Learn how to write a high quality reading for your learners
One of the main reasons I started http://dreamreader.net was because I struggled to find free high quality graded readings. At the time, I was teaching a reading course and wanted to supplement the assigned materials with interesting and engaging readings at the right level for the learners. The lack of free materials made me decide to write my own and http://dreamreader.net as you see it today is in part because of this dilemma.
Finding the right content
So, what processes do you need to go through to create your own tailor made reading and quiz? Well, before starting you need to consider your learners. A good idea would be to have your class brainstorm topics they are interested in. You need to find out what content would your learners like. When I first started writing lessons for Dreamreader, each lesson was carefully written for my learners. Since the site has grown and has been used in about 200 countries, I have had to adapt and write on a wide variety of topics to suit the audience.
Time to research
Once you have your topic, I recommend doing some research. Depending on your own pre-existing knowledge, this can take anywhere between 30 minutes to a couple of hours. You then need to decide the structure of the reading. This very much depends on the level of the learner you are writing for. I put some strict criteria in place for the Academic readings. I always aim to make sure that the reading is of a certain length, readability, with the appropriate vocabulary, and suitable question types. I always use an online readability checker and a vocabulary checker too.
What goes in to writing a reading?
These factors all play a part in how long the reading and quiz will take to write. When I first started writing lessons it could take several hours to write one lesson, but these days I can usually write the content in less than 30 minutes. After writing the article, the next step is to edit it. I use an online readability checker and there are several online software tools that calculate readability. Some will check Coleman Liau index, Flesch Kincaid Grade Level, ARI (Automated Readability Index), and SMOG. Then, I recommend you check the vocabulary in the lesson to make sure that it is suitable for the intended audience. In my opinion, the New General Word Service List is the best. http://www.newgeneralservicelist.org
Finding the right criteria for the reading
Once the reading has been edited, it will need proofing. This is where having a partner would be most beneficial. When there were two of us running Dreamreader, we would check each other’s work. If I wrote the article, my partner would proof it and vice versa. Once it is ready, you are set to make the quiz. Again, I set out have strict criteria for question types depending on the level it is intended for. If you interested in learning more about these, please feel free to contact me.
Once the reading and quiz are ready, you might want to think about recording audio. All the lessons at Dreamreader come with free audio, but it can be time consuming recording it. We put all our lessons up online, but we also make a printable PDF of each lesson to help busy teachers and students who prefer to work on paper. Each of our Academic lessons comes with a supplementary vocabulary worksheet too. Furthermore, you might want to make some pre-reading activities too. If you are looking for ideas, please check out my blog post for EFL Magazine. http://eflmagazine.com/10-pre-reading-activities/
I hope this was useful for any teachers thinking of making your own readings. As you can see, there is a lot of work that goes into producing one single lesson. I feel that it can really help learners develop their reading skills and vocabulary though if the lesson is written well. If it sounds like too much work, you can always use one of our 500 plus free lessons!
A call for help!
As you may know, I am now running the site alone and I am desperately trying to raise funds to help keep the site going and growing. Even a dollar donated from each of the sites’ users would see me to my goal. If you like Dreamreader, please consider making a contribution. Honestly, any amount would help. Thank you.
Please check out my fundraising page. https://www.razoo.com/users/bb4zhg