Today a reader, tomorrow a leader
How to teach reading - for teachers; An Efficient Approach to Learning a Foreign Language by Reading Books - for students; Personal Experience - Polina Tashueva.
HOW TO TEACH READING?
Traditional classrooms used to involve students taking turns reading the passages and then either discussing or translating them. With the development of the communicative approach, the focus has shifted to skills dealing with various ways we can read the text - skimming and scanning, and comprehensive tasks. Every reading exercise should also have a specific purpose, and most of the time, more than one (i.e. introduce new grammar/vocabulary, provide specific context, expose to authentic realia, teach about culture, etc.).
All modern course-books teachers use already contain texts with exercises directed at particular skills and language aspects. Lower levels work better with texts not weighed down by vocabulary complexity and are structurally simple. As the level increases, the texts should become more authentic, contain more complex grammar and vocabulary constructions. Let’s take a look at the typical stages of a reading lesson.
If you want to make sure that your students get everything they can from the text you need to first check and then raise their awareness on the topic of the reading exercise. In the case of groups, divide them into pairs and prove questions related to the subject. Collect class feedback and discuss what vocabulary or grammar they felt lacking while doing the task. A teacher should spend some time anticipating these in advance and incorporating them into further tasks. By discussing the topic you will elicit what students already know and prepare them to reading. They will thus consume the new information with greater ease, as they will be connecting it to what has been already mentioned in class.
Another way to introduce the topic is to show pictures illustrating the subject or a situation. The students may practice descriptive language, brainstorm vocabulary, or predict what the text is going to be about. Reading the title is also a possibility.
On the planning stage of the lesson, read the text carefully and take note of all vocabulary chunks that you think will be necessary for your students. If the text is too complicated or contains too much new vocabulary, consider paraphrasing some expressions to adjust it to your students’ level. Take a look at the exercises the book provides and check if they focus on the chunks you have highlighted, and if not, make some changes to those as well. Plan the practice stage and how you will get the students to use new vocabulary.
One of the most important skills the students need to learn is the one native speakers possess inherently - guessing the meaning from the context. Drawing your students’ attention to the chunks of vocabulary instead of single words will raise their awareness of natural patterns occurring in realia and help them draw meaning from the context. It is possible to first introduce new words in similar contexts - one or two sentences where the word is used in the same collocation or meaning and ask them to explain or speculate on the meaning. Doing a speaking task here, as in “agree or disagree with the statement”, will expose the students to the context, make them pay attention to the words, and personalise the meanings.
There is usually little to no need for using L1 here, as proper context is sure to help your students understand the meaning.
Traditionally, this part will be divided into two, with two different skills trained: skim reading and scanning. Skim reading, or reading for gist, focuses on the general idea or message of the text and requires a single general question to answer. Scanning draws attention to particular details and makes students look for signposts, cues, and key words.
There is no value in reading the text out loud, because the students focus on pronunciation and intonation, rather than the content, and will have to read the text again to get the meaning. This slows down the class and may irritate the students with a faster pace. The only time this is relevant is when you actually train pronunciation and intonation. On the contrary, try to make this stage as communicative as possible - you may divide the students into pairs or groups and give them different paragraphs to read and then retell to others, aka information gap. You can ask students to come up with titles for each paragraph (thus teaching them to draw the message from the text) or match paragraphs with already existing titles.
When students encounter new words in the text, ask them not only to highlight them but also to pay attention to the words around them - adjectives, nouns, prepositions, and verbs. Collocations are easier to remember, and according to Hugh Dellar, they boost fluency and natural speaking.
Once your students have read and understood the text, it is time to apply language skills, like grammar. Ask students to find examples of a target structure in the text and focus on the context. Ask concept checking questions (CCQs) and guide your students toward the rule. You may also want to pay attention to the structures you have already studied, to reinforce exposure to them.
The final stage of a reading lesson is to provide your students freer practice and opportunities to practice and use everything they have studied in class. Ask for their opinions, experiences, and memories. If you want your students to use the new grammar or vocabulary, include it in the speaking task and tell them they have to use it!
Do you have a reliable way of doing reading in class?
An Efficient Approach to Learning a Foreign Language by Reading Books
Learning a foreign language isn’t as simple as sitting on the couch, pick up a book, and magically learn a language. Reading alone gives us some challenges in our native language. That’s why I use something called immersion reading. This is what some book lovers use to take themselves deep into the book’s story by reading a book while listening to its audiobook. But immersion reading can also help you learn a foreign language efficiently.
How to Get Immersion Reading in a Foreign Language
Step 1: Search books available in the target language
Although bestsellers like Harry Potter are translated into several languages, most books are translated into few languages. That’s why we need first to search in which languages our favorite book has been translated into.
Step 2: Search audiobooks available in the target language
Even if you find a book translated into your target language, you might still not find the audiobook version available in that language. To verify the audiobook availability, go to audible.com and search the book you’d like to read in a foreign language.
Step 3: Read and listen simultaneously to immerse yourself into the story
Now that you have the e-book and audiobook on your phone, you just need to play them together. You can also use a physical book instead of an e-book if you feel more comfortable that way.
The following are some things I do when reading and listening simultaneously in a foreign language.
If the narrator speaks too fast, slow down the speech pace on the app that you use. Start with 0.5x and raise the narration speed until you feel comfortable with it.
Add a bookmark on both audiobook and e-book so you can pick up where you left off. Whispersync for Voice does this automatically, but we have to take care of this manually.
If you’re a beginner, prioritize books you read before that would gently introduce you to the foreign language.
If you have an intermediate level, try to read books that will help you fluently speak a new language faster.
The Effects of Immersion Reading in Language Learning — My experience
Apart from what studies and the Kindle app say about immersion reading, I’d like to tell you what are their strong and weak areas.
Immersion reading boosts your listening skills and pronunciation
I used to get distracted easily by any noise in my surroundings, but I could focus more on the book thanks to immersion reading since I have both my eyes and ears busy. Also, it‘s extremely useful for remembering correct pronunciation. When we learned a new language, we tend to focus on vocabulary and grammar rules and fix our pronunciation later. Fortunately, by listening to the audiobook, we get the correct pronunciation right away— this is much better than guessing how a word sounds in a foreign language when reading alone.
You still need to work on vocabulary on your own
I have to admit, though, that I still had some trouble understanding the vocabulary used in a book — immersion reading won’t help you magically understand a word you never heard before. Usually, I don’t try to understand all the new words in a book. Instead, I look up the meaning of words that I don’t know and seem essential to understanding the story. You can easily do this with your iPhone inside the iBooks app. I wrote an article that shows how to do that and also how to use flashcards to learn new useful vocabulary from the books I read.
To sum up, I can say that my experience using immersion reading has been fantastic.
Do you have any tips to make reading more effective? Tell us!
As for me, I have been working as an English tutor for a year, teaching mainly secondary school students (grades 6-8). I teach a boy from Germany whose native language is German, which I actually like since in this case it is impossible to switch to any language other than English. I believe that tutoring gives me a wonderful experience in a deep understanding of the education system and the ability to transfer my knowledge. In addition to studying and teaching language, I am interested in cinema, music, painting, and reading.
The most important thing in the learning process for a teacher is a properly selected text. I usually use small texts (maximum one and a half pages), depending on the language level of a particular student. It is also important to pay attention to the words used in the text - the vocabulary should be chosen so that the student can grasp the general meaning of the text, but there must also be a set of new words that should be emphasized. I see the reading process in this way: the student reads aloud the first few passages, the teacher asks to tell about the main idea of the text, what it is about. Then, if it is clear that the student understands the text, they read the text to the end. After reading, it is important to ask questions not only about the understanding of the text but also about the student's own opinion on a given topic in order to motivate them to reflect on this topic in a foreign language. There must be a lively dialogue, discussion, otherwise, the student will not be interested. Usually, only after that do I turn to the vocabulary. I name a potentially unfamiliar word and ask to think about what meaning it may have. Analyzing the context or using the familiar rules of word-formation the student can come to the meaning themselves. If difficulties arise, it is necessary to explain the meaning of the word, then look up the definition in the dictionary together. The main thing is to interest a student - to try to use interesting, relevant texts, if possible, somehow related to their interests. One time we were reading a review of my student’s favorite anime; she was involved in such work because she is interested in this topic. Sometimes it is possible to give texts that cause diverse opinions in order to develop the quality of argumentation and expand the field of discussion. I usually look for texts in proven textbooks, on websites that distribute texts by language level, or I just use articles, excerpts from books.
In short, the correct approach to the reading process and the freedom of choice of the student, in my opinion, leads to productive learning and beneficial processing of new information.
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