Learner Level: Intermediate to Advanced
This example is based on a lesson developed by Nancy Villarreal.
Equipped for the Future
Reading Classified Ads
I started by asking students: What are the classified ads? What do you already know about them? What is difficult to understand in the classified ads? The students discussed their experiences using classified ads to buy things, and their confusion about whether some letter combinations were abbreviations or just words they didn't know. This led us into our first activity studying (and playing) with words and abbreviations. We looked at several abbreviations commonly found in housing ads alongside the full words, and discussed our hypotheses about how a word gets reduced to an abbreviation. What determines which letters will stay or go? From a list of housing-related vocabulary, pairs invented their own abbreviations and then explained their reasoning to others. This was extremely effective for building their fluency recognizing and reading abbreviations.
Next, we talked specifically about housing. I asked them to describe a "dream house." What would it look like? Where would it be located? We brainstormed what information would be important to know when looking for rental housing and, for homework, students turned this list of information into questions they could use when apartment hunting.
In the next class, we used their questions to look for information from real classified ads from a variety of newspapers (see worksheet ). First we reviewed the common housing abbreviations and then talked about skimming as a strategy they would need in order to read through the ads efficiently. They had already learned about skimming and scanning when we practiced reading train and bus schedules, so this was a refresher. The students were each given a selection of apartment ads and had to answer their list of questions for each one. I worked with the more advanced students, who finished the assignment early, on the study of adjective suffixes, focusing on those that carried the meaning "related to," and using words from some of the ads: -al (natural); -ial (residential); -ic (historic); -en (wooden).
In the third class, we began thinking about what we had read in the ads in order to analyze what they told us about patterns of housing, about affordability, and about their own options. What kinds of information were easiest/hardest to find in the ads? Why might that be? What information contradicted what they had expected? And finally, how did these rental apartments compare to their own? After reading about the rental market, did they think they had a good deal? Not so good? In what ways did the rental market seem be changing? Where could people with modest incomes live?
These last questions, posed for a final writing assignment, closed the unit. When the students shared their writings, lots of new questions about housing emerged, but we had to table these because it was that time in the semester to focus on the bi-annual school publication of student writings . If the students wanted to submit their writing about housing that would be fine, but learning more about leases, rent subsidies, and the loss of affordable housing would have to wait a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, the students said that they appreciated the chance to assess their own housing situation and to compare the rentals in all the different neighborhoods . They hadn’t realized that affordable apartments were becoming scarce and intended to keep their eye on the ads over the coming months.
In this teaching example, the learning standard was addressed in the following ways: