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Teacher to teacher

Introduction: I have written these reading quizzes to accompany a reading course that I teach to my Advanced ESL students, grades 8-11. My goal is to help students to become better readers, not to prepare them to do any particular reading test such as TOEFL. In general we do the quizzes together in class. Indeed, the students need training in order to do the quizzes as intended. This particularly applies to the speed reading scanning quiz, in which they need to discipline themselves to find the answers in the text before clicking Do quiz and being presented with the answer (among the distractors). The first quiz text in each case doubles as extra information about how to be a better reader or how to do that particular reading quiz.

Text order: In general, the first texts in any given quiz are intended to be easier than later ones, in terms of the length and difficulty of the text itself and the difficulty of the reading task(s) to be performed. I have ordered the texts intuitively (i.e. without any objective evaluation of their difficulty), and may well change the order as I work with my students and establish what they do actually find less or more difficult.

Text source: Some of the texts come from pages of my website, some are from Wikipedia under the GNU Free Documentation License, but most of them are from an old book called Amazing Facts*. The texts are at just the right level of challenging English for my students. Equally importantly, they are academic texts such as they might encounter in their science or humanities courses. They are also, in my opinion, valuable in their own right in that students may learn something useful or interesting in the process of practising to be better and faster readers.

I found the following book helpful in constructing some of the quizzes: Nuttall, C. Teaching Reading Skills in Foreign Language. Oxford. Heinemann. 1982.

Note 1: Writing good multiple-choice questions with plausible distractors is an arduous task. I could have spent time either writing fewer, psychometrically-sound quizzes/texts with questions subjected to careful item analysis or writing more quizzes/texts but without any pretension to objective reliability. I chose the latter since, as noted above, the quizzes are conceived as teaching not testing tools.

Note 2: The speed rating in the quiz Scanning for detail is not based on any standard assessment scale, and is for general feedback only. The rating is calculated by dividing the number of words in the text, questions and answers by the time elapsed between clicking Do quiz and Check answers, multiplied by a factor based on the number of questions and distractors. Of course, the rating only has validity if the student selects the correct answers!

More reading quizzes: There are some good reading quizzes, aimed more at EFL that ESL students, under Skillswise on the BBC website.

* I have failed in my attempt to establish to whom I should apply for permission to use these texts online. If anyone can help out, please send me an email. (The book is copyright 1980.)

Frankfurt International School: Art and artists. (Click to see at full size.)