Reading exercise tutorial

The learner must read a passage, a sequence of sentences, or single words. These have been specifically selected for their difficulty level or to illustrate a certain regularity in the language (e.g., stress patterns or pronunciation).

RESOURCE GATHERING STAGE

Since these exercises revolve around the text, the first thing the teacher should do is find a text from which to take an excerpt or alternatively, prepare a list of sentences by herself. For this example we chose an excerpt from Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under The Seas”, a public domain novel.

Gifted with uncommon manual ability, Ned Land was a Canadian who had no equal in his dangerous trade. Dexterity, coolness, bravery, and cunning were virtues he possessed to a high degree, and it took a truly crafty baleen whale or an exceptionally astute sperm whale to elude the thrusts of his harpoon.

Ned Land was about forty years old. A man of great height -over six English feet- he was powerfully built, serious in manner, not very sociable, sometimes headstrong, and quite ill-tempered when crossed. His looks caught the attention, and above all the strength of his gaze, which gave a unique emphasis to his facial appearance.

Commander Farragut, to my thinking, had made a wise move in hiring on this man. With his eye and his throwing arm, he was worth the whole crew all by himself. I can do no better than to compare him with a powerful telescope that could double as a cannon always ready to fire.

To say Canadian is to say French, and as unsociable as Ned Land was, I must admit he took a definite liking to me. No doubt it was my nationality that attracted him. It was an opportunity for him to speak, and for me to hear, that old Rabelaisian dialect still used in some Canadian provinces. The harpooner’s family originated in Quebec, and they were already a line of bold fishermen back in the days when this town still belonged to France.

Little by little Ned developed a taste for chatting, and I loved hearing the tales of his adventures in the polar seas. He described his fishing trips and his battles with great natural lyricism. His tales took on the form of an epic poem, and I felt I was hearing some Canadian Homer reciting his Iliad of the High Arctic regions.

I’m writing of this bold companion as I currently know him. Because we’ve become old friends, united in that permanent comradeship born and cemented during only the most frightful crises! Ah, my gallant Ned! I ask only to live 100 years more, the longer to remember you!

We also downloaded an ambient music track called Flowers under the Sea by FreeSynth to play it alongside the text. The track is licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA.

VIDEO CREATION STAGE

Record yourself to get a sense of the duration

A good starting point for reading aloud exercises is to record yourself reading the whole text to get a better idea of what the duration of the exercise ought to be. According to our own tests the excerpt above takes about 2 to 3 minutes to be read by a fluent speaker, in a calm manner.

Break down the text into short sentences

Keep in mind that the videos you make are scaled to 640×360 pixels once you upload them to the platform, so you have to split the text into short sentences that are easily readable when put in frames of that size. There are different approaches to go about this:

  • Use a presentation or slide making software (e.g. Microsoft Powerpoint, LibreOffice Impress) to put each sentence in a slide. You will have to adjust the dimensions of the slide though, otherwise it will be difficult to see how the text will look like with the final resolution. To give the slides the correct size you have to know your monitor’s DPI, but here are some settings that work well for most computers: 6.67” x 3.75” (96 DPI monitor).How to set the page size in Microsoft Powerpoint? Click on Design → Page Setup and input the dimensions above.
    How to set the page size in LibreOffice Impress? Click on Format → Page… and input the dimensions above.As for the font, the text size varies depending on the type. In this example we used a size 26 Liberation Sans font. Once you have all the slides save them as images and import those images in your video edition software.

slide01 slide02

  • Adjust the output video preview dimensions in your video editing software of your choice and add a text frame to the timeline for each sentence to check how it will be displayed.

If you want to skip this step you can download the broken down text in ppt, odp, or zipped set of svg images.

Set frame durations

Use your test audio recordings as a reference to set each text frame’s duration or use a distribution that is based on the words per minute you want your students to achieve. The recommend WPM for comfortable hearing and vocalizing is 150-160 according to research (Williams, J. R. (1998). Guidelines for the use of multimedia in instruction, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 42nd Annual Meeting, 1447–1451).

  • The example images above have 18 and 13 words, so according to the previous recommendation they should be read at eq1and eq2respectively.

#

Text

Words

Duration (seconds)

1

Gifted with uncommon manual ability, Ned Land was a Canadian who had no equal in his dangerous trade.

18

7.2

2

Dexterity, coolness, bravery, and cunning were virtues he possessed to a high degree,

13

5.2

3

and it took a truly crafty baleen whale or an exceptionally astute sperm whale to elude the thrusts of his harpoon.

21

8.4

4

Ned Land was about forty years old. A man of great height -over six English feet- he was powerfully built,

20

8

5

serious in manner, not very sociable, sometimes headstrong, and quite ill-tempered when crossed.

13

5.2

6

His looks caught the attention, and above all the strength of his gaze, which gave a unique emphasis to his facial appearance.

22

8.8

7

Commander Farragut, to my thinking, had made a wise move in hiring on this man.

15

6

8

With his eye and his throwing arm, he was worth the whole crew all by himself.

16

6.4

9

I can do no better than to compare him with a powerful telescope that could double as a cannon always ready to fire.

23

9.2

10

To say Canadian is to say French, and as unsociable as Ned Land was, I must admit he took a definite liking to me.

24

9.6

11

No doubt it was my nationality that attracted him.

9

3.6

12

It was an opportunity for him to speak, and for me to hear, that old Rabelaisian dialect still used in some Canadian provinces.

23

9.2

13

The harpooner’s family originated in Quebec, and they were already a line of bold fishermen back in the days when this town still belonged to France.

26

10.4

14

Little by little Ned developed a taste for chatting, and I loved hearing the tales of his adventures in the polar seas.

22

8.8

15

He described his fishing trips and his battles with great natural lyricism.

12

4.8

16

His tales took on the form of an epic poem, and I felt I was hearing some Canadian Homer reciting his Iliad of the High Arctic regions.

27

10.8

17

I’m writing of this bold companion as I currently know him.

11

4.4

18

Because we’ve become old friends, united in that permanent comradeship born and cemented during only the most frightful crises!

19

7.6

19

Ah, my gallant Ned! I ask only to live 100 years more, the longer to remember you!

17

6.8

351

140.4

These values give pretty good results, but it always is a good idea to test the video to see if any frames need adjustments.

(Optional) add background music

You can use some ambient, non-distracting music to play while displaying the text frames. If the music track lasts more than the exercise you can cut it. If it lasts less, you can try different approaches: stretching the music, repeating it when it ends, or picking another music track put next to the previous one.

Exporting the video project

Once you are satisfied with your work save the video project (might be you will need it later on) and then export the project to an HD video file. These are the settings we used:

  • Video codec: x264/H264/AVC with a bitrate of 15000kbps to keep a good quality. Other options could be choosing a High Profile, setting multiple pass encoding…
  • Audio codec: AAC, 128kbps bitrate, Stereo
  • Media container: MP4

INTERACTION DEFINITION STAGE

A reading exercise usually has only one long interaction gap that goes from start to end in which the learner will read all the text. The typical interaction table for reading exercises looks similar to:

Number

Begin

End

Role

Text

1

00:03.000

02:22.000

Learner

Read the text.