READING SKILLS - SESSION 1
TASK 3: Reading Terminology
This relates to terminology you will need to know when discussing reading skills in a professional context.
The answers are given below in small print italics at the end of the page.
Write the name of the term after the number above the description.
When we read a text only to retrieve the information which is relevant to our purpose.
We don't necessarily read all the text from start to finish.
We might jump around, looking for specific details.
When we read quickly to get the general idea
What is the topic - War? Politics?
What field does the text belong to - Science? Journalism?
What sort of text is it - a letter? an article?
This can mean different things!
E.g., guessing what the text will be about from title, headline or headings;
or predicting what comes next, having just read, say, the first sentence (micro-prediction).
This could be 'guessing' the meaning of a new word or phrase from the surrounding text or context;
or it could be drawing more global conclusions about meanings, attitudes or cultural nuance which are not directly stated - but only implied - in the text.
For this, you might have to 'step outside the text' and refer to your own knowledge of how the world works.
Reading short texts (articles, notices, ads etc), for more or less detailed and accurate information.
Reading longer texts (stories, novels, newspapers etc), usually for pleasure, for global understanding.
TASK 4: Reading Strategies and Sub-skills
Strategies are ways of reading the text if you like, e.g. skimming and scanning.
Sub-skills are more wide-ranging. For example, 'distinguishing fact from opinion' relates to the meaning and interpretation a reader places on the text.
This is a skill more advanced readers might be expected to be good at.
They would certainly need it in order to understand more complex texts, so it might be a high priority for advanced learners.
'Recognizing the script' is a more mechanical skill, and one which beginners and elementary students might be expected to have learned as a priority.
Now try the task below, which asks you to prioritise these strategies and sub-skills for beginner and advanced levels.
Look at the following strategies and sub-skills, which might be considered
as some of those that effective readers use.
Consider them at 2 levels: Beginners and Advanced.
Number the 6 most important sub-skills for each level.
What does this tell you about the difficulties your students have in reading English?
· Recognizing the script of the language
· Deducing the meaning of new lexical items
· Eliminating unlikely meanings through inference and prediction
· Having a clearly defined purpose for reading
· Being able to locate topic sentences
· Being able to distinguish fact from opinion, main points from subordinate points
· Having confidence in your own ability, taking risks
· Reading silently without mouthing the words
· Understanding the communicative values of sentences and utterances
· Understanding the relations between sentences through grammatical and lexical cohesive devices
· Interpreting text by going outside it
· Extracting salient points to summarise what the text is about
· Using basic reference skills (contents, index, ordering etc)
· Transferring written information to tables or diagrams and vice-versa
TASK 5: Exploiting Reading Materials
Choose one of the following course book extracts, and write an essay answering the given questions. (1000 words)
(from New Headway Pre-intermediate, L & J Soars, pps.50-51 'A Tale of Two Millionaires')
Read the text and consider the exercises provided in the coursebook.
What reading subskills and strategies would they allow students to practise?
Describe any supplementary exercises or activities you would use to facilitate your students' understanding of the text.
(from Effective Reading, Simon Greenall, Unit 15, p.67)
How would you exploit this text in a one-hour class for advanced students?
Provide a rough plan of aims and procedures, outlining the types of sub-skills you would have your students practise at each stage.
TASK 6: Reading Theories and Approaches
Now read about some of the leading theories about reading.
These are only nutshell sketches.
Refer to Alderson and Urquhart, and/or Nuttal for more detail.
This theory puts the text center-stage. The reader reads the text bit by bit, word by word, from beginning to end. The reader advances in a linear fashion through the text, first putting letters together to make out words, then words together to obtain sentences. S/he gradually extracts the meaning of the text as s/he goes along. The meaning is 'in the text'. This reflects old, traditional models of reading of simply decoding words into thoughts which must then be remembered.
"On the surface .it seems logical to teach (learners) to recognize every letter and word they encounter by memorizing its unique configuration and shape .." (Nunan 1991: Language Teaching Methodology)
ii. Psycholionguistic (Top-Down)
This theory makes the reader central. Reading is seen as interactive. Readers bring to a text their own knowledge of texts and how they work, of the world and how it works. Accordingly, they make hypotheses about the text, amending these as they read further. The focus is on meaning which evolves according to our understanding and interpetation, rather than meaning being static and immutable. One implication is that we process chunks of text very quickly.
"Interactive theory acknowledges the role of previous knowledge and prediction but, at the same time the importance of rapid and accurate processing of the actual words of the text." (Dubin & Bycina 1991: Academic Reading and the ESL/EFL Teacher)
iii. Schema Theory
This is a version of top-down theory. It suggests the knowledge in our heads is organized into interrelated patterns - or schemata. These schemata come from our previous knowledge and experience and help us predict what might be expected in familiar contexts. So, if a student has, for example, read a detective story before, s/he will, on reading a new detective story, have certain ideas about how the plot will unfold, what sort of vocabulary will be used etc. Similarly, if s/he has had experience of Classified Ads, s/he will understand the shorthand used, know what key words to look for and so on. This model has important implications for understanding the processes of reading. It appears to involve a selective, minimal sampling from the text. The confirmation of the schema chosen may make some of the text redundant.
This is an approach to the teaching of reading rather than a theory about reading itself. It is based on top-down theory and involves the following steps:
K for 'Knowledge of the World'.
This means that before reading a passage, students should be given a chance to activate their background knowledge of the topic.
S for 'Survey'.
Students should look through the passage and find out how long it is, what charts, pictures, headings, diagrams etc it contains, and think about what they can learn from these before they start reading the body of the text.
Q for 'Question'.
Each heading is turned into a question.
R for 'Read'.
Students read purposefully to answer the questions. They underline any main ideas and put a question mark next to any sentence they don't understand.
R for 'Recite'.
After reading a paragraph, the student covers it and checks if the main idea can be expressed in their own words. If not, it is marked with a question mark to show re-reading is necessary.
R for 'Review'.
After finishing the passage, the student looks back at the markings and reviews the main ideas noted. Any sections marked are re-read.
R for 'Reflect'.
After reading the whole passage, the student reflects on how useful the information will be, paying attention to the connection between the passage and the student's own knowledge.
Answers to Task 3
(Terms: 1. scanning, 2. skimming, 3. prediction, 4. inference, 5. intensive reading, 6. extensive reading)
Alderson J.C & Urquhart A.H - Reading in a Foreign Language, Longman (1984)
Ellis M & P - Between the Lines, Nelson (1982)
Greenall S & Swan M - Effective Reading, CUP (1986)
Grellet F - Developing Reading Skills, CUP (1981)
Nuttal C - Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language, Heinemann (1982)
Richards J.C - The Language Teaching Matrix, CUP (1990)
Smith F - Reading, Cup (1978)
Widdowson H.G - Teaching Language as Communication, OUP (1978)