Reading is a receptive skill that “must be taught in an integrated way: you cannot separate listening or reading from speaking, writing and communication”.
In other words, in the real world, receptive skills (listening and reading), are always associated with the productive ones (speaking or writing) For example, when we listen to someone saying something to us, we have to answer back; so, we have to speak; or when we read someone`s message on the phone, or on the internet (e-mail) and we have to write him/her back.
Generally the reading lessons are always a combination of writing, speaking or listening skills.
1. READING AND WRITING
It was until 1970s that reading and writing were regarded and taught as two separate skills. Then, in the 1980s, reading and writing researchers emphasized the important relationship between reading and writing and how they shared similar cognitive processes, skills, and ways of learning.
Finally, by the 1990s, reading was no longer seen only as a precursor to writing, but it was perceived to be on the same footing as writing, and both were conceived as being co-constructors of meaning (Hirvela, 2004).
Research has shown that reading and writing, as language skills are very interdependent, in the sense that reading affects writing and vice versa. We may say that both reading and writing are social acts. Reading is a way of obtaining information and writing is a way to offer information, to share our ideas and opinions to others. It has been shown that the children who read extensively will have better writing skills.
Research and practical experience have also shown that “one cannot become a proficient writer in any language without also developing an array of literacy skills, including the ability to comprehend written text efficiently- fluently and accurately”.
The first important review of the reading-writing connection belongs to Stotsky (1983) who asserts that there is a kind of reciprocal support between the two skills: “reading and writing are reciprocal activities; the outcome of a reading activity can serve as input for writing, and writing can lead a student to further reading resources”.
The relationship between reading and writing is related to what the reader has learned when the process of reading is finished. That is the experience of the students with different types of texts provides them models to use in writing tasks.
Even the visual models of pages, paragraphs and sentences can develop the students` ability to structure their writing. The students who know to read well, will be able to locate or identify the most relevant information in the source text and then to transfer it to their writing.
The two elements needed in both reading and writing are the knowledge of vocabulary (with the meaning of words in the context) and the syntax (with the structure of sentences). The type of the reading material to which students are exposed influence their writing style and vocabulary.
Extensive reading is a way of developing writing abilities because it offers a wide range of vocabulary and ideas that the one who has to write something needs in his activity of writing. Reading develops imagination which is the most important in writing something.
In our English lessons, reading and writing are complementary skills. Reading improves writing and the writing tasks help students with reading comprehension and understanding of vocabulary in context. As I have already mentioned above, each reading activity/ lesson implies at least one writing task which is very important and useful especially for reading comprehension, teaching vocabulary or grammar structures or just for developing some writing skills.
This is why, in the following I will come with some examples of reading and following-up writing tasks/activities from the English textbooks that I`m now using in my English classes.
2. READING AND SPEAKING
Even if reading is a receptive skill and speaking is a productive one, I think there is an important relationship between the two of them and I also think that reading is the one that has a greater impact on speaking. This means that what we read (the all kinds of information we get while reading) must be shown or used through our speaking act just like in the case of writing.
Reading is visible while speaking is audible, but both of them are very important skills in learning English as a second/ foreign language. However, regarding the relationship between the two skills, there is a reciprocal link between them, that is, each of the two skills has a certain influence on the other one.
If we take into account Ur `s statement that “of all the four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), speaking seems intuitively the most important” , we also have to demonstrate that reading, like other English skills, plays a very significant role in learning to speak.
Undoubtedly, these days speaking means communication and this is what counts the most for those who want to learn English and it is reading that can also help students in their communicative performance.
Reading allows students to decipher new words that they need for communication or to use and share ideas that they met in a text or in a certain conversation. So, it is through reading that students can develop the vocabulary which they can use in different communicative situations. Reading can be regarded as a kind of input provider in the process of speaking. It provides the student with the necessary models, vocabulary, ideas, formats of conversations or dialogues with suitable expressions that he/she may use in different communicative contexts or speech acts.
Choral reading might also be a way to improve speaking. Students might read and practise short phrases or sentences repeated in the chorus for fluency.
Reading involves the act of speaking when students are asked to answer some questions or to make their own questions about a read text or to offer some opinions about it or to act out the role of a character in a certain text or to describe a character by saying why did he/she like him or not. They simply have to speak.
Speaking activities might be used at any stage of the lesson: before reading a text as pre-reading activities – to activate the students` prior knowledge or personal experience on a certain topic/ subject-matter (for example to describe some pictures at the text, to anticipate what is the text about by talking about the pictures or looking at the title or other headings, to have an introductory conversation on the topic or characters, to answer questions about the topic of the text, to stir students` interest and imagination), while-reading a text (acting a short dialogue/ conversation on a read model or saying the replies of a character who appears in a certain text or answering questions for checking comprehension, or the teacher might ask students to find different detail information in the text ) or as after-reading activities that “give the teacher fed-back on how well the students understand the text, and provide opportunities to practise the new items. They also help the students to perceive the deeper meanings of the text, to personalize the topic and expand the text to communicative activities.” .
It must be taken into consideration that “such activities must be managed differently, according to the moment in the lesson, the type of text, the teacher`s aim and, of course, the students`age and language proficiency.”
3. READING AND LISTENING
The relationship between reading and listening has been of great interest to researchers and teachers for many years. Many of them have come to the conclusion that they are intimately related skills, the main objective of both of them being making meaning of what is being read/ listened.
What we know for sure about the similarities between reading and listening is the fact that both of them are receptive skills, that is, the learner/ the student is a receiver of information.
In the process of listening/ reading, the listener/ reader (the one who receives the message/ the information) and the text itself, have to be viewed as “interactants”, not as two separate elements, because “the receiver communicates with the text s/he is reading/ listening to and contributes meaning to it.”
Research has shown that reading and listening are related, that is, the improvement of one brings about the improvement of the other.
The modern term “communication” also refers to the relation between reading and listening, both of them being concerned with the receiving of information (ideas, messages, impressions, feelings, vocabulary) from different sources. They both involve the act of comprehension and interpretation of what is being read/ listened.
But how can these two skills work together and influence each other?
Listening is important in learning to read. Since childhood, children are introduced to written language in their own language by listening to stories that usually their parents and other caregivers read to them. When children are read to, they begin to see the connection between what they hear and what they see on the printed page and to gain an understanding of stories. The same thing happens to reading in English.
There are many activities in the students` books based on listening before/while or after reading a text or a paragraph, but unfortunately not all of them are available for students and teachers. In this case, the internet is very helpful in providing the teachers with listening materials for teaching different topics. Listening to a text before reading it is a good way to improve the student`s pronunciation, stress and intonation, besides getting the information/messages and making meaning. Students may take notes while listening to a text and then check their answers when reading that text.
For instance, in the students` book English Factfile for 6th grade there is a story, Charlie and the chocolate factory, divided into ten chapters ( one new chapter in each unit), which I use with my students for reading and I also have the CD. I usually have my students read the text while listening and then read the text aloud or use role – playing as there are lots of characters in the story. I`ve noticed an improvement of their reading in terms of pronunciation of new words or unfamiliar phrases and intonation and a greater desire to read. Each new chapter has the same task: Read while listening; pay attention to the words you are not sure how to pronounce and how each sentence is said or read part of the story aloud.
After doing this, I propose to the students other reading activities for checking comprehension of the text: questions, gap filling, listening to paragraphs and asking for different details etc.
Adriana Vizental, Strategies of teaching and testing English as a foreign language, Polirom, 2007.
Penny Ur, A course in English Language Teaching, Cambridge University Press..Dana R.
Ferris, John S. Hedgcock , Teaching Esl Composition, Second Edition, Routledge, 2004.
Alan Hirvela, Reading and writing in second language instruction, The University of Michigan Press, 2004.