Reading, Meeting, Sharing: Reflections on the first Academic Reading Group


January 19, 2016 by gemmalunn

Last Sunday was the first ELT Academic Reading Group. I decided to start this group for two reasons: Firstly, since completing my MA I have found I read less (or hardly any) academic articles and therefore had started to feel a bit out of touch with research and using this to keep developing. Secondly, I was missing face-to-face discussions and interactions from teachers’ meetings and workshops (the places where I currently work either do not offer any PD or I am a Freelance Teacher so just go there to teach). Thus, I thought the group would be a good way to meet like-minded teachers and would also motivate me to read more.

At the first meeting we had a good range of nationalities from Mexico to Uzbekistan, and teaching backgrounds from elementary school to university. The mix made for some great discussion.

ARG 1st meeting pic

I chose a relatively simple text (a summary of a book on Vocabulary Myths) to get us started. Following advice from David at ELT Springboard (where I also found this month’s article) I prepared some questions based on the text (you can download the doc here > ARG 1 Discussion Qs) to give the discussion some focus. For example:

Myth 1: In learning another language, vocabulary is not as important as grammar or other areas

  • How much time do you spend on vocabulary in class? (compared to other aspects such as grammar?
  • How do you usually teach vocabulary? – implicitly/explicitly, through the course book, through reading materials….?
  • When you teach vocabulary what information about the word do you give – definition…?
  • Do you regularly include vocabulary quizzes / revision activities?

I feel like this format worked out well as it kept the conversation going and meant we covered the topic in-depth. A lot of useful activity ideas and websites were shared as well as reflections on personal language learning and what works and what doesn’t.

I also gave out a sheet for teachers to write some reflections on (ARG reflection form) so in the next meeting we can see if the article and discussion had any effect on our teaching:

After this meeting?

  • What did you find most useful about the article?
  • Will you try anything new in classes as a result of the article / discussion? If so what?

Before the next meeting:

  • What changes have you made / new activities have you tried?
  • What effect did the changes have?
  • Will you make any permanent changes to your pedagogy now?
  • How did your students react to the changes / new activity?

Personally, since reading the article and thinking about how and how much time I dedicate to teaching vocabulary I have tried to place more emphasis on it in classes and to do more regular revision of new words and expressions. I’ve always kept a note of new vocab on the board for students and provided them with vocabulary records which we often use in revision activities. However, I now start and end every class with a quick vocabulary revision activity to make it more of a habit rather than something I do ad hoc. I was also already using a fair range of resources and activities to help students acquire new vocabulary but picked up some good new activities at the meeting so I’ll try and use some of these in upcoming classes.

Please feel free to share your own comments on the article and vocabulary learning in general below including any useful links.

Finally, thanks to all that came  it was great to meet you and I’m already looking forward to next month’s meeting.

2 thoughts on “Reading, Meeting, Sharing: Reflections on the first Academic Reading Group

  1. […] not alone! You could try something like Lizzie Pinard’s ELT Book Challenge or start a reading group as Gemma Lunn did. And it doesn’t have to be books, it could be blogs […]

  2. […] group beforehand. This is not new and people have been experimenting with the idea, for example, Gemma Lunn has been doing in her ELT Academic Reading group, or David Kaufher’s organized teacher get-togethers, like […]

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