Teaching Reading

A student or pupil may ask themselves: Why should I read as many English texts as possible? It is not difficult for a teacher or professor to give one or more answers to this question. First of all, it is advisable for students to read texts in English in order to prepare themselves for their future career, to improve their capacity of studying so as to get high grades; students may also read for pleasure and for enriching their imagination.

Out of all the reasons mentioned above, there are two of them which attract teachers’ attention: reading for study purposes and reading to build a future career. The latter reason contains within itself the former one. Studying is the main ingredient for a successful career and studying implies a lot of reading.

Learners must be taught that they will acquire language while reading. This means that pupils become capable of using grammar and vocabulary, of constructing new sentences and even paragraphs. The reading techniques offer to them models of spelling, writing and punctuation. They find within texts new topics for discussion and for writing. The idea is that pupils learn how to express themselves efficiently and how to impress their colleagues and their teachers. Hence, reading is in close connection to speaking, writing and listening. But if you want to impress the others, you need to have style. Reading is a source of style which reflects itself in speaking or in writing.

Students may ask: Is it useful to read more in the classroom or outside it? The answer is not too difficult: they should read both in the classroom and at home as much as possible in order to achieve progress in mastering a foreign language. Reading outside the classroom means performing extensive reading which is often associated with reading for pleasure. This association is partially valid because, in this case, students have a higher degree of liberty to choose what to read and to share their knowledge and emotions with the others. On the other hand, pupils need some guidance when they start their reading journey. Teachers need to offer their students values and principles meant to guide them when they select the reading materials such as novels, poems, drama, magazines or newspapers; all these types of texts should develop children’s personality and not harm it.

As one may expect, reading inside the classroom means performing intensive reading. The main advantages of intensive reading are: the reading process is guided by the teacher and there can exist a variety of text genres according to various interests and purposes that students aim at. For example, students may be interested in science, medicine, business, agriculture or economy. Classroom texts should cover all these fields of activity and should help learners pursue a professional career. At school, teachers can shape better the traits of character of their pupils involving the receptive skills (reading and listening) and the productive skills (speaking and writing). These skills are integrated as a whole by means of study activities which are performed in the classroom better than at home or outside the classroom. Learners may be asked to: recognize the kind of the reading text, identify details in the text or use vocabulary and  grammar when speaking about the text or after reading the text.

There is a close connection between intensive or extensive reading and the level of the text. This level can be roughly divided into authentic texts and adapted texts. Learners who are proficient readers will look for authentic texts while beginners will prefer to read adapted or simplified texts. But most students need a balance between adapted and authentic. What happens to those that are intermediate or upper-intermediate readers? It is evident that they want to read a mixture of adapted and authentic reading sources in the sense that for them a text should contain both authentic and adapted language in order to be understood. Extensive reading is associated with learners reading authentic texts while intensive reading is connected to those reading adapted texts. However, most readers combine intensive and extensive reading; hence, they combine authentic language with simplified structures.

Students can adopt different reading techniques according to the nature of the study activities. They can scan the text. This means that they look for certain details or try to find specific information such as a phone number, the name of a person or place. This technique involves the fact that readers needn’t read every line; if they did so, they would find the details with great difficulty.

Another reading technique is that of skimming a text which means casting your eyes over it and reading it quickly in order to understand or find the main ideas. In this case, attention should not be paid to details because there exists the risk of not grasping the main idea.

There is another technique of reading which is somehow similar to scanning; it is called reading for detailed comprehension. This means that the student is trying to identify certain sub-ideas or specific language uses such as use of the definite article, of pronouns and their functions in the text.

These techniques of reading are not enough for shaping a competent reader. Teachers have to guide their students after certain reading principles. Readers should be encouraged to read as much as possible combining intensive and extensive reading. They ought to get pleasure from reading extensively and to be connected to the study activities while reading intensively. Pupils need to be encouraged to explain their feelings when reading a text and to predict the content or action of a reading text. Furthermore, the task established by the teacher has to be connected to the topic of the intensive and even extensive reading texts. And last but not least, a text should be exploited to the full by both teachers and students.

In order to be efficient, reading activities must be divided into: pre-reading activities (guessing the story from the title), while-reading activities (discriminating between main ideas and sub-ideas) and post reading activities (choosing the most 20 interesting words from a text and writing a new story). If readers take into account these reading stages, it will be easier for them to read and texts will become their friends.

Bibliography:
1. Jones, L., The Student-Centered Classroom, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
2. Brown, H.D., Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, New York, Pearson, 2000.
3. Scrivener, J., Learning teaching: A guidebook for English language teachers, Macmillan, 2001.

 

prof. Bogdan-Mihai Maimascu

Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/bogdan.maimascu

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