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Exam reading practice: how to make it more autonomous and Montessori

So I've promised myself that I'll write a post for you during my week off school ... the week is nearly over so I guess I should start writing 馃檲

EDIT: it's been a week now since I started writing this post 馃槀

You might have seen my previous posts on exam prep materials and activities. I wrote one about listening, one about grammar, one about writing, and one about vocabulary. So this time round it's time for reading! 馃摎

Confession time: I really dislike reading activities and I don't like teaching reading. I know my weaknesses as a teacher and this is one of them. So, as you can probably imagine, coming up with any sort of activity which would let my kids practise this skill was a struggle. I did, however, come up with one thing recently. I've turned one of the exam activities into a Montessori inspired material! 馃コ Do I hear your applause? Yeah, I think I can hear it 馃槀

If you're preparing your students to take their E8 exam, you're familiar with the "three texts + four sentences" activity. You know, the one where you have to match three different texts to four sentences that somehow describe them or sum them up; where one text is a match for two sentences. I've had many students within the last 4 years who have struggled with this activity so I wanted to give them lots of practice with it.

And here's where I'm going to pause for a moment to write about what I have come to realise this school year. There is no such thing as a "repetytorium" (exam revision book)! What I mean is that a book which would be a sum up of everything you need to know for the exam and would give you all the necessary activities to practise your exam skills just doesn't exist on the market. The majority of them are just course books which are in no way different to your common language course book, except for the "complete" word list at the beginning or at the end of each unit. Now, the word lists ... they are far from being complete. I have 5 different revision books from all the major publishing houses that are available in Poland. To make my vocabulary flashcards I have to use THREE of them to come up with a list of vocabulary that I know will let my kiddos revise ALL the vocabulary they need. So this is my first problem with calling a course book a "repetytorium". If you're using just one book throughout the school year you are not giving your kids all the necessary vocab to revise.

My next big revelation came when I started preparing the material I'm going to show you today. Like I said before, I do not like teaching reading so the last thing I wanted to do was write the texts myself. I took my 5 books to look at each page and pull out all the 4+3 exercises that are in them. I found 17! in total! in 5 books! 馃槷 Two of the books had 1! ... YES I SAID ONE! activity of this sort each! So now imagine that you're trusting this one publishing house to help you prepare your students for their exam and this book, that claims to be an all-in-one source for the exam prep has 1 activity of a certain type in it!! What the actual 馃が I'm sorry, but it got me worked up so much! I was expecting to find at least 14 in each of the books. You know, 14 lexical topics that the books are usually organised by, so at least one activity for each unit. Nope ... 17 in total, from 5 books 馃槓

So just to let you know, if you're using one course book with your kids, you might want to look through it and check if you don't need to supplement it with more activities. That's the end of my rant 馃槀

Back to the actual activity. So I typed up every single activity that I found into a document on my computer and I tried to make it as Montessori as possible: aesthetically pleasing, involving the hand, with error control and isolation of difficulty... well the isolation of difficulty comes automatically when creating a material that practises one type of exam task. There's no gradation of difficulty because all the text from the books are on the same A1+/B2 level.

This is what is looks like in all its glory: