"Ready, set, READ!" – Using a teleprompter for timed-readings

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Reading in English can be quite difficult for L2 learners as they grapple with unfamiliar vocabulary, sentence structure, and idiomatic phrases. I try to encourage my students to put down their little pocket translators and read the text for general content and context. Some of my students listen to this advice, but many still fall back on their translations tools and attempt to understand every word on the page. To overcome this dependency, I have asked students in the past to take everything off of their desks except for a highlighter or pen and paper. This has worked to a point, but there are still problems with students finishing the text at different times. To work on this problem, I have started to use a teleprompter to scroll through the text at a set pace. Here is how it works.

  • Teleprompter: I use a free online teleprompter such as CuePrompter or EasyPrompter. These are simple to use and don’t require any downloads, installs, or registration. For the purpose of this demo, I will use EasyPrompter.
  • Online bulletin board: In order for the students to be able to share information, I suggest an online collaborative corkboard such as Padlet.
  • Digital text: This could be typed up or copied from a PDF or website. In order to make it easier to copy text, I would suggest PrintFriendly to convert a website to a PDF. To edit a PDF text, use PDF to Word Online Converter.
  • Computer and projector or IWB: Use a computer and large display such as projector or interactive whiteboard.
  • Online dictionary: Use an online English-only dictionary such as Macmillan Dictionary which has been specifically designed for ELLs.
  • Online document: There are a number of good online text pages, but for this demo, I will use TitanPad.
  • Dropping their dependence on their L1: Translating from the student’s L1 not only slows down the process of reading, but it also continues to reinforce problems created from using the grammar of their original language.
  • Building vocabulary: By sharing new words that they find in the text, students are able to help on another which decreases their dependence on the instructor and helps them take ownership in their learning.
  • Increases their reading speed: In teaching them how to skim and scan for information, students are able to read faster thus allowing them to read more information over a period of time. This is especially helpful for students in an academic or business setting.
  1. Select a text and convert it to digital text if necessary. If it is a text in a book, type out the text in a word processor. If it is a PDF, some PDFs will allow you to copy and paste the text, while others will need to be converted to a Word document using PDF to Word Online Converter. For online text, I would recommend that you first convert the page to PDF using PrintFriendly in order to make sure other text, such as advertising, doesn’t sneak into the article.
  2. Copy the text by selecting all and choosing the copy function under Edit or using the keyboard shortcut.
  3. Go to EasyPrompter and paste the text into the text box. You can make optional selections on the right side such as font size and starting speed. You can always adjust these later if they are not what you would like. Click on ‘Start Prompt’ to run through the text for any problems or to test the speed. On the next screen, there is a down-arrow on the left side of the dotted line at the bottom of the screen. Click on that arrow to hid the buttons on the bottom. You can always bring them back by clicking on the up-arrow later on. Hit the space bar when you are ready to start and hit it again to stop it at anytime. Time the text and record this time for later.
  4. Create a Padlet wall by using these instructions.
  5. Create a set of comprehension questions based on the text.
  6. Prepare the students for reading the text by asking them to read the first time for unknown vocabulary. Have them take notes while watching or write them down at the end. Tell them how long the text will take to read so they have an idea of how long this will take. Start the presentation and let it run to the end.
  7. Afterward, have students type up their words without definitions onto they Wallwisher wall. Show this wall on the screen. You will need to refresh the page to see any changes.
  8. Put students into pairs and assign words to each of these pairings. Have students look up the words, preferably with an English only dictionary such as Macmillan Dictionary, and post their definitions on the same note as the word on the wall.
  9. Have each student go to the wall and read over the new vocabulary. Take questions on things that are unclear.
  10. Before going over the text again, have students read over comprehension questions based on the text. These could be given in paper form, or posted to an online page such as TitanPad. This allows students to post their answers on their own homework page.
  11. Run the text through once again and have students complete their answers after watching it one time. Have them post their answers to their homework page for feedback.
  • Talk about skimming and scanning: Go over the idea of reading a text for gist (skimming) or quickly looking over text for particular information (scanning) before reading the text for the first time.
  • Highlight key words: To direct attention to particular vocabulary in the text, you can use the highlighter function in EasyPrompter to isolate those words.
  • Show the text in chunks: Instead of going through a longer text, cut it up into smaller portions and do the activity in chunks.
Have you ever used a timed-reading activity like this in your classroom?
Do you have any advice / additions / changes that you would like to share? Feel free to add your comments below, send me a Tweet at @nathanghall, or send me an email through the contact page on this site.

One thought on “"Ready, set, READ!" – Using a teleprompter for timed-readings

  1. Pingback: “Is that the write time?”: Timed writing using MinutesPlease | Nathan Hall

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