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Helpful Ways to Teach Reading


When it comes to wanting to help your child, student, or even friend improve their reading, it is important to understand there are many ways to do so. For the one learning, it can be challenging and difficult at first. Embarrassing struggles make wanting to read better or learn more a daunting task. From Extensive Reading in the Second Language, four approaches to reading are described below. The .pdf file can be downloaded HERE if you wish to learn more from this academic article. The following is a shortened version of the article and has some input on what Extensive Reading means as a teacher and different teaching strategies to think about when teaching.


Extensive Reading in the Second Language Classroom (Cambridge Language Education)

This book which I consider to be like a bible of sorts when having to create my own program by Richard Day and Julian Bamford has a lot of material focused on the theory and practice behind improving reading. Although a lot of the focus is in an academic classroom, the concepts can be applied to various levels of reading curriculums. For anyone interested in extensive reading, this is a must have book.

There are four distinctive approaches to the teaching of L2 reading: grammar-translation, comprehension questions, skills and strategies, and extensive reading.

As a means of studying the foreign language, students may be taught to read texts written in the foreign language by translating them into the native language. A reading and rereading process occurs in the classroom where the teacher reads aloud the passage followed by the students reading the text, then the teacher reads the text sentence by sentence followed by the students reading each sentence aloud. Afterwards, the students translate the text orally word-by word, sentence by sentence. Meaning is taken at a sentence level will less attention to the text as a whole, where meaning is constructed through the native language, not the directly the foreign language.

teaching strategiesA second approach to teaching foreign language reading centers around reading short passages that demonstrate the use of foreign words or points of grammar to encourage students to read them word-by-word then complete comprehension questions and exercises. These questions are meant to check comprehension, facilitate comprehension, and ensure that the reader reads the text. Typically, the teacher will go over any new vocabulary then assign the reading as homework. The next day the students will read aloud the text with the teacher correcting pronunciation mistakes, followed by students being called on to answer the comprehension questions.

A third approach to teaching L2 reading focuses on the skills exhibited by fluent readers and the strategies that readers use to comprehend a text. The teacher prepares the students to read a passage from a textbook by providing or activating any background knowledge necessary for comprehension. Students then read the passage silently while keeping in mind a few “while reading” questions to answer then share in small groups. Then the students complete exercises that require them to demonstrate a global comprehension of the passage and grasp of particular reading skills or strategies (finding main idea, references, guessing meaning to unknown words through context, etc.)

The goal of extensive reading approach is for students to become willing and able readers in the second and foreign language. Students individually read books mainly for homework. Material are self selected and well within the students linguistic capabilities, written to communicate a message. Post-reading activities are usually confined to the answering of a few questions or preparing a short oral or written book report. The extensive reading classroom may include work with a class reader (same text read by all students), the teacher reads aloud then includes silent reading periods.teaching strategies

The four approaches are not mutually exclusive; they may be mixed in any particular course or classroom. Grammar-translation reflects local educational practice and cultural values, aimed at both language learning and character building to ultimately be prepared for examinations. Additionally, grammar-translation suits cultures where the teacher is one who knows but not necessarily someone who has been trained to transmit that knowledge. Question-based approach to teaching reading prepares students for examinations and do not require a vast amount of knowledge of the foreign language for teaching.

Skills approach gives teachers something actually to teach, directly impacting the way students read all passages. Secondly, it is an approach compatible with generally accepted theories of reading as an interactive process: By supplying or activating background knowledge, and by introducing and giving practice in appropriate reading strategies, teachers can help L2 readers interact with text as fluent readers do. However, this second point has led to a detachment from mainstream reading processes. Skills and strategies are the pedagogical approach of choice on teaching L2 reading. Readings are grouped in themes or topics to allow students opportunities to explore a topic in some depth and to build background knowledge as an aid to comprehension. The format for such material differs but most follow a pattern: Pre- and post-reading activities described as interactive; comprehensive tasks or activities to call on students to exchange their understanding of the text with each other, vocabulary exercises to deal with unknown words and phrases, and writing tasks.

There are five current issues in reading instruction: Automaticity of word recognition, affect, sociocultural factors, the power of extensive reading, and teaching extensive reading. Automaticity of basic processes derives from a research—based cognitive model of fluent reading. It is considered a need for basic reading through word recognition.

A second pedagogical concern is the affective factors that influence reading. Motivation and a persons attitude towards reading have been sidelined by tangible academic results, therefore it is important to not ignore the knowledge base in literacy motivation because too many students fail to acquire basic competencies and choose not to utilize the literacy competence they possess. Teachers should do their best at helping children develop into motivated, active, engaged readers who read for pleasure and information which is satisfying and rewarding to them. Simply put, it is the teacher’s job for students to grab a book they like and get reading! Learner’s success is conditioned on learners taking responsibility for their own learning. Successful reading experiences positive attitudes toward reading which motivates for further reading and a greater proficiency.

Culturally responsive programs depend upon teachers examining their own and their pupils unconscious literary assumptions, for the model may not be shared by non-western or non-school oriented families. Rather than teaching literacy, it should be nurtured in students through social interactions, accessible materials, observing role models, and apprenticeship experiences. Students must discover for themselves what reading can mean to them if skills training and strategies are to be effective.

Free Voluntary Reading (FVR), extensive reading, should underpin L1 literacy work. Extensive reading programs have shown students gain in reading ability, linguistic competence, affect, vocabulary, writing and spelling in L2 studies. Some of these results were obtained from students considered “bad” or failures in English as a foreign language. Extensive reading works at teaching reading plus adding the benefit of enjoyment and motivation. Studies suggest extensive reading should be an important component of vocabulary instruction so students acquire not only the word meaning but understanding the properties of the word in use. Additionally, language learning was to be gained through extensive reading. Proficiency and extensive reading reflect the reality that the better one gets in a foreign language, the more this is available to read. Reading beyond the classroom is suggested for maintaining or improving language ability because of its availability, interest, level of enjoyment, motivation, and student autonomy.

In regards to teaching extensive reading, FVR needs a conductive environment and sensitive orientation. A few staples of extensive reading classroom is sustained silent reading where teachers focus on students strengths than weaknesses. Other staple include repeated readings. Read-alouds, and academic readings. Academic readings have been useful when conventional methods have been seen to turn students off from reading.

Could you understand? Some of the terminology may be difficult but the overall meaning should be comprehensible. When we learned in school or were taught by others, were any of these methods used? How useful were they? Can you think of other teaching strategies which are helpful? Leave a comment to describe your learning experiences.

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