Do you have students that tend to dominate class discussion? Maybe quiet ones that have great ideas but tend to hold back? Do you want to engage your students in preparation for a reading activity? Well, here’s an activity that enables everyone to have their say in a safe environment and improves reading skills.
– Pieces of plain paper for each student.
– A selected reading article.
1. ) Write a discussion question on the board. This needs to be based on your reading article. Keep it as open as possible so you can generate lots of ideas. I recently did a reading with my FCE students about happiness. The question I wrote on the board was: Who are the happiest people? Why?
2.) Distribute a piece of paper to each student. They need to write a brief opinion/sentence/bullet point about the question.
3.) Now comes the fun part! There are two ways you can do it. You can get your students to scrunch up their piece of paper into a ball (hence the name, Snowball) or, they can make their pieces of paper into aeroplanes. I have done both. The boys in my classes love making aeroplanes and I have been very impressed with the quality of their planes!
4.) They need to throw their snowball/plane to another student of their choice.
5.) They should read the idea of the previous student. They should then write a brief response to what the previous student said. Simply saying ‘I agree’ is not allowed! When they are ready, repeat steps 3 and 4. You can continue this for as long as necessary. I find 10 minutes is best.
6.) Once you have a range of ideas on each piece of paper, get the students to stick the pieces of paper to the wall.
7.) Tell students to walk round the room and draw stars next to the opinions they think are the most interesting.
8.) Collect all the pieces of paper from the wall and distribute to students randomly. You could have a little competition to see which person gets the paper with the most stars.
9.) Now, for the reading part. Give them the selected article that you have based your original question on. They should read the text quickly to see if any ideas on the pieces of paper are mentioned in the article. This is important for exam technique as they should quickly read an article/extract first for gist before answering the questions.
10.) Take feedback after a few minutes. You could also turn this part into a competition to see who has the most similar ideas as the text. Don’t worry if the most a student gets is 1 similar idea. I think the benefit of this activity is more about engaging your students first, then getting them to improve reading skills for exams.
You can set the reading exercise for homework to complete the activity or they can do it in class.
What do you think? Can you think of other ways to adapt this activity? I’d love to hear your ideas!
Idea inspired by Brainwriting game (Michael Michalko).