ideas of what might happen in the book. Explore the opening spread with the group. Then challenge learners to read and listen to the book independently, or to watch your recorded reading, then have them join you in an after-reading debrief.

Use free software such as Kahoot! to make a mini quiz that will test both understanding of key words and reading comprehension in a fun and engaging way. lf you have all your learners online at the same time, they can play against each other, if not, they can play in their own time at their own pace. This can help learners to reconnect with their peers and to realise they are not alone.

Include an after reading journal for learners to complete after they finish each book. Here’s an example:

Date Book TitleParent signatureWhere I read this bookCommentFavourite word in this bookFavourite character in this storyFavourite new factTeacher comment
         
         

Learners could fill this in online on a Google doc, or use a Word doc which they then send to you by email, or print out, fill in, take a photo and send to you. Keep communication channels open by responding to whatever they write and in whatever format they choose.

Use the themes in each book to extend the learning with follow-on activities that learners can do independently at home. Make an example of each activity – a short video of you doing a mini-science experiment, a photo of a drawing you’ve done, or an audio recording of a poem you’ve written, share with the learners and challenge them to produce their own versions. Validate the effort and enthusiasm by uploading and sharing all responses in a gallery format with the learners, their parents/carers and the wider school community via a class webpage, Instagram, Facebook page, etc.

And at the end of their reading challenge – reward! Download a free reading certificate in English from one of the YL education websites, or custom-make your own for parents and carers to print out at home.

Written by Series Editor Rebecca Adlard, an experienced ELT professional who has a love of stories, plays and playing, and continually looks for ways to include these in language learning.

This is the second of a series of blog articles on how to get young learners immersed into reading in English. Follow us at CollinsELT on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date or sign up to our ELT enewsletter.

Collins Peapod Readers is our new graded readers series for young learners starting their journey into learning English.

Find out more about the readers here.