Reading in EFL Reality

(Reading time: 5 - 9 minutes)

 

Thankfully for the human brain and its workings, all four fundamental skills of English Language Learning are inescapably interconnected. Contrary to expectations, this connection does not observe the traditional pairing between the productive (writing-speaking production) skills and that of the receptive (listening- reading reception) pattern.

 

by MARINA SISKOU, Teacher of English

Evidence on reading

All the more, they might interact in any of the unpredicted manners that learning practice allows us to imagine. According to a study published in the “International Journal of Business Administration”, “what students read in college directly effects the level of writing they achieve”, eventually. In fact, what comes with an element of surprise in the finding is that “reading content and frequency may exert more significant impacts on students’ writing ability than writing instruction and frequency. The highest scores occurred to those who read academic journals; the lowest scores went to those who relied solely on web- sourced content.

 

Simply put, the deconstruction of the reading material does not only pave the way to the correct acquisition for reading comprehension; effective reading skills hold the key to the success in other learning areas.

 

Furthermore, we would lie to profess that content knowledge, terminology and vocabulary familiarization are of secondary significance; how could the “key” to the communication ever be of secondary significance.

 

As language instructors, we need to ascribe to the reading ritual and approach the long- forgotten value it deserves. Fulfilled reading skills make students get acquainted with the form and content of writing. They develop their unique personalized mechanisms that compose the reading procedure as an entity (content prediction, scanning, skimming, and gist-extracting) and as distinct sub-entities.

 

They draw comparisons with their own procedure of written interlocution.

 

Through solid reading acquisition, learners benefit their listening skill, as they access-and develop the confidence on their ability to access- a spectrum of the respective level of instructed and unknown material.

 

They can predict, listen actively (during a listening activity of an oral session with a partner) and draw conclusions of written, oral and auditory speech. They encounter intricacies of idiolects, dialects, collocations, and different registers; they put effort into clarifying the incoming message; by doing so on a routine basis they are enabled to associate and dissociate confusion because of acoustics, distractions, faux amis and mispronunciations.

 

Mechanisms to level productive reading

 

Reading is not difficult- as an inherent human skill, how could it. Yet, reading is challenging in terms of the subjectivity factor involved.

 

In the classroom practice instructors are expected to know who is a slow reader, a fast one, who is effective and who is challenged on that field. Usually, the reality is multi- factored and conditional rather than a stable condition.

 

A major tenet in the effectiveness of reading is the absence of embarrassment. This emotional safety is to be constantly corroborated, irrespective of the age and the maturity level. All learners need to feel that they aren’t being judged. When the major of the safety and acceptance fails to be established, every reading strategy that is effectuated is at stake, because the learner might already have felt disheartened and withdrawn from any attempt.  Especially in this technology- dependent epoch young learners are brought up into, instructors need to be proactive.

 

A respectable amount of in-class reading comprehension is to be allocated. The time permitted to each learner should be equal, thus different. The time allocated is to strike an average of the extremes of fast and slow readers, in order to satisfy the needs of all the participants.

 

Distractions are also an indispensable part of the reading comprehension practice and acquisition. Instructors can minimize the distraction factor by personalized text selection. This relates to the need of proactive teaching mentioned above.  When the reading material is interesting, learners will be actively engaged to the reading. “It is important to help pupils and find literature that is adequate to their reading level.  If the task is too easy they will grow disinterested, if it is too difficult they will get discouraged and withdraw” (Bamford & Day, 2002).  Whenever classroom reality and directives do not allow personalized content selection  it is advisable to be explicit with the students: to be explicit   in informing them beforehand- and recurrently – about the stages they are going to encounter and the mode of approaching  the text. It is wise to clarify to them that distractions and confusion are inevitable parts of the procedure. This is the brain’s nature:  it alludes to stored memories and previously acquired knowledge. When a pertinent element rings to our memory, little can be done to suppress subsequent thoughts and /or feelings. Make learners realize that this is merely natural. Also, it is a sign that their reading is productive. Remind them to let secondary thoughts pass by and redirect their attention to the material at hand.

 

For the need of successful reading activity, language instructors could add variety to the post-reading activities. If learners are repetitively presented with an  anticipated set of follow- up questions, they will probably be conditioned to monolithic reading, wherein the reader explores every text in the same mode, gradually turning blindsided to other facets and twists of the written interlocution. The surprise element is crucial in the learning and examining setting.

 

To refine reading skills, instructors can adjust the difficulty level or the reading text. It is feasible to select and attach a passage requiring harder mental effort. It might enhance learners’ overall performance, as they retain interest. They could benefit from a cognitive and memory –capacity perspective.

 

The instructor’s reading rhythm, intonation and speed is likely to turn into the learners’ reading inner voice.  Even with the students who wouldn’t manifest any reading challenge, the instructor’s reading mode might be decisively helpful. Frequent and appropriate pauses in order to permit time for content digest, adjusted monitoring of reading speed and intonation emphasis, are all tools to consolidate a steady reading approach.

 

We need to affirm that the reading activities take place in the most convenient way for the learner; i.e. silent reading might be preferable over loud reading.

 

In addition to the effective reading strategies that students and professional could set in force, we are to set a reading span of approximately 25 minutes. This is the scientifically estimated brain’s focus. Beyond that time, the brain could no longer concentrate.

 

It is also advisable to train learners to write a summary of what they have read. By summary writing, the brain is building a neural connection to hold the new information even before a formal session begins. This will not only help learners to withhold what they read but it also allows them to enhance critical thinking.

 

We could, furthermore, encourage students to share what they have read. Telling what one has comprehended is a traditional and reliable way of assessing the incoming ideas and concepts.

 

Lastly, as most of the information we store belong to the short- term memory, the optimal thing one could do is to continuously activate the items throughout constant revisiting.

 

In observing the reading comprehension directives, one gradually develops their reading skills and maximize their cognitive potential.

 

The quality of the reading material and the reading procedure are the pillars to successful reading.

 

Reading approaches differ

 

Reading approaches are not the same. The nature of the reading operation is a complex and there is a difference between deep and light reading: Reading involves and activates a number of operations. Grabe lists the processes that define reading. His suggestions is as follows: Reading in a second language.

 

  1. A rapid process
  2. An efficient process
  3. An interactive process
  4. A strategic process
  5. A flexible process
  6. A purposeful process
  7. An evaluative process
  8. A learning process
  9. A linguistic process (Grabe, 2009)

 

Deep reading is slow, immersive, rich in sensory detail and emotional and moral complexity, it involves a lot more than the word decoding. Deep reading occurs when the language is rich in detail, allusion, metaphor an taps into the same brain regions that would activate if the reader were experiencing the event. It is a great mental exercise and able to increase empathy, as the reader dive deeper and adds reflection, analysis and personal subtext to what is being read. It activates our brain’s centers foe speech, vision and hearing, all of which work together to help us speak, read and write. Reading and writing engages Broca’ s area, which impacts our perception of words and meaning; and the angular gyrus, which is central to perception and use of language. These areas are wired together by a band of fibers and this interconnectivity likely helps writers mimic and synchronize with language and rhythms they encounter while reading.   The reading brain senses a cadence that accompanies more complex writing, which the brain seeks to emulate when writing.

 

Light reading is equated to what one might read in online blogs; “headline” news or “entertainment” news, websites, particularly those that breezily rely on lists or punchy headlines. These reading types lack a genuine voice, a viewpoint, or the sort of analyses that might stimulate thought. It’s light and breezy reading that one can skim through and will likely forget within minutes. ( Grabe, 20019 ).

 

Who is a good reader?

 

Regarding reading a purely build-in skill this is an unfairly ill-treated issue. Pang has synthesized and conjured a profile that matches a good reader (Pang, 2008). He discerns three different dimensions of reading, namely language knowledge and processing ability, cognitive ability and metacognitive skills that good readers use without being aware of it.

 

An effortless conclusion is that reading is a multi-faceted operation activating different brain and emotion faculties. Hence the challenge of the teacher lies in providing learners with the appropriate material, resources, tools that render them the best version of reader they could reach at the time of the instruction.

 

Evaluate poetry as reading

 

Reading poetry acts as a kind of recollection that evokes strong emotions. It is always wise and contributive to creative writing and boosting disambiguation skills.

When people read literary fiction and poetry, they are enabled to understand others’ mental state, that is a crucial skill, indispensable for complex social relationships that characterize human societies.

So it is with children who learn to read fluently and well. They begin to take flight into whole new worlds as effortlessly as young birds take to the sky

William James

 

References:

Bamford, & Day. (2001): Top Ten Principles for Teaching Extensive Reading: Reading in a Foreign Language

Grabe, W. (2009) : Reading in a second Language: moving from theory to practice, New York, Cambridge University Press.

Pang, J (2008) : Research on good and poor reader characteristics, Implications for L2  reading research in China: Reading in a Foreign Language.

 

 

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