No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – a class reader

no. 1 ladies detective agency

The way that I have undertaken having a class reading with my L1 group is such an example of my sunshine yellow-ness. With the start of the new, and final, term I decided we needed something to keep attention (and attendance) for the final 7 lessons that we had. So I created the ‘Final Term Challenges’. I presented this at the first class and the students got to vote on which challenge they would do for the first week.


Background to the choice of No 1 Ladies Detective Agency comes from discussion I had with my friend and fellow ESOL teacher, James McGoldrick, who used this book with his L1 group who agreed to read a chapter a week and spend 30-40 mins in the lesson looking at the chapter. I was pleasantly surprised when all the students enthusiastically and unreservedly agreed on a class book, and that this seemed a more popular choice than going to the library to choose a graded reader.

Amazon provided me with a speedy class set and so last week was my first full lesson when everyone had a copy. Planning the session I had a quick look at the extensive reading section in Teaching ESL/EFL: Reading and Writing by I. S. P. Nation but gave up when it said that a vocabulary in a class reader should be 95-98% familiar! I knew this wasn’t going to be true of a novel! So I went into the class with several ideas but possibly one of the sketchiest of plans and generally went with the flow from the students.

activity 1 – silent reading. Some students had already started the book, but others hadn’t. I gave them 20 mins to read silently. They said how fast the time went and were surprised how far through the first chapter they got.

activity 2 – meaning. In pairs students discussed what happened. Pairs were swapped and this was repeated. I had thought about asking them to make notes on key points but decided that I didn’t want them to get bogged down with the writing aspects. Pairs were then swapped to discuss again and see what partner had remembered differently.
activity 3 – vocab. showing page numbers, I wrote groups of words on the WB and ss had to find the odd one out. They had to go back to the book to figure out the meaning of all three works to work this out. I also included a couple of collocation questions. The idea of the odd one out activity came from an observation I’d done that week for a DTELLS student.

activity 4 – grammar. I read aloud a couple of pages of the chapter which had several examples of two grammar points. ‘would + verb for habits in the past and the past prefect as back story. Four groups took one point each to research, these were then paired to share ideas and then peer taught across the pairs.

I really really enjoyed the lesson, I loved that so much variety could be got from one chapter of the book and feedback from the students was very positive.

Reflecting on the lesson shows the variety of CPD activity I’ve done that has impacted on this one lesson. Discussion with my friend who works at another college, activity idea from an observation and (brief) reading from an ESL book. I was also inspired to write this blog post after reading Phil Bird’s post on collaborative writing and in a future lesson I think I will use etherpad for the ss to share and collaborate about the story and the characters.

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